The Christmas Puppy

Julie Marks

Los Angeles, United States

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Artist's Description

Tonight is Christmas Eve and I am reflecting
on the most special memories of Christmas
with my family, especially the celebrations
with my son Kevin when he was a young boy.
Every Christmas, he made a long list of what he wanted for gifts on his computer and after
giving his long list to us, he sent it
to our dear friends who lived in Arrowhead, the local mountains near Los Angeles. I wanted to savor these
warm and festive yearly celebrations as
a very special time in our family life when
we could share the holiday with our
closest friends and their menagerie of animals.
Kevin was six years old and having a big
kid as a mother had many advantages. My list
was mostly toys, including video games, barbies
and action figures that I used for play
therapy with my young clients. We opened
most of our gifts on Christmas Eve sipping
egg nog that hit us harder at high altitude.
It seemed that nothing could compare to
the generosity of my two wonderful friends
who loved Kevin like a son. Sonia never had children and Gail could not conceive and her
adopted children were grown. They were
Kevin’s Auntie Mames who made
these precious years a rich and warm adventure.
Kevie arrived a week earlier to wrap presents
in a room designated for his creative
endeavers. His beloved "aunts’ were older
than us and nothing pleased him more
than drinking hot chocolate, hiking with
his canine best friends, working on puzzles
and playing board games with two aging “eccentric” aunties

My dachshunds had passed away and although
Kevie loved dogs, he had not experienced
the amazing feeling of adoring your first puppy.
He did not know that Charlie and I had
already chose his new best friend as his
most important Christmas gift. We told
him that we wanted to look at puppies
when we returned home and the best part
was that he would be the one to choose
his canine Christmas present. He looked
at me in disbelief and asked me to repeat
what I had said to make sure that dreams
do come true.

Of all the firsts that a little boy experiences, nothing compares with the love shared with
your first puppy. Charles Shultz elected
Snoopy to be the eloquent messenger to describe the experience in his book
“Happiness is a warm puppy.”

Dogs are tremendous company for children,
especially only children like Kevin who
considered Willard his brother. Kids will tell
you that their dog is not “just a dog”, but
an important member of the family. For those
who deeply attach to their canine companions and have read my dog stories understand that my dogs are my beloved companions. Not
any dog will do either. As with people,
sometimes you "click"with certain dogs and
feel a deep psychological connection that can not be compared to any other kind of relationship including human attachments. I wrote about my first love, Jesse who was abused in a puppy mill. I still miss her. My photos in my portfolio
titled Jesse and Loving Jesse tells our story in images that words could not describe. Humans have important lessons to learn from their canine companions. A dog’s life is complete when his
owner is not away, but there is not criticism or judgment from the dog when he or she comes home. They simply accept the love they
are given without question;they don’t harbor disappointments, or sulk, or impose
expectations. At the risk of sounding like a total dog nut (which is true), it’s a state of acceptance that I perceive as an elevated state of grace.
Most human beings find such acceptance and
devotion difficult to achieve.

Willard was a tri-color English Setter. He was exceptionally kind, with the most endearing temperament and most
importantly he was the first love of my son Kevin
as a Christmas gift that became his most
precious companion. We had already chosen him from a litter of ten puppies
and when we arrived on New Years Day,
Kevin ran enthusiastly to the
enclosure where the puppies played and after
a pregnant silence, he
announced, “I want him!” There were only
a few boys so we believed he would make
the same choice as we did weeks in advance.
Kevie had told us on the way to see the puppies
that he wanted a boy, a not so surprising choice
for a six year old boy. Trying to calm my nerves and not wanting to appear pushy, I calmly asked Kevie, which “him” did you chose?
Without much deliberation, Kevin picked up the softest and most gentle male English Setter
of the litter who was sitting in the corner observing his siblings play taking in all the action, but not wanting to engage. Kevie might have chosen one of the puppies that
appeared more playful for that moment, but he was firm in his decision and I hugged him with great relief knowing I too had fallen in love.
Kevie had chosen Willard and at that moment our
lives were filled with joy. I took many photos of Willard during the ten years we adored him,
one of my favorites is titled Willard, a wonderful
photo of Charlie cuddling our beautiful boy.
We had just rescued a German Shepard mix so
I felt the freedom to indulge myself, especially after I saw my son’s face glowing as he
embraced his white and warm little pal. As we were driving home, Kevin said,
“Mom, this feels like a dream. I can’t
believe he is really my dog.” I remember the same feeling when leaving the hospital after Kevin was born. I said to Charlie, "You
mean we get to take him home.!! Like many new parents, we both felt like we were holding a “miracle” in our arms. It did seem like
a dream.

The coloring of English Setters appears when
the puppy coat sheds to reveal the ticking (freckles) on their face and body and what is referred to as blue or orange roan, the color that integrates with their white fur. Willard
was primarily blue roan that looks like black with
orange ticking on his face and legs. I wish someone could bottle puppy breath as an ant-depressant or treatment for anxiety. Studies have shown that the close physical
attachment between dogs and humans lowers blood pressure and can extend the time and quality of life for the elderly in
their home or when therapy dogs visit nursing homes. Wiliard, was my best co-therapist with children and adults. It often is easier
to talk to a dog than a person as dog owners know and Willard and I make an amazing team.
I wrote about working with Willard
in my story titled “Mikey, Therapy Dog” and
photograph of Willard and Charlie titled
“Willard.”

Dogs are great for children and after
our beloved and noble spirit passed
“over the rainbow bridge”, Kevie told me
he felt like he lost his brother.
Being an only child was not an issue for him as long as he had a dog that loved him like
Willard who always lied under his desk
when he did his homework or spent
hours on the computer like his mom.
Mikey was the next dog that “clicked” and although Kevie lives and works in
New York City, he always looks forward to
a big welcome home lick from Mikey
who spins in circles and
runs throughout the house to announce that Kevie has returned. Positive
experiences with a family dog can
set the stage for responsible parenting.
Hopefully Kevin’s son or daughter will experience the joy Kevin did when he said,
“I can’t believe he is really mine.”

Please view this in large format.

Artwork Comments

  • Enivea
  • shanghaiwu
  • Julie Marks
  • Sean Farragher
  • artisandelimage
  • AnnDixon
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