|~A Christmas Tale~|
old one, we will never find a place for him." said the man with the
hat. "'He is too old and ugly, nobody wants him in their home. People
want young dogs with pedigrees. Not such an ugly sheepdog." He snuffed
and pushed his that tighter on his head as if confirming his words.
The other man put down the food bucket, "Say, is this necessary? You know how much I dislike it," he protested, "and Christmas is nearby."; he added a bit illogically.
The other was not impressed. "Then you wait until after Christmas, and see that you get rid of him."
Arguing, they felt through the green door which separated the shelter from the rest of the building. Their voices reached nearly the ears of the old dog. the planks he was laying on started to hurt his old bones, and with much effort he turned on his other side.
Suddenly a sunbeam came through the window high on the wall, it struck his nose and he closed his eyes. There it was again, the pleasant feeling, as if nothing had changed and the hand of the old man was caressing him.
Those were the happy days, when he was sleeping on his own mattress beside the bed of his master. Always he was the first one awake and waited patiently 'til he heard the voice of the old man. "So, are you here again, old fellow, good morning!" Then he put his head on the blanket near the hand of the one he loved most, and he closed his eyes, and waited. And there it was, the pleasant warm feeling of the caressing hand. He enjoyed it quite a time, before the old man got up, and they started the day together. These days, in the mind of the old dog, fulfilled only by long walks, sometimes to the park, but sometimes, also with the car to the forest or to the beach. although lately it happened less. And thereafter resting, laying down on the feet of his master in front of the fireplace. Yes, those were the good days, for the dog as well for the old man.
But then there was the one morning, when he waited to hear the voice, which he would know out of thousands with patience he waited, very long. And then he did what a wolf would do when he feels lonely. He howled and howled, but he did not get any answer other people came after some time. Some of them he knew, such as the neighbor. But, strangers took his master away. He himself followed a friendly older woman. Full of trust that he would see his old master soon again but they arrived at a big building with only many outside kennels, with all different kinds of dogs, barking at the newcomer. There he was put inside, in a kennel, and the door closed behind him. His long wait began.
The days passed by, but the person he was waiting for never did show up. Slowly the memories faded, only sometimes, as at this moment when the sun warmed his old head, then it was like in the past. The warmth did well to him. The days were colder and shortened, and sometimes he shivered and did not want to leave his kennel at all. He became stiff. the younger dogs were racing around and playing. But his meant nothing to him, he wanted to rest. It became dark in the shelter. Some of the other dogs were sleeping, some were running around, restless, the two men were gone quite a while. The dog had not touched his food. The last day he was not hungry at all. The night came up and it became quiet outside the snow was falling and the distant sound of church bells came through the night.
Then there was a light outside the window as if the sun was rising. The old dog was awake, but the other dogs were deeply asleep. Even when the green door opened and a bright light filled the place, not one of them woke up. In the open door stood a stranger, but in a strange way he seemed to know him. Shivering he got up and walked towards this person. A stream of warmth fulfilled him when the hand touched his nose, passing the kennels with the sleeping dogs, he followed through the doors, opening soundless. Although it was snowing he did not feel cold at all. In front of the building stood a sled, with plenty of different dogs. All happy, tail-wagging and barking. Strange, the dogs in the kennels did not seem to hear it. Without hesitation, the old dog jumped in the sled and wondered how easy it was for his old body. At the sign of the leader, the dogs took off so quick, the surrounding faded away. Time and distance vanished. all at once they stood in front of a big house, which was familiar to him. It looked like the house where he lived with the old man. in front of the house, there were meadows with groups of trees and small rivers. It was warm, and the trees and the grass were green. But the best was all the other dogs playing, or resting in the shadow of the trees. Some of them chewing on bones or drinking water from the rivers. The sled had disappeared and the trekking dogs joined the others.
The old dog entered the building, passed a few room. Strange enough he knew precisely where to go. And when he reached the last door, he knew what he would find behind it. The room was only lighted by a fireplace and it felt good after all the sunshine outside. From a chair near to the fireplace came a voice he had not heard in a long time, "COME TO ME! I am so happy to have you with me." The old dog cried out of happiness, his whole body was wagging like his tail. He rubbed himself against the knees of his old friend and pushed his muzzle into the hand, which started to cuddle him. With a deep sigh, he closed his eyes and enjoyed the greatest feeling a dog can have.
It was late when in the shelter, the man with the food buckets opened the green door. He filled the bowls of the other dogs with food and fresh water. When he reached the other kennel of the old dog, he saw him laying on his side on the wooden planks. Before his hands opened the door, he knew that this was no normal sleep. "Poor old chap." He mumbled, looking at the stiff body. in his heart he was relieved that he was taken off his unpleasant task. He took the body of the dog outside to a barn, where he left him to bury him later on in the playing fields.
When he headed back to the shelter, he noticed his trace in the snow, "A white Christmas, that's long time ago." he thought. But what he did not see, were the other traces of the sled, starting at the outer door, crossing the snowfield and vanishing at the end, like someone had wiped it off.