A Dog Named Christmas
George McCray is a farmer living on the land his ancestors bought from Native Americans. He enjoys a contented life with his wife, Mary Ann, and his 20-year-old developmentally disabled son, Todd. Although George worries a little over Todd's future, the young man's sunny disposition and affinity with animals make him a joy to be around. He is challenged, however, when Todd hears a radio announcement from the local animal shelter, asking locals to take home a dog just for the holidays.
Todd is so enthused that George has a hard time discouraging him, but he tries. George just cannot bring himself to have another relationship with a new dog; he has loved and lost two in his lifetime, and can't bear to put himself through that trauma again. George also wants to instill character in his son, believing it's good for Todd to know that he can't have everything and anything his heart desires. However, when Todd speaks to his mom, Mary Ann agrees that hosting a dog for just a week shouldn't be a problem. (George quips: "Our home is not a democracy. It is a benevolent dictatorship. Queen Mary Ann had spoken.")
As might be expected, Todd and Mary Ann finally persuade George, although George frequently reminds Todd that any dog they take will be returned to the animal shelter on December 26th. At the shelter, he is touched to see the care Todd takes in checking out each dog. The worker there also appears to be impressed with Todd's interest and sincerity. Todd finally settles on a big black lab retriever mix, an older and extremely well-behaved stray he calls "Christmas."
Christmas settles in with the McCray family with ease. Todd and Christmas, of course, are constantly together. George puts little stock in his son’s excited report that they found giant cat tracks near their creek. He joins the locals in scoffing at any suggestions that there might be cougars in the woods. At the most, he expects that any sightings have actually been of bobcats, and when he can't find the paw prints, he dismisses them entirely.
Meanwhile, as Todd and Mary Ann enjoy Christmas's company wholeheartedly, George wrestles with difficult memories. He had befriended a dog he named “Good Charlie” on his tour of Vietnam. Now he experiences flashbacks to the consequences of that relationship and is reminded of his war injury. These memories are not totally painful, however, as he also recalls how Mary Ann steadfastly wrote to him and waited for him while he was away.
George continues to remind Todd that Christmas will return to the animal shelter on December 26th even as the family decks the halls in preparation for their big holiday gathering of friends and family. At the party, George bristles a bit at his visitors' good-natured teasing about his canine guest. Partly in spite, he comes up with an idea that, once set in motion, reverberates throughout the community, transforming into a believable and wonderful holiday miracle.
A DOG NAMED CHRISTMAS is a quick and uplifting read that makes for a perfect respite from the bustle and stress of the season. Dog lovers particularly will enjoy wrapping up in this cozy cuddle of a story, which is sure to keep them warm on the coldest winter night.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on November 4, 2008
A Dog Named Christmas
- Publication Date: November 4, 2008
- Genres: Fiction
- Hardcover: 160 pages
- Publisher: Doubleday Religion
- ISBN-10: 0385525982
- ISBN-13: 9780385525985