A Unique Christmas Story By Mark Matteson
My name is Mikey. I am 11 years old. I was a year old when we got Anna. Dad surprised us Christmas morning. We went on a long drive and ended up with this puppy. Mom chose the name Anna from an old Beatles song. (At least that's what my parents told me. I really don't remember back that far. Anna was just always there, you know, a part of our family.)
She was cuddly and warm and she smelled good like all puppies do. I never understood why Dad used to get so mad at Anna. One Christmas about four years ago, Mom planted two new palm trees by the pool. She was all excited. Anna ate them down to the ground the next day!
Dad laughed out loud at first, then pretended to be mad at Anna for Mom's sake. Later that day, Anna ate Dad's Seattle Supersonics gardening pad. For dessert, she had the portable phone! Now it was Dad's turn to be mad.
"I hate this dog," he would come to say every time she chewed something she wasn't supposed to. The strangest thing she ever did was eat the Christmas lights, and all while they were plugged in! Mom said after that meal, she should have died. Anna was kind of a lucky dog.
The funniest thing she ever did was almost as if she had planned it. I think all Dalmatians have a dark side, like Darth Vader. After she would do something she shouldn't have, she would get this weird smile and her tail would wag real slow. My Dad was going to save us a bunch of money. He bought a pool cover, a solar one. It fit over our pool. He said to my Mom that it was an investment with an expected return (whatever that is). It had little bubbles on it he called solar pockets. They popped when you stepped on them.
It was supposed to heat the pool. Anyway, Anna got in the pool area again and for some strange reason, ate a hole in the cover when it was on the reel. She ate it all the way to the metal, a hole the size of a large pizza. It was so good, she decided to have seconds. Two large pizzas!
Have you ever seen a paper doll before it was unfolded? Well, so much for Dad's new investment. The best part was when Dad rolled the cover out, instead of just two large pizzas, there were 22! Dad lost it that day. He threatened to make a coat out of her. I thought he was serious. I didn't want an Anna coat. Mom talked him out of it.
I guess that is what Mom meant when she would say Dalmatians are high strung. Mom and I were closer after that. We had a new hobby, making fun of Dad's reactions to Anna's high jinx. Since that day, Anna and I had become best friends. She could get away with a lot. Everyday I took her for a walk, picked up her poop and fed her.
She had a bark that was something else. It was weird because if we forgot to feed her, she would bark a certain way like she was talking to us. If we were ignoring the bark, she would start pushing the metal dish around with her nose like a soccer ball, scoring goals against the side of the house until we got the message. Goal! Now they're finally feeding me. Her face was so animated, that's what it would say when we came outside with the food. That used to make Dad laugh. He used to pretend he didn't like her but I knew he did.
One night Dad brought her home from the vet. He was a kind and caring guy named Jeff. He made house calls. He told us she was having seizures and needed medication. It worked great for a few days. Then one day it didn't work anymore. She was 7 when she died. That's only 49 in dog years. Mom said she was too young to die but that she was in a better place. We all wanted to believe that was true.
I was the one who found her. I had just finished a baseball game. It looked like she was sleeping. When I called her name, she didn't move. I touched her, she was cold. I got a strange feeling in my stomach. Mom called for Dad. He whistled his famous coach whistle, the loudest whistle known to man. She didn't move.
Mom started to cry. I heard her and I started crying too. Dad's face went pale. Mom kept asking, "Why?" Dad didn't say a word. He left for a minute and came back with old blanket, her blanket.
Dad looked mad. It was almost like Anna was saying, "One more time, for old time's sake, let's watch the old man grumble."
He was crying over Anna. Anna the chewer, Anna the joker, Anna the pest, Anna the eater, Anna the pain in the neck, Anna our girl, Anna. He had to stop twice to cry really hard, shaking and trembling. Then I heard him say, "You know, I really loved that dog." I started crying all over again. I miss her already.
The next day, Mom said something that made me feel better. "It was just her time, I guess. Apparently an angel in heaven needed Anna's help." Later, Dad asked me to write down five great things about Anna in my journal. I opened my notebook and wrote:
- She was great to watch running around the pool area when Dad was on the diving board jumping up and down, teasing her.
- She was great to watch as she sniffed and sniffed on our walks.
- She was great when she would put her head out the window in the car and sniff like crazy.
- She was great when she made Dad mad. It was almost like her job, you know, her mission on earth.
I stopped writing. I couldn't think of number 5. Dad was calling my name. He had dug a hole and he asked each of us to drop some of her belongings in it. I put in her leash. My older brother, Dave, put in her food bowl, you know, her soccer ball. Mom slowly put in her blanket. Dad put in a small piece of that solar blanket. We each said a little prayer for her and Dad filled up the hole with dirt. Just before Dad was done, Mom pulled two small palm trees from a box and planted them in the spot and covered them with new topsoil.
We all cried some more. The tears weren't as strong or as long as before.
Dave and I pounded the dirt around the new trees and Dad put a tombstone behind the new palm trees. I felt numb, like your mouth feels after a visit to the dentist. Except, my whole body felt that way.
As we walked away, Dave said to me, "Hey Mikey, I thought of the fifth great thing for your list."
"What's that?" I asked faintly.
"Isn't it great Anna's finally doing some good? She's up in heaven helping God grow those new palm trees!" he said.
We all smiled. After a long silence, Dad said in a warm tone, "Yeah, Anna's got a new job now!"
He wiped away his last tear, pausing briefly and finished with a smile, "I'm really gonna miss that old dog."
I asked Santa for a new dog this year. Then a stray cat showed up and stayed. She is as black as night. We call her "Christmas Coal." I think she is friend of Anna's.
It's going to be a nice Christmas.
Mark Matteson of the Pinnacle Service Group can be reached by phone at 877/672-2001, by fax at 425/745-8981, by e-mail at [email protected] or visit his Website at www.mattesonavenue.com. He will be the opening and closing speaker at the Quality Service Contractors' Power Meeting XXVI, Feb. 22-24, 2007, in Scottsdale, Ariz. For more information on the meeting, visit www.qsc-phcc.org or call 800/533-7694.