68: Bailey’s Best Christmas

68: Bailey’s Best Christmas

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog

Bailey’s Best Christmas

Fun fact: Visitors to Kent, England, can visit the Dog Collar Museum at Leeds Castle, which contains more than 100 dog collars dating as far back as the 15th century.

I will never forget our Labrador Retriever’s sixth Christmas. Our sweet Bailey was solidly built, with a shiny chocolate-colored coat and a happy smile. Adored by family and friends for his gentle disposition, he was the kind of dog that liked everyone. Useless as a watchdog, we always joked that if a burglar intruded, Bailey would just wag his tail and lead him to the silver.

Like any beloved child, Bailey had his own Christmas stocking. Nothing fancy, but it was always filled with some special treats for Christmas — usually something to chew on and a plush doggy toy, although most of the doggy toys seemed to go missing eventually.

But this particular year, Bailey’s nose might have been a bit out of joint, because we had a new baby in the house. Anika was stealing some of the attention away from Bailey, who’d been spending a bit more time in the laundry room than usual, sulking.

My mother had knitted Baby Anika a beautiful Christmas stocking that I’d hung on the mantle with the other hand-knit stockings. But a few days before Christmas, that new stocking was missing. The rest were still in place — but Anika’s was mysteriously gone. That’s when I remembered that I’d spotted one of Anika’s favorite baby toys out in Bailey’s dog run a few days earlier. The plush yellow duckling that sang “Singing in the Rain” had been lying beak-down in the snow. I rescued the kidnapped duck to find that it was in good shape and still able to sing.

Curious about the missing stocking, I looked out the kitchen window. There, on the freshly fallen snow, I spotted the red-and-green sock. Relieved to find it was in perfect condition, I gave Bailey a good-natured scolding and then returned it to its hook with the others. That’s when I noticed Bailey’s stocking hadn’t even been hung yet. Was he trying to give me a hint? So before long, Bailey’s Christmas stocking was hanging too, and we all had a good laugh over it.

Christmas came and went, and the following weekend I joined my mother and sister for a little getaway. That evening, my sister asked if I had liked my Christmas present from her. Caught off guard, I tried to remember her gift, but came up blank. She described the packaging (she’s known for beautiful wrapping) and informed me that it contained a very special handmade bracelet. “And there was something special in there for Bailey, too,” she said with concern.

Suddenly, I remembered how Bailey had snatched Anika’s duck and Christmas stocking and wondered if he’d taken anything else. It actually seemed out of character since he’d never been that kind of dog before. But having a baby around had been an adjustment for him. So I called home and explained the mystery to my husband. He promised to do some investigating and called me back a few minutes later.

Now, I must explain that Bailey’s kennel wasn’t just an ordinary kennel. It started with a doggy-door that led from the laundry room out into a pretty nice doghouse (with two rooms). And that led out into a large, fenced dog run that he could freely come and go from. Pretty posh for a dog.

“I found the wrapping paper and ribbon and box outside,” my husband told me. “So I could tell Bailey was responsible.” But he explained that the items that were supposed to be inside the box were missing. “So I crawled into Bailey’s doghouse with my flashlight. I found the bracelet and a leather dog collar with beadwork that says ‘Good Dog.’ ”

Of course, we had a good laugh over that one — the “good dog” that had stolen a present from beneath the Christmas tree. My husband reassured me that both items were in excellent condition. “He didn’t chew them or anything. But what surprised me even more was that he’d decorated his doghouse.”

“Decorated his doghouse?” I wondered if I’d heard him right.

“Yeah. You know the boxes of Christmas decorations that you’d left in the laundry room?”

“The ones that just had leftover decorations?” I asked.

“It looks like Bailey helped himself to some of those decorations. And he’s put them in his doghouse.”

“You’re kidding!”

He laughed. “No, I’m serious. Bailey decorated his doghouse.”

It took a few seconds for this to even register. “So Bailey found his Christmas present under the tree, opened it up, then took it into his doghouse that he’d already decorated?”

“And that’s not all,” my husband said.

“There’s more?”

“Yeah. Bailey’s got a collection, too.”

“A collection?”

Now my husband laughingly described how Bailey had all his plush doggy toys lined up against one of the walls of his doghouse — all the toys that he’d gotten for previous Christmases that we thought had gone missing.

“They’re all clean and in great condition,” he said with wonder. “Almost as if Bailey and the toys were having a Christmas party together.”

We had a good long laugh over that, and after I hung up, I told my mother and sister the story. We marveled over how Bailey had known which box actually contained a present meant for him and how he’d carefully opened it and taken it into his doghouse. And they could hardly believe that not only had he decorated his doghouse with Christmas things, but he had neatly arranged his stuffed pals against a wall, as if to celebrate together. I’m not sure what motivated him, but I think Bailey’s Christmas was a good one. And the words on his new collar, “Good Boy,” couldn’t have been more fitting. He truly was a good boy!

~Melody Carlson

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