Did you hear that?" the old dog shouted. They all ran to the front of their kennel doors to see if
someone was coming to "pick them." "Sorry," he said to the other dogs as his ears fell down from their perked position.
"I could have sworn I heard voices saying, 'Isn't he cute? It's Christmas, can't we take him home with us?'"
"You must have been dreaming again old man," said the dog in the cage next to him. "Anyway, what's the big
deal about getting picked up as a Christmas gift. We've all been through that routine and look where it got us."
The word "home" meant little to these shelter dogs. "Just once, I'd like to feel the warmth of a hand stroking
my head," said the old dog. "I'd like to be the one who kisses the tears off a sad face. I'd like to curl up
next to a fire instead of this cold concrete. It hurts my bones." He curled up and sighed as the others said,
"The only place you're going to find that is in your dreams old man."
* * *
Hank's wife had only been gone a year but the pain was as fresh as if time had stood still. He was an old
man now, alone and longed for the comfort that he knew no other person would ever be able to give to him again.
What would his life become without her by his side? Hank's cupboards were close to bare now and, although he didn't
want to go out, he knew he should at least pick up the basics. He drove slowly down the side streets for freeway
driving had become too challenging. Suddenly, the car started chugging and sputtering until finally the engine quit
altogether. One of the basic needs he forgot was fuel for the car! So he coasted over next to the curb, spotting
a building within walking distance. Hopefully, they'd let him use their phone. He walked into an office area and
rang the bell for service but no one came. He spotted another door going outside, failing to notice the sign
posted "Employees Only".
As Hank walked out, he was overwhelmed by yaps, barks and insane jumping from dogs all sizes and shapes.
He then realized he had unintentionally gone to the dog shelter. Slowly he walked down the concrete aisle
looking for an attendant. Should the old dog get excited? No one would want him. But, he sensed a need and
couldn't resist offering a kind look and a gentle wag of the tail.
As Hank neared the old dog's cage, he laced his fingers through the chain link to steady his gait and the
first feeling of comfort he'd remembered in over a year came from a wet nose and lick across his arthritic fingers.
Just then a voice of authority sounded, and Hank jumped. "I'm sorry sir, you aren't supposed to be in this area!"
she said. Luckily Hank didn't know he had walked into the "final area" where unclaimed dogs were scheduled to be
put down. There went the nudge and lick thing again. Hank looked down to the most pleading eyes he'd ever seen.
Ignoring the attendants order to leave, Hank asked if could he see the dog closer? Her demeanor
changed completely and her sternness melted away. She had forced herself to be this way so she could do
the part of her job she despised. She brought the old dog out and instantly the two souls -- once so lost -- found
reason to hope.
Hank's cupboards were now filled, a warm fire crackled and the old dog smiled inside as he remembered
"only in your dreams." Closing his eyes he felt Hank's hand stroking his head whispering "sleep in heavenly
It was Christmas after all.