The Dog Days of Christmas

by | Dec 10, 2012 | Uncategorized


A few days ago we moved a table away from the wall to make room for the Christmas tree, and Winston’s yellow tennis ball, it rolled out from underneath into the center of the living room, along with nine years of memories. It’s been eleven months since we lost him but the tears, they still come easy.

I walked right into H’s arms and swayed there for a few quiet moments before continuing to hang hooked angels on the tree.

The ball sits in the same place where it rolled under the couch ever since. No one mentions it but I know none of us want to move it. Somehow it feels like messing with something sacred to put it in a closet or throw it away.

A few days later I thought I kept hearing his tags rattle on his collar. Looked in the rear view mirror of empty seats picturing the way he tilted his head solemn and resigned from his spot in the back.

When I mentioned this to Murielle, how I’m having a day of remembering him, she said she was thinking about him all day too.

“I’ve just been laying here thinking I can feel him next to me, almost feel his tail beating against the couch, waiting for me to turn around and pet his head like he used to,” she said into the pillows.

And that’s when I remembered.

When I finally gave in to getting another dog on her seventh birthday, I sensed Winston was going to help her get through the transition of our cross country move. I didn’t know how, just that he would.

I shared that with her for the first time while she was resting there on the couch, almost ten years after we said yes to the golden fur and dangling paws lying over the breeder’s arm.

She nodded her head, admitted that since having the near death car accident two weeks ago, she misses lying on the floor with him after school. Misses the way he offered himself stretched out unselfishly for her comfort until she was ready to get up and carry on with homework.

And I think perhaps, our sensing the dog’s presence that particular day was God’s way of letting us know how much He loves us. We can lay our head on His chest right there on the floor of pain, disappointment and lonely transition, knowing He’s got this one too.

I pushed my legs into yoga pants, tied the strings on my tennis shoes and walked under puffy clouds and red leaves still hanging on for life in the middle of December. Felt the warm air on my skin, acceptance breathing out my nose, and when I looked down among the scattered quilt of fallen fragments I saw it there, a stray yellow tennis ball lying on the edge of the road.

And I smiled and kept on walking.


I’m aware that alongside the joy of this season, the tinsel turns up the pain in remembrance too. If I can pray for you, let me know how in the comments, click on the Let’s Connect tab to send an email or message me on Facebook. Let’s pray for one another, shall we?


god bumps


Subscribe for Shelly’s stories and free resources here:


  1. Jody Lee Collins

    Shelly-I puzzled about how a Christmas post could be called ‘Dog Days’ then read it and teared up a bit, then smiled at the end. You’re right, these days do bring some sadness and pain…I miss my mom this time of year and she passed away in 1984. It’s always the Christmas songs I hear that remind me of her. It think she’d love James Taylor’s Christmas CD………

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I unwrapped an old ornament with a photo of my brother when he was little and thought about how empty Christmas will feel this year for my parents. Holidays do seem to conjure up just as much sorrow as joy for many.

  2. Sharon O

    oh this makes me sad, we lost a ‘dear pet friend’ about four months ago and he was a sweet old man. My own special kitty named smudge is now 16 and I know soon it will be goodbye for us, she shares my computer chair with me every day. My Emma rose ‘heeler dog’ is now 14 and her time is slowing down too. SO hard to say goodbye and even more difficult is to remember. I am sad for you but glad you have good memories.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Smudge is such a cute name Sharon. You’ve been fortunate with the life span of your pets. The longest for us so far is only 8 years. It’s why I’m not to keen on getting another just yet.

  3. Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

    Every once in awhile, I still dream my old childhood dog is alive… and swear I can feel her jumping up on the bed when I’m asleep…. Amazing how that love of a dog that was family never quite leaves…

    • Redemption's Beauty

      They do bring back such fond memories don’t they? We all sit around and tell childhood pet stories from time to time.

  4. Debbie

    I am so sorry for your loss. My dog Toni died in January and then just a few days before thanksgiving my dog KC died suddenly. They were both with me for about 10 years and my house doesn’t feel the same. I have my Christmas tree but have not been able to put it up. Today I was planning to but the sadness kind of took over and I just couldn’t do it. Tomorrow. Anyway, all my best to you and your family! And you are right, this time of year may be filled with joy but it also brings into sharp focus those who are gone.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      TWo in the same year, my that is so hard. I know how you feel. I tried to go through a basket still full of his scarves and toys and the tears came immediately like a faucet. I’m kind of surprised I’m still so emotional after almost a year. Hope you can get past it and enjoy your tree. Thinking about you and saying a prayer as I type.

