“Only eight trees left,” Andy thought as he looked at the almost barren Christmas tree lot.
“Hey boss, only a few hours left to go today,” Joey said to Andy.
A few potential customers were still browsing the lot as darkness set in.
A young couple who had narrowed their tree search down to two possibilities finally decided on one of the trees.
“Thank you and Merry Christmas,” Andy said as he smiled and loaded the Christmas tree into the back of their pickup truck.
“Seven trees to go,” he yelled to Joey.
With some customers still on the lot, the chances of a sellout looked good on this day before Christmas Eve.
Two families that arrived at the lot together looking for trees both made their decision and now it was down to five trees left.
A middle aged couple with a small child entered the lot and looked around at the remaining trees.
“I remember them,” Joey told Andy as he noticed the couple and little girl.
“Yes,” Andy replied. “They come by every year and look around. They haven’t bought a tree in several years though.”
Joey approached them.
“Hello, and welcome to our Christmas tree sale,” Joey stated. “Not a lot of trees left but they are all nice trees.”
“We’re just looking,” the woman said.
“Mommy, I like this one,” the little girl said, pointing to a tall but skinny tree.
“That’s a nice Christmas tree, Abby,” the woman replied.
“We can make you a really good deal on it since it looks like this will the last night we will be here this year,” Joey offered.
“No, that’s ok,” the father replied.
Another older man had entered the lot and stood next to them, looking at a couple of the trees.
“Mommy, could we get a tree this year?” Abby asked.
“No dear, maybe next year,” the mother replied.
“You always say next year,” Abby replied.
“Now, Abby,” the father said, “be thankful for what you have.”
“Ok,” Abby answered in a shallow disappointed tone.
Another couple selected a tree and paid Joey for it.
Abby noticed Joey loading the tree into the other couple’s van and had a frown on her face.
Within a few minutes two more trees were sold.
“Wow, only two trees left,” Joey observed as it was nearing 8 o’clock and getting colder.
Andy approached the other man on the lot looking at the two remaining trees.
“Welcome back,” Andy said, recognizing the man from last year. “Tony, isn’t it?”
“Hello, yes, I’m Tony,” the man replied. “I need to get a tree for the retirement home.”
“Pick out the tree you want and we will make you a super deal,” Andy smiled.
“I want to wait until that couple picks out their tree,” Tony said, looking at Abby and her mother and father. “I don’t want to take one the little girl wants.”
“Oh, they are not buying a tree. They come by every year just to look,” Andy continued. “Must be some sort of Christmas tradition with them.”
After a few minutes, the couple and little girl leave and walk down the street.
Joey came back over to Andy and the other man who were talking about the Christmas Eve tree decorating tradition at the retirement home.
“That’s really sad,” Joey said. “I talked to that couple with the little girl and they told me they have not been able to afford a Christmas tree for several years. Some expensive family medical problems.”
“They live two streets over in the old Smith house,” Joey continued. “They also lost the little girl’s dog to cancer a couple of months ago. So sad.”
“Doesn’t look like it will be a good Christmas for them,” Andy sighed.
After a few moments of silence and staring at the two remaining Christmas trees, Andy and Tony looked at each other as if a light had gone off.
“I have an idea,” both Andy and Tony spoke at the same time.
“I am buying both trees,” Tony said. “One tree is going to the retirement home and the other tree is going to that couple and little girl.”
“I’m not going to charge you for the trees,” Andy offered.
“Nope, I am going to pay you for the trees, I insist,” Tony countered. “You work hard out here every year. But you can help me deliver it.”
“Ok,” Andy answered. “Joey, you want to help?”
“Of course,” Joey replied.
“One condition,” Tony asked. “We will tell them you are giving it to them.”
“Deal,” Andy said.
“I have one stop to make before we take the tree over there. I will be back in about 45 minutes,” Tony said as he gave Andy payment for the two trees.
Andy and Joey got the trees ready for loading and then began to close up the tree lot for the year.
Not quite an hour later, Tony returned in his red truck with reindeer ears above the side windows.
Andy and Joey loaded the two trees into the back of the truck.
Joey heard an unexpected sound.
“Ruff, ruff, ruff,” came from something in the back seat.
“Ah,” Joey remarked as he glanced in the back seat and saw a pet carrier crate with a cute face staring at him, “a little doggie.”
“I have a friend who works at the animal shelter,” Tony said. “I called her up and she came down and opened up the shelter and we found this nice dog that would be perfect for the little girl if her parents are ok with it.”
“Looks like you have been shopping too,” Andy noticed, looking at the large bag of dog related items in a pet store logoed bag.
The three of them and the little dog headed off to the house where Joey said the couple and little girl lived.
After a short drive they arrived at the correct street.
“That’s it, that’s the house,” Joey said a short time later.
They parked in front of the house and walked up to the front door.
“Ding dong,” the doorbell rang out.
The door opened and the father of the little girl they had seen earlier at the tree lot stood before them.
“Hi, I’m Andy from the Christmas tree lot you visited earlier tonight,” he said.
