“As the Lodge Turns” Episode 27: The Perfect Gift

 On this episode of “As the Lodge Turns”…

I had a lot of trouble sleeping last night.

After Mom and Dad tucked me into bed, I couldn’t escape from thoughts of yesterday afternoon. Lucy and I were assigned to each other for the gift exchange, but she looked so upset about it. I’m sure there was another dog she wanted to give a present to, but now she’s stuck with me…

What could I possibly give her that would cheer her up? She’s done so much for me this year, and I don’t want it to end like this.

From my bed I have the perfect view of the Christmas tree. My favorite time to watch it is late at night, when the deep darkness brings out the intense colors of the lights; they blur brightly together in the branches, twirling and winking at me as I fall asleep.

As I watched them last night, it suddenly hit me.

I knew what to get her for Christmas!

Now, at the Lodge, everyone is busily exchanging gifts. Lucy hasn’t arrived yet, so I’m spying on the other dogs while I wait.

“What is…this?” Biscuit asks Daisy, staring at a pile of dirt.

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“It’s only my favorite rolling spot ever! Don’t you know greatness when you see it? Besides, your fur is kind of like mine, perfect for picking up every last piece of dirt! Merry Christmas, you can use it as much as you want today!”

Biscuit looks unsure, but to my surprise he takes a few adventurous rolls in the dirt. Even Daisy seems impressed!

“I have to admit…I didn’t think you’d actually do it! So you do know how to have fun, huh?”

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“Of course I do! Now, how would you like to be my deputy today? We can roll in the dirt and break up scuffles for hours,” Biscuit says, racing towards the other side of the yard.

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“Hey, wait up!!” Daisy says, tearing after him with a big grin on her face.

I’m glad to see them working together for a change – they have a lot more in common than I thought! It gives me hope that Lucy and I can work everything out…

“So, what’d you get me?”

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I see Max approach the fence with a confidence that is sure to anger Scarlett. When I move closer I see that her mouth is twisted into a forced smile.

“Instead of something material, I thought it fitting and generous to bestow upon you something far more precious. A…compliment,” Scarlett says, her whole body quivering in an effort to control her temper.

“Oh? But I wanted something material,” Max says with a cocky grin.

Scarlett releases a heavy sigh, and then makes eye contact with him.

“You are an excellent friend. To Bing, I mean,” she clarifies when his eyes widen. “You always lighten the mood, and you bring joy to the dogs at the Lodge. And even though I do not find your flair for uncouth humor charming or amusing, I can see why others might. So…Merry Christmas.”

Max seems a bit taken aback by her words. “That’s…the nicest round-about compliment any dog has ever given me, Scarlett. Thank you.”

Scarlett appears flustered, and quickly turns her back on him. “I assume I shall receive nothing from you. Is that correct?”

“You’ve got guts. Even when we all wish you would give it a rest, your determination sees you through. I respect that. A lot,” Max says in a tone I’ve never heard before. He’s not mocking her at all…

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“Is that all? I was hoping for a real gift,” Scarlett finally says, her back still to him.

“I thought this kind of gift was more precious and generous than something material,” Max says, running from the fence with a mischievous look in his eyes.

“Hmph!” Scarlett declares with a sniff, but as she walks away from the fence, I’m surprised to see a genuine smile on her lips.

This day has been full of Christmas miracles…

“Bing! I’m sorry I’m late!”

As I turn around I see Lucy racing towards me with something in her mouth. When she gets closer to me, I notice that her expression is the same as yesterday. Maybe Christmas has one more miracle left for me…

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Before I can speak she sets a worn, discolored tennis ball at my feet. One side is partially caved in from being chewed too many times, and the once neon-yellow fuzz is matted and a strange mix of gray and brown.

“Yesterday, when I was assigned to be your partner, I was devastated,” Lucy says, staring down at the old ball.

“I know, and I’m sorry,” I say, sniffing at her to make sure that she’s okay.

“Please don’t apologize! It’s because…I didn’t know what to give you. If I’d been assigned to any other dog, I could have picked anything. But because it was you, Bing, the gift had to be perfect. I was up all night thinking about what I could give you to show you how much you mean to me. And, I know this doesn’t look like the perfect gift – it’s old, smelly, and broken. But it’s my favorite toy in the whole world! And I thought…who better to have my favorite toy than my best friend…”

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As her voice trails off, I’m flooded with an overwhelming emotion. She’s willing to give up her favorite toy…for me…

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“This is my favorite toy,” I say, looking down at the limp lion stuffed animal between my paws. “My parents gave Leo the Lion to me my very first Christmas, and I thought about how happy it made me then. I realized…maybe it would make you happy too. Because you’re my best friend, Lucy!”

For a long time we stare at each other, searching for the right words, but it only leads to a fit of laughter.

“We thought of the same thing! That’s incredible!” Lucy says, nudging her tennis ball towards me.

“It’s like it was meant to be!” I say, tossing Leo at her.

“Merry Christmas, Bing!”

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“Merry Christmas, Lucy!”

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As we play together into the afternoon, the world around me seems brighter, like the yard is dotted with tiny lights that form a glowing scene. I’ve had a big year, full of changes and adjustments since I last saw the Christmas tree, and now I can appreciate my favorite parts of the season in a new way.

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Today I learned that the perfect gift is the one you put your true feelings into, and I’m so lucky to have been able to give one this year!

…to be continued…