  5. Lynn Morrissey

    I so empathize with your loss of Winston, Shelly. It is not easy, and people without pets don’t always understand the depth of this loss. We lost our Standard, Bogey, when Sheridan was nearly ten, and she wailed when we put him down. I still hear her haunting cry. How I missed that faithful companion. He followed me everywhere (admittedly, even to the bathroom! :-)) I couln’t leave a room without him trailing along. He even used to sing with me and howl like a banshee, with his head thrown back in abandon. His high notes were higher than mine (an embarrassment?) It was really rather amusing: I could never practice without his howling (not sure what that tells you about my singing). I’m sure that that tennis ball brought back all kinds of wonderful memories and I’m glad you still have it as a precious memento. And I can’t help but thinking of your greatest loss this year–your dear brother, and again, I am so sorry for this. How hard this must be for you and your dad. I will pray for God’s comfort for you and your family. And for me? I literally had just said to Michael when after we’d dropped Mother off this evening that I don’t have a heart for this Holiday. I just miss my father and great aunts and uncles and my aunt so much.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh my goodness Lynn, what a cute story about your dog howling and following you everywhere. It sounds like he had a darling personality. And don’t they all?

  6. Lynn Morrissey

    I might add, if you thnk to pray for my brother Brian…..he has lost his home, will soon be evicted, and will be forced to relinquish his pets. They;’re all he has left, and it’s killing him.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I will pray for Brian. I’m so sorry about all the loss he has suffered this year. I know you are heartbroken for him. Praying he sees some hope at the end of the darkness.

      • Lynn Morrissey

        Shelly, I’m so very tourched by your compassion. More than you know….. God bless and thank you.

  7. Heather Kopp at

    So moving. Makes me grateful for Edmund. You are so amazing as a writer and as a soul. Love ya.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I love all your stories that include Edmund. And I think that is such a cute name for a dog. Sounds so distinguished. Thanks for your sweet encouragement, lots of love to you too.

  8. amandasue916

    I can so relate! My step-dad’s dog is getting up there in age and as I was just taking him out for the last time tonight and he hobbled around not wanting to move much it saddened me that I will soon have to say goodbye to him. My mom wasn’t much of a dog person until she met my step-dad and now Gunner is her baby and she spoils him sooo much! It will be a sad day when he finally leaves us for good…

    God bless and I pray that you have a very Merry Christmas!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      My Dad always said he wasn’t a dog person either. When my brother’s dog passed away, my Dad grieved more than anyone. They weasel their way into our hearts when we aren’t looking. 😉 Hope you have a lovely Christmas too Amanda.

  9. Eileen

    Beautiful, Shelly. I had to put my first dog that I’ve owned as an adult down a couple of years ago right after Christmas. She was 14 and I’d had her since she was 7 weeks old. I still think about her and miss her.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh, that is so hard Eileen. I’ve never had the privilege of having one that long, not sure what that says about me as a dog owner. But I can’t imagine losing one after all those years.

  10. Anne

    As ornaments are hung on the tree you cannot but shed a tear for all those that have gone before and no longer here. Each year we all got an ornament from family members with our names and the year. Oh yea that was the year so and so was with us or that was the year that such and such happened. Such warm memories. Yet this is the year that Doug’s Mom is not with us. I flash back to that ICU the night of the accident and see her begging us to pray for her to go be with Jesus. Wanting to be free of all the broken bones and pain. I see my husband take her hand and hold it to his cheek as he prays for her to be set free and to go to a better place. I hear the many machines in that tiny cold room. Cannot help but replay those 8 days before she is released from her pain. My mind goes to the celebration she asked us to have. Nothing sad she says, I have had a wonderful and beautiful life and I want it to be a good day and please feed all that come. We did as she asked and it was a good day with the tears flowing. We were amazed to hear how God had touched so many lives through her that good day. Her life was truly celebrated.
    Hang another ornament as I think this year we are the older generation. Somehow it makes things different. Your love goes to those younger still on this earth and your love still lingers for those that are older and not walking this earth anymore. Yes I know It is the way of this life but yet there is still a lingering sense of loss. All the ornaments are from those gone before. They belong to those that are left. The tree looks different this year. Do I go get a new ornament for the coming years or do I just let the tree be filled with past memories? Will have to ponder that one for a few days as I look at it so beautiful with so many memories. Thank you Lord for all those that filled the tree and may we be a blessing to those whose trees we help fill. Yes, God is good all the time and the memories do bring a good day as Doug’s Mom would say. Maybe, just maybe a new ornament is just what this tree needs to complete its beauty.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think it’s a new chapter. I say get some new and be thankful for the old and the memories that dangle there on the branches. Love you Anne. I felt every word and I’m with you.

