45: Operation Christmas Puppy

45: Operation Christmas Puppy

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

Operation Christmas Puppy

The dog was created specially for children. He is the god of frolic.

~Henry Ward Beecher

Mom and I bumped into each other, our arms loaded with plates, as we raced to clear the table on Christmas Eve. “Fifteen minutes!” I yelled to the kids, who were jostling to claim the mirror in the bathroom.

Dillon flew into the kitchen. “Can you help me with my tie?” I gestured for my husband to handle it.

“I still need you to do my hair!” Faith wailed.

Dumping the casserole dishes on the counter, I turned to my mother. “Would you put the ham in a Ziploc bag while I curl her hair?”

Exactly fifteen minutes later, we somehow managed to buckle into the minivan with the children in their Christmas outfits and the leftovers in the refrigerator.

“Why isn’t Daddy driving with us?”

“He has to go to work for a little bit.” I backed out of the drive. My husband and I had a special surprise for the kids, one we had no intention of blowing before the big reveal.

Our children loved dogs. We joked that Faith was obsessed with them. Her favorite stuffed animal was a puppy, and she shared a special bond with my parents’ Cocker Spaniel. When Faith was a tiny two-year-old, we decided to add a dog to the family, but the rambunctious Golden Retriever proved too feisty and three months later we sold him to a farmer with two preteen boys. It had crushed our little girl, and we promised ourselves we’d consider another dog someday. Now our children were finally old enough to handle the responsibility of one, and we were determined to make the event special.

I pulled into the church parking lot and escorted the kids to a classroom for their rehearsal. Both sets of grandparents joined me in the pew, and my husband arrived right before the service began. Our hearts were moved by the children’s retelling of the story of a baby born in Bethlehem. All too quickly, the children sang the final hymn, and my husband gave my hand a quick squeeze to let me know Operation Christmas Puppy was underway.

Our friends bred miniature dachshunds, and they had six puppies ready to leave their mama. At exactly nine weeks old, the friendliest female in the litter was about to be introduced to her new home. My husband had picked up our new addition right before church, but he needed to take her outside to do her business and get her in a special gift box before I took the kids home. I had no idea how to stall the children that long!

We kissed the grandmas and grandpas goodbye, and I slowly drove away.

“Can we please open one present tonight?” Dillon begged from the back seat.

“We’ll have to ask Dad, but I think that would be okay.” My spirits soared, thinking of their reactions when they opened the gift waiting for them.

“I can’t wait to change out of this dress,” Faith said. “And I’m hungry. I was too nervous to eat much dinner.”

Both kids were more than ready to go home, get comfortable, and anticipate the next phase of Christmas — the presents. But would my husband have enough time to get the dog situated? I was running out of options when inspiration struck.

“Look at those pretty lights.” I pointed to a yard with twinkling white reindeer. On a whim, I turned into the subdivision next to it. “Let’s drive around and admire the displays.”

“Aw, Mom, do we have to? I just want to go home.”

I ignored them and crawled past the houses with multi-colored lights. We drove through another subdivision, and I popped in a lively Christmas CD. Too soon, the tour ended.

“Mom, we’ve seen enough lights.”

I still had time to kill. The stoplights didn’t help. Where was a red light when I needed one? I remained stoic, keeping the minivan at a good five miles per hour under the speed limit.

Out of options, I finally entered our subdivision, and Dillon pressed his face to the window when we passed our home. “You passed our house!”

“I just want to see the lights behind us.” I made sure we drove down every street, praying I could safely return home soon.

Thank goodness my husband’s car was in the driveway. As soon as I parked the van, the kids raced to our porch and scrambled inside, ignoring the Christmas tree on their way upstairs to change. I quietly asked my husband if everything was ready. He grinned.

“Hey, wait,” my husband called up the staircase. “Don’t you want to open one gift?”

Thump, thump, thump. Still in their dress clothes, they charged down the steps into the living room. “Really? We can open one?”

That’s when they saw it. The huge wrapped box with the big red bow on top, sitting in the center of the room. Would the puppy bark and give it away?

The package remained quiet, and the kids hesitated as they neared it. “What is it?”

“I bet it’s a PlayStation,” Dillon said.

“It’s too big to be a PlayStation,” Faith said in her superior tone.

“It could be one.”

“Well,” I said. “Open it and find out.”

Faith tore at the paper, but Dillon lifted the box. To their surprise, the top lifted right off. They peered inside and gasped.

Seconds ticked by in silence. The shock on Dillon’s face kept him from speaking. Then Faith looked at us, her eyes brimming with tears, and she whispered, “A puppy. Can we pick it up?”

My husband assured her, yes, she could pick it up. Tenderly she lifted the precious black and tan dog. With a small sob, she cradled the tiny body to her chest. I got teary-eyed watching them. Then she passed the calm bundle to Dillon, equally awed.

For ten minutes our house existed in hushed pleasure. The cinnamon scented candles, lights on the tree, and soft Christmas music playing in the background created a kind of wreath around us. The children set the puppy on the floor and pointed to her fluffy bed, which she launched into as if she knew it was hers.

We named our Miniature Dachshund Sophie, and she’s been a treasured member of our family since that special Christmas Eve. We might have taken the long way home, but the kids agreed it was worth it for Operation Christmas Puppy.

~Jill Kemerer

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