I got a Christmas puppy once, though it didn’t happen on Christmas. In early February, my neighbors in Texas were talking about a little white dog that had been spotted hiding in bushes, impossible to catch, ter
rified. How she had managed to elude being coyote supper was beyond everyone. People dumped animals in our neighborhood frequently, as it was a neighborhood of small, well-tended ranches, and I’m sure they told themselves that someone would take the dog or cat in and give it a good life on a horse farm.
One day, driving to the small town our ranches were nearest, I spotted it, cringing in some bushes. By this time, it was undoubtably starving, thirsty, and just trying to survive. I stopped my car and approached carefully. As I already had three dogs, I kept some treats in my car, and grabbed a couple of them. Talking calmly to the little one, I approached, and threw my first treat just outside of the bushes. I knelt and continued talking, showing the little dog what I had in my hands, telling it that I meant it no harm. It came out to get the biscuit I had tossed, and looked at me with eyes full of fear. I made myself as small as possible, held out the treat in my hand, continued speaking. And the little dog came to me.
She was still a puppy, small and immature. If she had been given to someone for Christmas, at about seven weeks, that would make her about twelve weeks old, and, as my neighbors had said, she appeared to be a pure-bred West Highland White terrier, adorable, with short little legs and the fur on her ears still in tight puppy curls. I took her right home, to examine her for injuries.
Though very thin (she immediately drank water and ate some kibble), her only issue was that she was covered in fleas and ticks. I put her right into a flea bath, and picked 97 ticks off of her. They were everywhere, between her toes, in her ears, around her eyes. That day, she sacked out on my couch, and slept forever, exhausted by her adventures.
Shortly, though, I would come to realize why she might not have worked out for whoever received her as a gift. The little dog, whom I named Blanche du Bois (because she depended upon the kindness of strangers, and because she was white), ate my house. She created endless chaos, chewing up shoes, clothes, furniture, and had epic battles with a large teddy bear I kept on my bed. House slippers were her specialty, and she came to be called Slipper Dog that quickly morphed into Pipperdog, that morphed into Pipper or Pip. She was all energy and chaos, with no manners. Clearly no attempt had been made to house break her. She was a force of energy. I guessed she had destroyed someone’s house and worn someone out, and so had been chucked into the wilds of Pilot Point. But I adored her. I’d never had a terrier before, and the creative mischief that defined her life would continue for fourteen years. She never met a varmint that didn’t need chasing, thought being sprayed by skunks was a badge of honor, and never met a child she didn’t love. She was a great dog.
So this is a cautionary tale about Christmas puppies. They are not stuffed animals nor toys. They are sentient beings, in need of patience, consistency, nourishment and care. Think twice and then three times before giving anyone that adorable pet that will live, with luck, a long life. The Christmas puppy can’t be punished or discarded simply for behaving like a puppy, in need of education and love. The same goes for Christmas kittens, Easter bunnies, and any other living thing that seems like the perfect gift. Blanche du Bois lived a good, long life, and I still miss her, as this little “terrorist” gave me endless laughter and comfort, after she cursed someone else’s life. The commitment to a pet should be for the pet’s life, long past any holiday season. My Christmas puppy was a blessing; so many Christmas puppies aren’t.