Doggone Christmas List

I’m working on “The Christmas List,” and I can see Lucy, my wife’s dog, watching me.

Now, Lucy’s a pretty smart pooch. She knows that when I put her on the leash, it’s time to go to the vet. Usually, on Lucy’s morning walks, my wife does the honors. But when it’s just me, Lucy dutifully plods straight to the car rather than barreling down the driveway. She knows what’s up.

Lucy’s look.

So it’s entirely possible that she sees “The List” and grasps its significance in just the same way that she understands the sound of food rattling into her bowl or the sight of my wife pulling on running shoes before a walk.

I ponder, and Lucy comes over. Big brown eyes look deeply into mine, and she puts her Anatolian-Shepherd head on my knee. Maybe she’s been reading my mind. It’s been a tough year, and I’m wondering just how generous I can afford to be. Most of the kids are out of the house, so the fussing volume has subsided. I can stop and reflect on the economics of gift-giving. Maybe I can dial it back a bit, but then there’s this dog and its sustained stare.

I try to remember what the dogs got last Christmas. They have their own stockings, of course, and I seem to recall that they had a better year, stocking-wise, than I did. Not that I’m jealous or anything. I don’t know that I really wanted jerky, a leather chew bone, or the studded collar. Well, not the chew bone anyway….

But the budget? Maybe I could kill a tradition, and hide the animals’ stockings in the ornament box, buried under that hideous blue-and-green wreath. The wreath is another tradition, an heirloom given to us by a fashion-impaired relative. We never use it. I dare not give it away, and so it sits in the bottom of the box, year after year. This is, I think, the perfect hiding place. But, then, I’d have to explain to the wife why I neglected the critters. Nope. Not a pretty picture.

In my defense, I was in the pet store the other day. I got stuffer shock. Even the cheap stuff seemed to be at least $5 a throw, or more. Then I did the math. You have to get each animal at least two–I think that’s in the US Constitution somewhere. And it’s not just the dogs, even the naughtiest cats get them. It all adds up.

Up and more up, that’s the way things tend to happen around here. With four kids, pets for each of them, and a wife who never met a dog she didn’t like, we’re pushing double digits. The funny thing is that when the kids moved away, the animals remained. I’m not just talking about the ones buried in the backyard, I’m talking about the ones that are still walking around here, chewing up the upholstery and eating the houseplants.

A small voice in my head says, “Can’t we start being practical?” Would the furry ones really miss being crossed off “The List?” I can definitely cut the cats. What would they care? Every day must seem like Christmas. Turn your back, and they’re up on the counter feasting away. And doesn’t it set a bad example to have them all jacked up on cat nip while we gather around the tree?

This is beginning to sound almost convincing, and then Lucy leans against me and sighs. She sounds, well, disappointed, and my inner Scrooge misses a step. I absently stroke her fur, coarse and fuzzy at the same time, and I wonder…. What DO we owe our pets? I look at Lucy, and I reflect on what she means to my wife, and, well, to all of us. It has been a tough year, and more than once, hugging that silly dog was the high point of someone’s day, even mine.

This explains why Lucy will stay on “The List.” After all, she is almost-well-behaved, better than me, really. Besides, I don’t think I could face those eyes on Christmas day and have Lucy wonder why Santa forgot her. I pencil in her name. Just then, she licks me, wags her tail, and saunters away. I hear her toenails clicking down the hallway, and the room is still.

So much for the budget. Maybe she’ll share the jerky.

Robb Lightfoot began teaching communications classes at Shasta College before there was such a thing as the Internet, and was selected as teacher of the year for 2010. He’s done stand-up comedy at The Knitting Factory in Reno and was recently published in The Funny Times. Robb lives in Shasta County with his wife, Karin, and her many irrepressible pets. Visit him at

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15 Responses

  1. Avatar Kathy Mallory says:

    What a fun musing! Glad Lucy and the other critters are still on the list! Happy holidays to you , Karin and family!

  2. Avatar Charlie says:

    I barked several times reading this — made my holiday morning much merrier. And I have no trouble believing Lucy is better behaved.

  3. Avatar Viki says:

    Loved this story! So funny and it really hit home because I had contemplated the same decision – the dogs won out here too!

  4. Avatar Cheri says:

    Love this! Thank you for the beautiful,

    heart felt message!



  5. Congratulations, Robb, on a heartfelt and humorous story. Once upon a time I had a faithful Lucy-dog, too. So I could relate. Enjoyed every word!

  6. Avatar Don says:

    Very humorous and sentimental. As the parents of Karin-who-never-saw-a-dog-she-didn't-like, we were the recipients of Lila,our Lhasa Apso whom she found in a pet recycling facility. Lila is now a treasured member of the Gilbertson family.

  7. Avatar Caroline Commins says:


    Great piece!!! Loved reading it. I'm glad to see one of us is still writing. Maybe your article will inspire me to get back to my long neglected novel. At least my teacher has given me a reprieve extension through the next semester.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family (human and otherwise).


  8. Avatar Terry says:

    What a Wonderful article – and frankly, after reading it, I'm heading out to get a stocking for my dog, Alex. Thank you for an uplift to the morning, Robb. Great job!

  9. Avatar Linda says:

    Thanks, Robb, for the very funny and oh so true holiday story. My Max and his nephew Pacha also have stockings with two special gifts in each 'cause it just wouldn't feel like Christmas without them!

  10. Avatar ggg22901 says:

    What a delightful article…thanks Robb!!! Our pets truly become our "children"!!! They truly exemplify the meaning of love at Christmas time and through out the year. They are the "little people" that keep our priorities on track. Thanks again Robb, for reminding us all…

  11. Avatar Carla Jackson says:

    Several years ago, we experienced a noisy, but injury-free pug fight when we let Chaz & Newt open a giant, four-foot tall stocking stuffed with dog toys. On the couch. Nothing says Christmas like a snorty, blubbery pug fight in your lap. We now let the dogs open one present at a time…individually.

    Loved this piece, Robb. Merry Christmas!

  12. Avatar gamerjohn says:

    Tractor Supply has a good selection of pet treats at good prices, well below the $5 price so you feel like bringing a bunch home. So many in fact that you start giving them early to avoid the confusion that pig ears, hooves, rawhide knots, and gross looking bones all at once causes. My dog caches them in laundry and the kids' beds until later. We learned that once they go outside, they either come back in looking and smelly gross or they disappear forever.

  13. Avatar Elizabeth Waterbury says:

    Great story, Robb! I didn't get my dog anything, but I let him lick the beaters when I am finished making something. Now he comes and waits when he hears the mixer. Don't worry….I put them in the dish washer after that.

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