The best Christmas present ever



A true story showing the incredibly strong connections and communication dogs and their “humans” sometimes share. ©Thinkstock

First, to understand this story in its entirety, you need to appreciate my mother’s love of dogs.

We lived in a small Pennsylvania community with a population of about 950 people and just about as many dogs. Mom wasn’t crazy about big dogs. She preferred the small ones. Mexican Chihuahuas were her favorite, but she also liked a Rat Terrier-Chihuahua mix. And that was where Monkey came in.

I don’t know who gave her that name. It was probably Mom. One of our friends in a nearby town gave the pup to us when Monkey was just a few weeks old. From the moment the black pup with a white chest and white stocking feet entered our house on the hill, she was Mom’s dog. No question about that.

My mother loved to talk to dogs. In Monkey’s case, amazingly, the dog talked back. There was a communication between the two of them that had to be seen to be believed.

We kept our hunting dog, Pal, outside the house in a doghouse. Monkey, on the other hand, enjoyed the best of treatment. She slept in Mom’s bed on the pillow next to her. Mom would even sing to Monkey at night, and the half Chihuahua-Terrier would dance for her, seeming to enjoy the songs.

One morning Mom let Monkey out the door. She gave the dog complete freedom to roam around the yard. Monkey would sometimes dash across the dirt road into Ab Huss’s pasture where he kept half a dozen cows. Monkey loved to chase the cows, running nimbly between their legs. They would try to go after her, but Monkey was too fast and much too smart for them.

This day something different happened. Around noon, when Monkey would normally return to the house to be fed, she didn’t show up. Mom went to our back porch and called her name over and over again. But she couldn’t find Monkey.

She even walked over to Huss’s pasture and called Monkey’s name. Nothing.

That night, Mom was fearful something bad had happened to her beloved pet. It was mid-November, and the weatherman was predicting snow.

“I know she’s out there,” Mom said fearfully. “Sometimes I think I can even hear her calling back to me.” Indeed, when she shouted Monkey’s name, it seemed to me and my two younger brothers and my Dad there was a wailing reply—but it sounded so far away I thought it was just the wind.

The days passed. Thanksgiving came. And Monkey never showed up.

Mom was fearful that something bad had happened to her beloved pet. It was mid-November, and the weatherman was predicting snow.

I tried to keep my mother’s hopes up by telling her Monkey would return, even though in my heart I wasn’t sure. Mom’s personality changed. She went to bed earlier, and I could hear her calling Monkey’s name through the back window, in vain.

Four weeks passed. Dad had put up our Christmas tree and there were dozens of gifts beneath the tree as we prepared to celebrate the holiday. I knew Mom was in no mood to celebrate anything with her beloved dog missing.

On a Saturday morning, two days before Christmas, there was a knock at the door. I opened it. Our next-door neighbor, a man my father worked with at the steel mill, was standing there. His house was less than 400 yards from ours up a slight incline.

“You folks have a little dog, don’t you?” he began uncertainly. Mom was at my side immediately. Yes, she said. Her name is Monkey. She’s black and white and she has been missing for more than a month.

“Well,” said our neighbor, still not certain, “I dug a well for a cistern in my back yard. I haven’t worked on the cistern for the past couple of weeks. But I went out there this morning to check on a couple of things and found a dog in the bottom of the well. I can tell you this. The dog isn’t black. It’s almost pure white in color. But you’re welcome to come and take a look if you think it’s your dog. I’m about to get a ladder and rescue the poor thing.”

My entire family, with Mom leading the way, hurried to our neighbor’s house. None of us even had realized there was a well on the property until we were told.
As our neighbor brought a long ladder to the edge of the cistern, Mom peered over the edge of the well.

“Monkey?” she said, her voice quavering. “Is that you?”

It was. The veterinarian would later tell us that the trauma of existing inside the cistern, where she had obviously tumbled while running, had stripped the pigment from her fur. The dog in the bottom of the pit was pitifully skinny and weak, having existed on rainwater and whatever weeds or trash was in the hole. But it was Monkey. When the dog heard my mother’s voice, it leaped pitifully up the side of the well, only to fall back again.

After our neighbor retrieved Monkey from the well, Mom wrapped her carefully in a blanket—all of the dog’s toenails had been torn from her flesh in her desperate attempts to leap out of the hole in response to my mother’s voice calling her name—and Mom didn’t want to injure her more.

The vet told Mom, “The only reason this dog is still alive is because she loved you too much to give up. Merry Christmas. Your dog will live.”

Monkey’s color and her health returned over the next few weeks. Her toenails grew back. And it was the best Christmas my loving family ever had and one that will remain special to me for as long as I live.

GENO LAWRENZI, JR. is an international journalist, magazine author, ghostwriter and novelist who lives in Missouri.


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