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what Christmas meant - long but excellent

January 3rd, 2005, 01:05 PM
Thought all of you would appreciate this and it lifts the spirits to know of dog owners who really love their dog!

Published December 22, 2004

Our dog recently ate 7 ounces of Baker's chocolate and a half-ounce of
gourmet ground coffee and swallowed a marble, to boot. None of these
things is part of recommended canine diet. Chocolate is toxic to dogs - a
1-ounce square of Baker's chocolate can kill a 10-pound dog, and it's a
wonder 7
ounces didn't do in our 15-pound dachshund. Coffee holds the same

The whys and wherefores of this accident are irrelevant. Everyone feels
badly enough already. The upshot of the whole thing is that the vet bills
totaled more than $1,200. Coming on the heels of a rough year and a
recent layoff, our little dog effectively ate Christmas.

On the way home from the vet with our pooch, groggy and sore after
surgery to remove the offending blue marble, we joked gently about all the
that $1,200 could buy.

"Dexter ate a 24-inch flat screen LCD TV," my husband said, laughing.

"He ate a lot of video games," my son chimed in.

"He ate a used car," one of my daughters added.

"A very old and very used one," her father started to correct her. But
then we remembered we'd sold our old car for $300 and agreed that Dexter
had eaten the equivalent of four old minivans.

Once home, everyone fawned over our sick little dog without reproach,
glad he was home and on the mend, the $1,200 and abandoned Christmas gift
ideas irrelevant.

Because, truth be told, we're still in debt to Dexter for all he's done
for us in the last couple of years.

We adopted him as something of immersion therapy for our then-10-year-old
son, who was suffering from an increasingly unreasonable and debilitating
fear of dogs. Like many phobias, cynaphobia, the medical term for fear of
dogs, doesn't require any negative experiences to exist. Our son's fears
had grown to such proportions he couldn't walk down the street or ride his
bike without heart-racing anxiety on just seeing a dog.

When we adopted Dexter from a breed rescue group, he was a year and a
half old, weighed 13 pounds and stood a foot high at the shoulders. Our
daughters were delighted. Our son wouldn't come out of his room for three
days. He
crawled across the tops of chairs to get to the table to eat and then
crawled back across them to return to his room.

On the fourth day, he sat on a stool and observed the dog, who looked
back questioningly with those irresistible dark brown eyes of his. At the
of a week, our son was carrying the dog around the house. After a few weeks,
he was more comfortable with other dogs. Now, two years later, he still
doesn't care for large dogs, but he's not fearful and he roams the
with a confidence that's carried over to other areas of his life. He's
piano, riding horses, doing well in his studies and generally a
happy-go-lucky kid with a dog.

And that's just what Dexter did for our son.

Each person in the family has a special and unique relationship with the
dog. He plays gently and obligingly with our son. With my rambunctious,
outgoing daughter, he races and wrestles. He leans against my quiet
daughter like a cat, savoring her strokes. And while originally suspicious
of men,
Dexter adores my husband. They play wild games of chase and spend warm
devoted moments snoozing.

I had never owned a dog before and was concerned about how long I could
be away from home; picking up after the dog in addition to the rest of the
family, who at least could flush; annual shots; tags and whatever other
dog ownership issues were bound to occur.

But I found that walks took on new meaning with a little dog trotting at
my side. An occasionally bizarre meaning, as we sometimes stopped every
few feet so Dexter could check what the girls called his "pee mail" at every
post and trunk. But I walk more briskly and more often now.

And coming home has never been so rewarding! No one else in the family
greets me so ecstatically and with such genuine joy. Whether I've been
gone 15 minutes or a day, Dexter is enormously and unapologetically glad to
see me. He's a cuddler, shamelessly squeezing between the desk and my lap
while I work, cruising from lap to lap while we watch TV at night. He won't
crawl into his bed until the last family member is in his or hers, and he
curled up beside us until morning, when he starts his equal opportunity
doting all over again.

He has taught us patience, charity and the value of forgiveness. He never
holds grudges, whether his tail is accidentally stepped upon, or he's
ordered out of the kitchen for being underfoot. He certainly didn't like
the vet's office during the chocolate Incident. But when we came to take him
home, he clearly didn't associate us with his aches and pains. Through
the haze of drugs after his surgery, he wagged his tail vigorously when he
saw us.

Dogs aren't for the shallow and self-absorbed. They're childlike but
without the growing cognizance and independence of children. We are
always their heroes; they're always our friends. Even with three children
and a
quarter-century marriage, I didn't fully understand unconditional love
until Dexter came into our lives. The obligation to live up to such devotion
and loyalty can be a daunting task and a humbling experience.

Yes, our dog ate Christmas. But the gifts he's given us are priceless
and more enduring than anything we could ever put under the tree and more
than we could ever repay.

Theresa Willingham is an occasional columnist for the North of Tampa
regional edition of the Times.
Copyright 2002-2004, St. Petersburg Times

January 3rd, 2005, 01:43 PM
That is a touching story, I'd like to be reading more of these stories here everyday. It did really make me think of all that Whin & Boo have done for me that I have never really appreciated. Don't get me wrong, I love them to death, but little things get overlooked.
More so, made me realize that they too could "eat Christmas" and I would be devestated. I just hope they know how much Mommy loves them and appreciates them. (except the chewing)