Several years ago we purchased a set of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer toys. We bought them on a whim, because we both have fond childhood memories of watching the animated Christmas special. We didn’t know that our dog, Indigo, would claim the toys for her own. They became her favorite part of Christmas, and ours. She knew what box they were stored in, in the attic, and visited them as often as allowed during the intervals between holidays. Each November, she danced underfoot as we brought the box downstairs and unpacked “her” toys. Then she climbed onto the couch and stared at them for hours on end. Her first task every morning was to check on the toys, and she begged for us to make them sing over and over during the day.
Last year, my mother died in October. Selfish in my grief, I skipped Christmas altogether. I didn’t decorate or buy gifts. I didn’t send cards or listen to carols, and I complained about the month-long marathon of televised nostalgia.
During the year of my cancelled Christmas, Indigo aged dramatically. Her hearing loss advanced to complete deafness, and an insidious onset of distraction and anxiety altered her personality. So I shouldn’t have been surprised, today, by her muted reaction to the Rudolph toys. She danced a slow, stiff dance as I placed them on the mantel, wagged her tail as I activated them each in turn, and then wandered away in search of a warm place to nap. She has not returned to the toys, and I have not tried to remind her of them.
It seems that this part of Christmas must move into the past and take its place among all of my other holiday memories. I’m sad to lose such a simple source of joy, but I’m happy to say it’s not completely gone. Two years ago, we spent an afternoon filming Indigo with her toys, and I have this video to treasure and share…