Her people wept and spoke of putting Toby down. Why was Toby gone? He was a good dog. He never did it in the house. He always came when they called, even though he had to struggle to get to his feet. He loved them.
Kelly wanted Toby back. Ever since he left, her people were sad. She was sad. Nobody threw the ball, and even if they did, she didn’t know if she would chase it. Right now the pain in her hips and the pain inside made her do nothing but lay still. She didn’t touch her food, even when her people put bacon grease on it.
Her people went to bed with a farewell pat. Kelly didn’t follow them to the bedroom. She stayed in the living room, under the flickering lights of the Christmas tree.
She woke with a start. Her people were sleeping, but her ears perked up. She rose to her full height, brown paws clicking on the wood floors as she paced. Was it evildoers? She had to protect them if it was. Toby wasn’t here to help.
She ran out through the dog door, ready to repel intruders. But the voices were coming from next door. Kelly stuck her nose through the chain link fence.
Short people were laughing by the side of a big sled in the yard, and there were deer pulling it. What were children doing out by themselves at night? She needed to protect them. She’d never trusted deer.
Kelly dug furiously, even knowing that she’d be scolded for it tomorrow. She was a good dog; she just had to keep the children safe. That was the most important thing.
She emerged from under the fence, catching her fur in the neighbor’s rosebush. Kelly began a circuit around the laughing strangers. They were alone. Not even the unpleasant gray cat had shown up to hiss at them from the top of the fence.
A voice called, “Where’d that German Shepherd come from?”
Kelly crept forward slowly and carefully. Sometimes, children were afraid when she ran up to them. That made no sense—she was there to protect them. But she hated to see children afraid of her. She put her ears down so she’d look smaller.
“It’s okay,” another soothing voice said as it gave her a pat. “Everything’s fine.”
“More than fine,” the first voice said. “It’s Christmas.”
Kelly gave him a long look. Christmas meant nothing to her. And these children should not be alone at night. Where were their parents?
An older fat man emerged from the house. Finally. He should be out here watching over the children. “No chimney here,” he said cheerfully, walking up to his sled. His laugh was jolly, and Kelly took a step toward him. Maybe he could cheer her people up?
But he merely tossed her a dog biscuit as he said, “We’ve got to get moving. These presents won’t deliver themselves.”
Everyone got into the sled, and the man shook the reins. The sleigh slid forward, its runners gliding over the frosty grass. No! He couldn’t leave. Her people needed to laugh again. Kelly sprang forward, ignoring the pain in her hips, and grabbed the runner with her teeth.
“What the—” The sled ground to a halt, and the fat man stepped out again. He came to Kelly and bent down to look into her eyes. “Ah, I see,” he said, and he ran a comforting hand over her head. “In that case, I think I have just the present for you.”
He went back to his sled, and when he came back, he had a puppy in his arms. It had curly brown hair and floppy ears. He set it on the ground in front of Kelly, and the puppy immediately sank into a play bow, its rump wriggling as it wagged its tail for all it was worth.
Kelly took one step forward, and then another. She sniffed the puppy. It was a boy. He licked her face, and Kelly stepped over him, sheltering him with her body. She would keep this puppy safe.
Santa looked into her eyes. “Guard him well,” he said gently. Then he sprinkled something over her hips, and Kelly moaned as the pain eased. “That should give you enough time to raise him right,” he added with a final pat.
This time Kelly merely watched as the sled rose up into the sky. The fat man waved, and Kelly bent down to sniff the puppy again.
She led him under the fence and through the dog door. Kelly got him settled under the tree and curled up around him. As the puppy snuggled into her, Kelly breathed a long, shuddering sigh of relief.
Then her ears shot up. She hoped the puppy knew about not doing it in the house.
Dan Alatorre, I finally got one done for you that I can post. 🙂