This year, I had no problem buying my dogs Christmas presents.
They didn't get any.
Well, Kate did. My littlest, oldest and most favorite dog got a new fleece throw. When Kate cuddles down next to me at night, both she and I are cold. I can pull my covers up, but she had nothing, so she often shivered just a bit.
But that nice fleece with cute golden retriever puppies on it solved Kate's problem. As soon as she is down for the night, I fold the fleece in half and cover her little body with it. She's asleep within minutes, and she's warm all night long.
But for the rest of the dogs? They got nothing. Actually, they should be glad that they got dog food and a warm place to sleep. They have been so, so bad.
Now before you start thinking I'm a Scrooge, let me explain. I love nutcrackers, and Len has made a snack out of more than one in the past. This year, I didn't put my beloved nutcrackers on display, so Len didn't get any of them.
According to Lenny, he was good this year. After all, he didn't munch on any nutcrackers, did he? Bah, humbug, I told him. You'd eat them if they were here.
So Lenny got no nutcrackers for Christmas. He did get some food treats, including his favorite flavor of yogurt, vanilla, which I can't stand. I bought it just for him, so I guess he did get a gift after all.
Jan normally gets a new ball or a new squeaky toy for Christmas, but not this year. Although she wasn't as bad as Len and Peg were while I was sick, she tried to be bad. So I made my heart hard and told myself no toys for Jan.
Then I found a whole stash of balls that had been put away in the back of the closet. Jan had never played with these balls before. I brought them out, and Jan was immediately in heaven. She had balls all over my room, the hallway, the bathroom, and in corners all over the house.
And while I was looking for something at the bottom of a little storage bin, I found a couple of stuffed toys that my friend had gotten for the dogs a few months ago. The dogs had never seen them, so they were brand new toys to them.
So I guess I did get Jan Christmas presents. I just didn't spend any money on them this year.
Then there's Peg. If this brat dog were a person, she'd get an entire stocking full of coal. She has made me so mad that I've had to walk away from her, afraid that I would hurt her if I got my hands on her. Along with sailing over fences, squeezing through tiny holes, pushing open windows and escaping and terrorizing every cat on the property, Peg had slowly begun to totally ignore me. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's a dog that doesn't come when it's called. Man, that makes me mad.
So when I stood out in the cold rain on Sunday afternoon, watching Peg dart back and forth at the end of the pasture, I decided that I was tired of this whole game. I started out in the field, and when I yelled at Peg again, suddenly I was way closer to her than she thought I should be.
So she came back. She was cocky, sure that she had gotten away with not minding me again. This was just a small setback to her, and on her next trip outside, she was pretty sure she wouldn't have to mind me again.
Wrong. I grabbed that lean little dog by the collar and got down in her face. I screamed at her that she was put on this earth to mind me, that I was the lord of this property, and when I called dogs, they came back or they got in big trouble.
While I was yelling, Peg was squirming, trying to get away. I'm sure she thought I had lost my mind, and maybe, just for an instant, I did. I was mad, mad, mad, and Peg needed to know that.
When she tried to escape me, I grabbed her little needle nose and shook her head. I shook her by the collar, and I told her that if she ever again didn't come back when I called her, I would kill her.
She must have believed me, because the next day, when I called her, she came back. Right away. She even beat her mother back into the yard. As she passed me, Peg cut her eyes at me, worried that I was going to go off the deep end again and yell at her poor abused little self.
So Peg really didn't get a physical present this Christmas. Nope, I gave her something even better. I gave her a second chance. And I think that she took that second chance, and is holding onto it with all her might, because she believes that the crazy lady she lives with has finally gone crazy. In her mind, I think that Peg believes it is either mind me, or die.
So in the end, I guess my dogs all did get Christmas presents. I didn't spend any money, and I believe that they all got just exactly what they deserved.
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.