It was two weeks before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring except for Wranger the dog. He was crouched under the Christmas tree sniffing at all the packages that were already under the tree. He knew that one or more of them would be for him. He just couldn’t tell which presents were his.
Wranger knew he was mostly good this year and especially during this holiday season. His “mother” had to scold him only once so far because he had gotten a candy cane stuck in his white Shi-Tzu fur. She just had to snip a little of the fur to get the sticky bits out.
The tall blonde woman entered the room Wranger was in. His “mother”; that was who she told Wranger she was; looked at him and said, “What are you up to now Wranger?”
Wranger gave her the kindest, sweetest look he could muster. It was easier for him to do this time because he had not done anything wrong.
“Well that’s a good boy,” she said to his non-spoken answer. “As long as you weren’t sniffing through the presents again.”
Wranger just wagged his tail to show that he wasn’t, at least not at that moment.
“You want to go on a little trip with momma?” she asked.
Wranger barked an affirmative response. He loved going on little trips to get fresh air and he would usually get a treat if he was good throughout the day.
All of a sudden, Wranger’s world got turned upside down. His “mother” re-entered the room with a large red bag and filled it with all the presents that were under the tree. Every single one of them. So was he not getting any presents this year? He let out a small whimper at the scene in front of him.
“Silly you, these weren’t for you Wranger,” she said. “Now let’s get going.” The woman carried the red back to her car. She came back in, put Wranger on his leash and grabbed her guitar case.
Wranger was really confused now. When she takes the guitar case, she is usually singing some place. Then why was she bringing the presents? It was all a mystery to him.
The woman drove through the city until they came to a huge building. Wranger climbed up to the window and saw a sign that read Children’s Hospital. The woman parked the car, grabbed the bag, guitar case and Wranger’s leash and entered the hospital. They entered a room to the side of the entry hall and she took off Wranger’s leash. She told him to stay here and wait until she came back.
Wranger was even more confused about why they would be at a hospital for children. He assumed she must be singing here but why bring HIS presents. As he sat and waited, the door opened and a German Shepherd entered the room. He had a presence about him that impressed Wranger. The Shepherd had a kind look on his face.
“Hi there. My name is Captain. You must be here for the Christmas party.” Captain was wearing a red vest with white letters with Captain’s name printed on it.
“I guess so. I think my “mother” will be singing here,” Wranger answered. “May I ask, what do you do here Captain?”
“I work here,” Captain said. “I’m here to help the kids feel better.”
“How do you do that? Are you a doctor or something?” Wranger asked.
“No, No!” Captain answered as he chuckled. “Let me just show you.”
The two walked out of the room and down the hallway. They walked up a flight of stairs and stopped at the entry to a larger room.
“This is where my work starts. The kids in this hospital are here because they are sick, some more than others. This room in front of us is a recreation room where families get together and have some fun, together time with their sick son or daughter. These children have what we call minor issues. They have broken arms or treatable illnesses. Things that they will recover from quickly.”
“So what do you do to help?” Wranger asked.
“Well I’ll just show you!” Captain entered the room and all of a sudden everyone in the room started smiling and calling for Captain to come to them. He would stride over to one family and the whole group was petting him and hugging him. A little boy in pajamas had a ball that he rolled away that Captain fetched and brought back to him. From group to group, Captain would go getting similar results. Each family would be smiling and laughing as Captain came to them. Finally when he had finished visiting with the last family, he returned to Wranger’s side.
“That looked like fun!” Wranger exclaimed.
“It is! It gives these families a little bit of normalcy while their child gets better. This is my easiest job but not my most fulfilling. Let me take you to the next floor.”
The Shi-Tzu and the German Shepherd took the stairs up to the next floor. Immediately on entering this area, Wranger could sense a difference. Instead of families talking and playing games, it was near silent except for the sounds of mechanical beeps coming from some of the rooms.
“What’s going on here? Why so quiet?” Wranger asked.
“This is where the very sick kids are. They have bad injuries or illness that keeps them in their beds or rooms. They are not allowed to move too much or they may get sicker.”
“How do you make these kids happy?” Wranger asked.
“It’s not easy but when you are there with them, you feel like you are making a difference. Right over here to the right is Bobby’s room.” Captain motioned to the room. “He was in a bad accident. He will get better but it will take some time. He hadn’t said a word since he’s been here until I visited the other day.”
“What did you do?”
“I guess it’s easier to show you.” Captain said as he headed into the room. He nuzzled his snout against the boys hand and gave it a quick lick. Bobby’s head rolled to the side and when he realized it was the dog, a broad smile came to his face.
“Hi Captain!” He exclaimed. “I am so happy you came by.”
Captain sat there proudly and wagged his tail.
Wranger did not want to disturb the two so he walked a little ways down the hall when he heard a little girl’s voice call out. “Hi little doggie. You want to come visit me?.”
Wranger looked into the room and saw this cute little girl wearing pink pajamas. She was sitting in a wheel chair and he noticed that she had lost her hair. He walked over to the chair and stood at her feet.
“You sure are a handsome doggie,” she said. “My name is Annie.”
Wranger did not think he would be able to jump up high enough for her to pet him so he just rubbed up against her slippered feet.
“You’re a nice doggie,” the girl said as a slight smile came to her face.
Just then someone entered the room. “Wranger! How did you get up here?” the blonde lady said as she walked in holding the big red bag she had brought from home.
“He just came by to say hi,” Annie answered.
“Well it looks like he found a friend then.”
“Yes he did!” Annie said with a smile.
“Santa sent me up here to give you something,” the woman said as she pulled a pretty doll out of the bag.
“Thank you so much!” The girl hugged the doll with all her might.
“I’m about to start singing downstairs. Would you like to join us?” the woman asked Annie.
“That would be awesome!”
“Can you do me a favor then? Can Wranger ride along with you?” the woman asked.
A huge smile came to Annie’s face as she said, “Yes!”
So the woman put Wranger next to Annie in the wheelchair. Annie placed the doll down and began to pet Wranger with both hands. Wranger sat there and just wagged his tail. Wranger now realized that Christmas was not about getting presents but giving presents, especially the present of love. Wranger sat with Annie the rest of the day and never stopped wagging his tail.