54: Gift of the Shepherd

54: Gift of the Shepherd

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Gift of the Shepherd

Mirth can be a major tool for insight, changing “ha-ha” to “aha.”

~Author Unknown

As I completed one holiday chore after another, my neck and shoulders began to ache from stress. I heard music drifting out of every store at the mall. A male voice crooned “chestnuts roasting on an open fire . . .” The holiday spirit filled my heart, but my body needed a hot soak in the tub.

My fingertips read the Braille list that I pulled from my pocket. I visualized mountainous displays of clothes and toys to our left and right. With my guide dog Misty leading the way, the mall madness did seem a bit more manageable. Still, shoppers asked if they could pet my German Shepherd, even though her harness sign read, “Please do not pet me. I’m working.” She eased me between the crowds, while I imagined their outstretched hands. Finally, my list grew shorter as the bags grew heavier.

Back home, some chores disappeared from the list while new chores were added. My husband Don and I had decorated our tree. The lights and ornaments were spaced perfectly—no “Charlie Brown” tree for us. Why were we so obsessed with our decorations? We dressed the tree as though Martha Stewart would stop by. Don and I had wrapped the presents and placed them beneath the tree. For each purchase, we had gone over budget, hoping we chose just the right gift.

The next day, ingredients lined our kitchen counter for cookie baking. My guide dog flitted at my feet. Normally, at this time of day, we would be returning from our daily walk. Then she loved being brushed. But her grooming routine needed to wait along with a walk. Once again, I felt her cold nose nuzzle my skirt, so my floured hand waved her away. She brought in her favorite toy and dropped it. I tossed the rubber ring into the next room to keep her out of the kitchen. Who wants dog hair in their cookies? Within minutes, cinnamon and vanilla perfumed our kitchen. I pulled out the first tray of cookies and turned to put them on the table. Our cookie baking reminded me of a factory. My husband, without hesitation, had the next batch going into the oven. The kitchen mess reminded me that we still didn’t have any time to relax.

A bunch of stamped Christmas cards sat on the table. I still needed to Braille a message in each card sent to blind friends. Would I have the time or energy?

“After this last batch of cookies, I’m going to play with her,” I told Don. Suddenly, I could not ignore a loud sound nearby. “Crunch!” Misty had swiped a cookie off the cooling tray. I used a firm tone of voice: “No.” The success of our partnership depended on praise and gentle correction from me. Like a child’s cry for attention, Misty’s mischievous behavior announced her boredom. A few minutes later, I felt guilty for ignoring her. “Here’s a biscuit, girl,” I said, using the treat as a peace offering instead of praise.

Then, Misty was oddly absent from the kitchen, after being underfoot all morning. I searched the house. When I called her name, I followed the sound of her thumping tail. Her body stretched full-length beneath the Christmas tree. As I reached to pet her, my hand felt her dog biscuit. Misty had placed her treat in the manger scene next to the figurine of the Christ child. For the first time that day, I laughed.

Misty’s gift to me fit perfectly, was suitable for my age, the price was just right, and I did not have to exchange it. Misty reminded me to “stop and smell the pine boughs.” The blessing of the season, I learned from my furry pal, is sharing time with those we love.

~Carol Chiodo Fleischman

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