It was Christmas morning and there was a knock on the front door of our house.
My children, then 8 and 9 years old, ran to the door. When they opened it, there, wrapped in a blanket, nestled in a basket, was a puppy.
A black-and-white springer spaniel, female, 10 weeks old.
Excited and screaming with delight, the kids brought her inside.
“A puppy. A puppy,” they yelled. “Is it ours?”
“Seems as if it is,” we said.
With spots on her nose, the puppy was a natural for the name “Freckles.”
It was a memorable moment, at least for me as father in our family. It sticks in the mind like a Christmas morning snowfall, the crystalline flakes shimmering on rooftops and turning browned-out trees and lawns into picture postcards.
Two memories of my own childhood are likewise imprinted on my mind: one when I was given a fancy black Western saddle for my pony and another when my brother, only five years older and just a teenager, was so thoughtful to give me a .22 rifle with a gold-colored trigger.
Later that day, he took me deer hunting. There was no chance of either seeing or shooting a deer that snowy day, but I’ve never forgotten the kindness and love it showed.
My brother never had to know how scared I was that we might actually see a deer. I did not want to kill one. Still don’t.
So, I suggest all of us think really hard and give something memorable this Christmas, especially to our children. A simple rule is to give something you would like someone to give to you.
Or choose a gift that shows you paid attention to something that was said by a loved one, or something that you noticed them admiring.
I could happily relive it over and over again – that moment when my children opened the door on Christmas morning. I often think of the friend who left his own family to pick up the dog and deliver it to our home for the dramatic surprise. What a generous gift of his time.
Everyone loves a good dog story but Freckles did not leave much of a legacy except for occasionally and strangely going from friendly to grumpy when sleep called at night.
Let sleeping dogs lie, I guess was her rule.
From the start, the kids had rules with Freckles. They fed her and they walked her. Today, they each recall the other one doing more of the work.
Whatever the division of labor, they accepted and shared responsibility for the dog’s care.
On the day after Christmas that year, as I struggled with a case of the flu so severe it had sent me to the hospital twice, I was summoned from my bed to speak with my newspaper’s publisher. I was the editor.
“All of your employees, all of them, just walked out on strike,” he said. We lived in Michigan and were in the midst of nonstop, brutal snowstorms. Our employees chose to leave the warm, nicely lit office to stand outside and tell passing motorists not to buy our newspaper – the one that fed them.
“They didn’t really walk out, did they?” I croaked, hoarse from coughing.
They did, he said. “We need you to come to work so we can publish a paper.”
From that day and for the next year, I did not have time to help my children with puppy training. So, they handled it all. And then later we had Freckles bred, and she produced a fine litter of puppies. They handled all the litter work.
The one thing Freckles did that was memorable was produce a huge, liver-and-white puppy that we cleverly named “Moose.”
We kept Moose and he became one of the best dogs we ever owned.
A knock on the door gave us Freckles, and Freckles gave us Moose.
Sometimes, a great Christmas gift turns out even better than you thought it would.
Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at email@example.com