  11. Cheri

    We lost our black lab Bayley 13 months ago. I still can’t think of her with out my eyes tearing-up a bit. She was with us through our journey of loss and the learning how to live a different life. Her love and comfort was a constant in an ever-changing life. We put her in Ethan’s hospital bed hoping her kisses would wake him from his coma. As it turned out her name was the first word Ethan whispered when he did wake up. That dog was just pure comfort handed down from a God who knew our future long before we did. What a gift.
    Now we have a new little one in our family. A Shorkie who will probably weigh 12 pounds when grown. The perfect lap dog for Ethan. We’ve only had him 10 days and we are already in love. I asked myself yesterday what in the world I was doing giving my heart away again to a pet, knowing there was a great possibility it would one day be hurt again, but I remembered all the joy Bayley gave us and remembered that the love was well worth all the pain. By about 100 x’s.

    I’m sure you would agree as you miss Winston.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Only ten days, how fun. I know you are enjoying the new life and wonder they bring into a home. God for you. We want another, too many reasons not to right now. But my kids are driving me crazy pleading for a puppy.

      • Cheri

        We had more reasons not to than we did to. I prayed that God would give us just the right puppy because of all the hurt of losing Bayley and all the reasons we had “not to.” My husband is still shaking his head in wonder how Paddington came to us. It all happened so quickly with very little effort on our own. It will happen for your family. When His time is right.

  12. hopefulleigh

    Oh, that tennis ball! I’ve been at my parent’s house twice since Tucker died and it is so strange every time. I walk in the door and expect him to bark and wag his tail with joy but he’s not there. I think he’ll be hunkered down wherever my mom is in the house, but he’s not. He was a good dog and such a part of that house. Even thinking forward to Christmas, he won’t be there to paw through discarded wrapping paper, content to have us all home. This will be a bittersweet Christmas in more ways than one. Beautifully written, Shelly.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’m struck by how many in the comments are facing the absence of a beloved pet at Christmas. They bring us so much joy it becomes apparent just how much when they are gone.

  13. Jillie

    Oh Shelly…I so relate to your words here. We have had 3 dogs in our 35 years of marriage and family. We weren’t very good (young) ‘parents’ to our first dog, ‘Taco’.. She spent a lot of time outside when our son was born. Consequently, she was rather spoiled for ‘proper indoor behaviour’. My husband took that trip to the vet with her, and he said, “Never again.” When our daughter was 7, she cried for a puppy dog, so ‘Kylee’ entered our lives, a lovely little golden Cocker Spaniel. We had Kylee for 14 years, and she was MY dog. Followed me everywhere. She had epilepsy, and even during seizures, she would struggle and strain to get to me. The vet told me to keep my distance from her during a seizure because dogs often bite down on an owner’s hand, and cannot let go. Yet I would often hold her head in my lap and stroke her, trying to comfort her, even as her eyes grew distant and wild. She never once bit me. She lost her hearing, her eyesight was bad, and she became incontinent. It was time. I went into the room alone with her when that time came. She’s buried out beside our shed. I think of her all the time, and that most sad of days for me, when I held her in my arms as she slowly drifted away. I cried for weeks.
    For 5 years now, we have thoroughly enjoyed the company of ‘Lady Shelbie of West Highland’, our comical, intelligent little Terrier lap puppy.. Dave and I are empty-nesters, save for Shelbie. She makes us laugh every single day and gives so much love and affection. My husband is so attached to her and says he cannot dare even think of the day when she will be no more. So we don’t think about that. We just enjoy her. I already know it will be me who sits with her on that day, and I will do it for her…and for my husband.
    Wow! Where did all that come from?! I guess I just wanted you to know that I understand your words today about Winston and that tennis ball.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Loved reading your dog stories Jillie. I got Winston when my daughter was seven and he became my dog too. Even though the kids won’t admit that to this day, he definitely was my dog, went everywhere with me.

  14. Paula

    The tinsel turns up the pain of “remembrance”…….Memories are so important, yet painful at times. At least we have the gift of remembrance for all of the love shared, whether with our pets, friends, or family who have left us behind. Sending lots of love to you.


    • Redemption's Beauty

      They are important and I’m thankful I CAN remember. So many have lost that ability.

