Everybody Has a Story: Beloved pup’s safe return was best Christmas gift

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Terry had disappeared. Three weeks before Christmas 1947, he was gone. He had come into our family only six weeks earlier, but we loved him as though we’d had him forever — our playful, adorable, white- and gold-colored puppy.

At only 12 weeks old he was already housebroken. I had put him outside to go potty, but after 15 minutes, he hadn’t whimpered to come back in. I called for him, but no Terry. Now worried, I begged for help. My dad, my sister Judy and I pulled on our coats, boots and gloves.

“We’ve got to find him, Dad. He could freeze to death out there,” I said.

In the bone-chilling November cold of northeastern Ohio with its deep, glistening snow, we trudged through our neighborhood. After an hour of calling, knocking on doors and peering into every hole where a terrier-border-collie-mix puppy might be trapped, we headed home — heartbroken.

Christmas no longer seemed so important. Even the smell of Scotch pine and cookies baking in the oven didn’t help for long. Each morning Judy and I woke up expecting Terry to run to greet us, but each morning we were saddened all over again. Mom tried to make us feel better by saying, “I’m sure someone found him and is taking good care of him.”

“But he’s our puppy and we want him back,” we would cry in protest.

By Christmas Eve we had resigned ourselves to being without our beloved puppy.

Mom tried to make the evening seem normal by reading a bedtime story to us, and because it was Christmas Eve, she read “The Night Before Christmas.” In the middle of the poem, there was a noise at the front door. Scratching? Dad raised his palm toward us — his way of saying, “Let me check this. You kids stay there.”

Dad peered out and saw nothing, but slowly opened the door. “When what to our wondering eyes did appear” but a shivering puppy. Our eyes filled with tears. We let out a whoop and ran to the door.

“Terry! Mom, it’s Terry! He’s home!” We were overjoyed to see him. Dirty, wet and paws bloodied, he stood there shaking. A six-inch remnant of rope hung from the loop still tied around his neck. He had chewed through his tether to free himself — to make it home. Though weary, Terry managed to wag his tail as I scooped him up to bring him in to the warm house. Mom made scrambled eggs for him to eat and Judy gave him some warm milk to drink. I wrapped him in his red doggy blanket and laid him in his bed. His glazed-over eyes briefly peered up at me as he fell into an exhausted sleep. I laid my hand on his fragile body. “You’ll be OK now,” I whispered.

Dad placed Terry’s bed between my sister’s bed and mine, saying, “He’ll feel safe here between the two of you.”

After a peaceful night’s sleep, we eagerly awoke on Christmas morning, but Terry did not — he continued to sleep and he slept all of Christmas day and Christmas night. Mom said that he must have come a long way to get home. She was amazed that at his young age, he could even find his way.

Judy and I didn’t care how he made it. We had Terry back — our Christmas miracle — and for that year, our most precious gift.

Everybody Has a Story welcomes nonfiction contributions, 1,000 words maximum, and relevant photographs. Email is the best way to send materials so we don’t have to retype your words or borrow original photos. Send to neighbors@columbian.com or P.O. Box 180, Vancouver WA 98666. Call Scott Hewitt, 360-735-4525, with questions.