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The sound of little paws dashing across the kitchen rouses me from the deepest sleep. It is four thirty in the morning. He has left my son's room; that can only mean one thing, trouble. He is the Christmas Puppy. Lately I have am overwhelmed with a compulsion to blurt out, “Bah Humbug!”
He is sitting on the kitchen floor wolfing down the remnants of who knows what? He is the puppy that thinks he is a goat. How much trouble can one little puppy be? Plenty.

This black ball of fur weighing in at six pounds is Ralph. Santa brought Ralph; this morning I am hoping Ralph has a homing instinct and will return home to the North Pole. I stumble over a chewed shoe; no matter, now it will probably match the one in the closet. Somehow, this unfortunate shoe was overlooked in what has now become a nightly ritual. We pick up all the things Ralph might chew, i.e. drapes, throw rugs, baby dolls, his own foot. He will chew any and everything, except the fifty dollars worth of puppy chew-toys that dear, old, demented Santa left for him.

Santa left a note that said, “This is an energetic and happy puppy." This means at two o’clock in the morning he is still chasing his tail. Santa said, “This is an intelligent puppy.” This means that Ralph will win and I will lose all truly important battles.

Our seven-year-old son, Todd, and his puppy are regarding me with mournful eyes. I sense impending defeat. “Bah, Humbug!”
“Mommy, he can't sleep outside. It's too cold.” Ralph and child are clinging to one another as a cruel wind of 70 degrees whips through the trees.

“Let's give it a try. Doggies love it outside. It is only seventy degrees; that is not too cold. He has a nice, warm doggie house that daddy has almost finished. And Daddy said Ralph could have his new goosedown coat for a bed. Daddy can't wear it anymore since Ralph ate the sleeve and zipper.”

I look outside to see my husband, Bob, busily hammering. He has a far away look on his face. I have come to recognize the expression as pre Ralph nostalgia.

“He's going to hate it.” Did Ralph nod his head in agreement, or is it my frayed nerves?

“You'll see he will love it.” We leave Ralph in his new doghouse with Bob's new coat.

“He's going to hate it,” Todd repeats as we come back into the house. It is the last quiet moment for two hours. I am hoarse from yelling while the puppy's bark is only getting louder.

“I told you he would hate it,” he says as he brings in Ralph.

This animal is man's best friend and the patron saint of children. Our son has someone who understands him. “Ralph really loves me. “Mommy, is Bah, humbug a bad word?” Todd is feeding Ralph the peas that accidentally fell on the floor.
Ralph loves all forms of food except puppy food. Ralph is a hero to our two daughters, Heather and Holly. Heather, age nine, insists on conducting scientific experiments. “Let's see if he's really smart, if he is, he won't eat squash.” Of course, he does not.

Holly, our youngest, likes to sit on Ralph, which he takes in stride. After all, this three-year-old is a continuous source of goodies. The last week flashed before my eyes. Holly proudly showed us her dinner plate. “Look, clean plate, all gone.” A week's worth of clean plates flashed before my eyes. From okra to zucchini, every despicable vegetable known to children, had been quickly and quietly eaten. I thought it was to good to be true; it was. Ralph now sits outside at mealtimes and serenades us with his version of I'm so lonesome I could die.

Ralph always has time for Todd. He meets Todd at the bus. They watch TV together and Ralph listens intently as Todd read to him.

If we had it to do over again, would we? Of course not. In the hurried and harried world of grownups, there is no time for six pounds of furry trouble. I am watching Todd and Ralph run through the leaves. There is a light breeze. For a moment, I remember the feel of the wind and that kind of joy. I am reminded that Christmas is a state of mind and I resolve to do as Ebeneezer Scrooge, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

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