  15. Barbiebie

    This post is beautiful, about your beloved Winston, about the pain of remembrance. I am thankful for that, that God allows us to remember through tears and through pain. We had to put our dog to sleep last year about this time. We have a new puppy now and she is filling the gaps. Blessings!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It seems to be common in this thread of comments, many losing their pets about a year ago now with a new puppy. I find myself walking on a trail in my neighborhood that goes past dogs I like. I do want another, just not good timing.

  16. Judy

    Sorrow for what is lost, and longing for what cannot be – they can make us long for that second Advent. No pretending then – only joy. How I cling to that hope in this season.

  17. Megan Willome

    Last Christmas, I was asked to write the narration for a choral program called Canto. I was still struggling with the loss of my mom, a year and a half before, and the director encouraged me to write about that. The response was unbelievable. Christmas is hard when you lose a loved one (including a furry one).

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Wow Megan, what a wonderful opportunity. It sounds like those partaking felt the emotion of which you wrote.

  18. Lynn Morrissey

    Shelly, just wanted you to know that I made another post on yesterday’s blog that you called “Preparing for Promise,” because I realized that what I wrote here and what I had written earlier the day before could sound strangely contrary. But I think Christmas is both grief and joy. Bless you for sharing so honestly from the depths of your heart–always.

  19. DollyL (@SoulStops)

    oh, Shelly, it is so hard to lose a furry friend, Winston; he sounds like a sweetie…praying God comforts you and your family…

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thank you Dolly, the sorrow just comes in waves, like this one on that particular day.

  20. Jennifer@GDWJ

    Such a beautiful piece. Any of us who has lost a pet (or a human loved one) can relate. I wouldn’t move that ball either. It took forever for us to move our father-in-law’s shoes from the back door.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Aw, that is so touching Jennifer. I’ve still got dog food in the garage. I’m hoping I can deal with it soon.

  21. LuAnn

    Shelly, When I think about why I enjoy stories told well I remember the metaphors and symbols of the great novels. I think that it is because God has revealed Himself in His creation in these same ways.
    Thank you for sharing the tender and sweet ways the Lord has shown you Himself and at the same time warmed your heart with His tender gift of remembering gentle Winston. I am also remembering those who are now gone and your words have helped me today. I will pray for you and ask you to pray for me and my family this season.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I agree, there are so many metaphors in the Bible. I take many writing cues from the Psalms as I read them.
      I’m praying for you, thinking about you today and wishing you weren’t so darn far away.

  22. Sharon @ Hiking Toward Home

    Love this. Our two goldens are just as you described. We have moved a few times in the last few years and it was helpful to have the constant of our furry kids there for our non-furry ones.
    How wonderful that our Father is the same way, always there for us…
    Thanks for sharing this. (I will probably, like you, leave the ball where it rests, and keep it around. I can’t imagine removing them from our home.)

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Yes, we miss that fur and swishing tail around. Especially when I drop food on the floor at dinner time. He was a good mop.

  23. Alene Snodgrass (@AleneSnodgrass)

    Beautiful. Memories are so precious. My daddy passed away a year ago and I dreamed the other night and heard his bellowing laugh — it took my breath away. Blessings.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh wow, that sounds like a gift from God to me. I’m sure it would’ve taken my breath away too Alene.

  24. Karmen

    This was just beautifully written! I loved that there was no word wasted. You know, there is a calendar in my grandfather’s barn that is still on the month and year that he died. 10 years ago.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Karmen, I still have a pair of my grandfathers socks mixed in with mine in the drawer. When I see them, it brings him to mind and I always smile.

  25. Victoria

    Popping over for the link up! What a sweet post….Losing anything can be so hard! Among all the JOY of this season, it would do us well to remember that not everything or everyone is actually ready to be HAPPY. Thanks for that reminder!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Victoria, so glad you stopped by from Emily’s link up. I think there are many that suffer grief over the holidays. My own grief helps me to consider others and for that I am thankful.

  26. Kimberly

    Heartbreaking and still hopeful. What a gift we have in those sweet pups who warm our feet and hearts:)

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I knew God picked him out just for us and for that I am thankful.

  27. Lindsy Griffis

    This is just beautiful. Almost brought me to tears. So funny how our furry kids make a special place in our hearts. Memories we can look back to with fondness.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thank you for your kindness Lindsy, so glad you left a comment to let me know.

  28. Erin@ Sweetness Itself Blog

    You have such a beautiful way of writing. Just found your lovely blog thru the Chatting at the Sky linkup. Looking forward to reading more xoxo


Pin It on Pinterest