Christmas was a little over a week away, but Mabel wasn’t going to make it to the end of the week. It’s never a good time to lose your pet, but during the holiday season, it’s gut-wrenchingly horrible. Especially when it’s the pet who helped raise your children. Mabel slept beneath my boy’s baby beds, listened while they learned to read, and ran along beside them through the swamps and gullies of Mobile Bay on wild adventures.
The pointy eared yellow mutt usually curled up beneath the Christmas tree each year and used it as her personal napping area. She always seemed to love Christmas. This year, she could barely walk across the room, much less find the twinkling tree. Since Mabel wasn’t eating or drinking and couldn’t walk, our vet said to bring her in on Tuesday morning for what would be a final goodbye.
We decided to wait and tell the boys after the fact, when they returned home from school on Tuesday afternoon, but there was one more problem. Joe, our youngest son, had ridden his bicycle downtown the week before, and using his own money, bought dog treats from the pet store. He wrapped the gift and placed it beneath the tree. We couldn’t let him come home to find his dog gone with the treats unopened, so on Monday night, we suggested, “You know, sometimes it’s fun to unwrap a present early. Since Mabel doesn’t feel well, let’s let her open her gift now.”
Joe knelt in front of his dog. Mabel sniffed the gift as her 10 year old boy helped her open the box. Shaking, Mabel looked at us with cloudy eyes, and at one point even stumbled and fell. My husband and I hid our tears. Then, almost out of politeness, Mabel took a bite of the treat. She nibbled it, then ate the other.
We all went to bed, and I think I cried most of the night, knowing what I would have to face the next morning. When the alarm sounded, I was already awake, praying, “God, why do our hearts have to be broken at Christmastime?”
And then, as I prepared breakfast, Mabel walked in and started slurping water out of her bowl, then came over and touched her nose to my leg. She seemed steady, so I put some food in her dish, and she began to eat. “Hey look! Mabel is eating!” the boys yelled as they came scampering into the room. Sure enough, Mabel was still an old, sick dog, but she had a new stability and clarity in her eyes.
We got the boys off to school and called the Veterinarian. “You aren’t going to believe this, but Mabel is a new dog this morning.”
“Did anything happen to her?” he asked.
“Well, Joe gave her a Christmas present last night.”
“I believe in Christmas miracles.” he said.
We were able to celebrate one last Christmas with Mabel, and she was almost her old self, snuggling beneath the tree once more, and wagging her tail as we opened gifts. But by the next Spring, she was gone. We’ll never know what gave her that last bit of determination to keep going, but of course, we believe that when you are truly loved at Christmas, miracles can happen.
This story first appeared on AL.com and in the Mobile Press-Register, Birmingham News and Huntsville Times.