“Yes, I remember you,” the father replied. “What can I do for you?”
“Well, I have a problem and I was wondering if you could help me with it,” Andy explained.
“It’s like this,” Andy began, “we have the last two Christmas trees from the tree lot in the truck. We are taking one tree to the retirement home for their Christmas Eve decorating party and that leaves one tree without a home for the holidays.”
“You see,” Tony added, “Andy thinks of his trees as his children and he needs to find a good holiday home for it and we were hoping you could help us out.”
“Abby, come here,” the father spoke out.
“Here I am,” Abby responded, arriving at the door.
“These men from the Christmas tree lot were wondering if we could take care of one of their trees for the holidays,” the father explained.
“Wow,” Abby said excitedly, sporting a big smile. “Yes, please, can we take it?”
“I think we can handle that,” the father said. “We will have to get the tree decorations and lights out of the closet. Those boxes have not been opened in quite a while.”
“Great,” Andy replied.
“We have two trees in the truck and how about you pick out which one you like?” Andy said, kneeling down in front of Abby.
“Ok!” Abby replied enthusiastically.
All of them headed out to the truck so Abby could pick one of the trees.
“Joey, take the trees out of the truck and stand them up so Abby can see them,” Andy said.
“Already on it,” Joey replied.
Abby excitedly decided on a tree and Joey took it into the house with Abby in tow.
“I have one other problem,” Tony explained to the mother and father. “I have this small dog that I got from the animal shelter that needs a home. It has all vet bills covered for the next year and also all dog food and treats from the pet store are covered for the next year. I would hate for that to go to waste. Is there any way that you or Abby could help us with a home for this dog?”
Tony took the dog out of the crate and showed the dog to them.
“Oh, it’s so cute,” the mother said.
“Seems like a nice doggie,” the father added.
Abby’s mother and father talked it over for about a minute.
“Yes, we would be happy to give the little guy a home,” the father said.
“Ok,” the mother said, tearing up a bit. “Abby lost her dog earlier this year and there was no way we could get another one and afford the expenses of a dog right now.”
“Well, as I said, all vet bills and dog food and treat costs are covered for a year at least. It’s part of the ...” Tony paused for a moment, “it’s part of the Christmas Pet Program.”
“Abby is going to be so surprised and happy,” the mother smiled. “First a Christmas tree and now a dog.”
Tony put the dog back in its crate and got the bag from the pet store.
Abby’s mother and father took the crate and bag of pet supplies to the front porch.
“Ruff, ruff, ruff,” the small crated dog began to make his presence known.
Abby comes out the front door and notices where the barking is coming from.
“Whose doggie is this?” Abby asked.
“He is yours if you want him,” Abby’s father replied.
“Really! Mine! Yes, I want him!” Abby exclaimed.
Everyone went inside the house and the front door closed.
Abby opened the door to the crate and the dog quickly came out and ran around and then came back to Abby, giving her puppy kisses.
“I think it’s a match,” Tony observed.
“Hey, you need to give him a name,” Tony suggested to Abby.
“How about ...” Abby thought for a moment, “I know, I’ll call him Happy, because that’s the way he makes me feel.”
“That sounds like a great name,” Tony agreed.
The father found their Christmas tree stand and Joey helped straighten and secure the tree.
Andy and Tony watched as Abby took turns marveling at the undecorated Christmas tree and playing with her new friend Happy.
“I do believe we have Christmas cheer here,” Andy smiled.
“Well, we have to be going,” Tony said as he approached the mother and father. “We have one more stop to make. We are taking the other tree to the retirement home tonight.”
While Abby is playing with Happy, everyone else heads to the front door.
“Thank you so much for the Christmas tree and for the dog,” Abby’s father said graciously.
“It wasn’t going to be much of a Christmas for Abby this year, but now it will be the best Christmas in quite a while,” Abby’s mother said.
Abby comes over with Happy following close behind.
“Are you Santa?” Abby asked Tony.
“No,” Tony replied with a smile. “But in a way, you are like Santa because you will be giving Happy a nice home and I am sure it will now be a great Christmas for him.”
Abby beamed with a big grin.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” Tony remembered, handing Abby’s mother an envelope. “Here is the special card and certificate for the vet costs and pet food for a year from the pet store.”
“Wait, we almost forgot this too,” Andy said, handing the couple a green envelope. “This is to be used for any other expenses the dog may have, or for anything else ...”
“Part of the Christmas Pet Program,” Tony interrupted.
“That’s right,” Andy confirmed, “the Christmas Pet Program.”
“Thank you so much,” Abby’s mother said.
“No, thank you for helping us out,” Tony replied.
Andy, Joey, and Tony walk away down the sidewalk.
Tony turns to Andy.
“That green envelope you gave them had the money I paid you for the two trees didn’t it?” Tony asked.
“The Christmas Pet Program? I have never heard of it before,” Andy asked. “Dog and food and treats and vet costs covered for a year? When did that program start?”
Tony smiled and replied, “Tonight.”
“Ok, Santa,” Andy laughed, responding to Tony.
“Next stop the retirement home,” Tony replied.