December 24, 2006: Dusk. Mom went out to do some chore a few minutes before my brother and his family were scheduled to arrive for our family Christmas Eve “Breakfast” Dinner.
“Sheree, come here. Hurry,” Mom called. The urgency in her voice indicated this wasn’t simply a call for my general attention.
I dashed outside.
“It’s a puppy,” Mom cried out. “A Golden Retriever, I think.”
And there he was. In the drizzle of a chilly, gray Christmas Eve, a beautiful Golden Retriever puppy, probably 9 or 10 weeks old, frolicked in my parents’ backyard. Their house is several hundred yards off the road and the nearest neighbor is a bit farther away. Needless to say, we were perplexed by this pup’s presence.
“Here I am,” he seemed to say. “Happy to be home. I think I’ll really like it here. Lots of room to play. I’m sure you’ll love me just as much as I love you.”
After talking it over a bit, we decided to put Nick in the poolhouse. We were certain he must be a neighbor’s Christmas present gone astray.
My brother and his family arrived as the last bits of light faded from the winter sky. They checked out the pup and were duly impressed. We moved on to our dinner-breakfast and then opened presents. Later that night, I called around to the nearest neighbors. None had lost a Golden Retriever puppy.
That night—Christmas Eve—I put Nick in a crate in the poolhouse and got up every two hours to let him out to do his business. The next night I did the same. At that point, he was pretty much “house-trained.” At first, I’d called him “Kris” (as in Kris Kringle) but the name didn’t fit.
By the third day, I had named him Nicholas, because he came on Christmas Eve.
No one ever claimed him. Well, my family quickly claimed him as our own, but no one else ever did.
We have no idea where he came from, but our Nicholas is something special. He loves life, loves his family, loves other dogs, loves Dali, loves cats who move in or just come to visit. We had a bit of a scare during the late summer or early Fall of 2007. Nick was hit by a car and his front leg was broken. The woman who hit him stopped at my parents home and alerted them to what had happened. They were able to get Nick to the vet immediately. The prognosis was mixed—he wasn’t badly hurt but the vet didn’t think his leg would heal without limitations. A few months later and there was no sign that he’d had ever had a broken leg.
Nicholas isn’t quite as “exuberant” as he was during his first three years—you might say he’s matured, finally. He’s just past his 5th birthday now. Nick was thrilled when Koda joined the family menagerie in 2010. Finally, Nick had a playmate, not just a companion.
My brother and his family loved Nicholas so much they adopted a 5-year-old Golden Retriever, Abby, who needed a new home. When she came to visit, Abby and Nicholas were fast friends (after about 2 minutes of objection by Nick).
Nick was there with me when I had to say goodbye to Bama. Nick is the only dog in the family pack who’s not into rabbit hunting. My mom says Nick is the only one who has any sense (the rest go off hunting and come home so tired they can barely move).
Happy 6th Christmas Eve, Nicholas, with your forever family. We love you, buddy!