“Looks like we did very well this year,” Millie smiled, looking at the empty cages.
“Yes,” Justin confirmed, “between yesterday and today we must have had thirty adoptions.”
“The foster families came in and took most of the other animals,” Millie added.
“I’ll take the last two dogs. That leaves no one to be alone in here over Christmas. If you want to take one of these guys home with you that’s ok,” Justin offered.
“No,” Millie answered, “I lost my dog Rocky three years ago on Christmas Eve and I don’t think I’m ready for another dog right now, or ever for that matter.”
“It would be for just a couple of nights, you know, ‘Home for the Holidays’,” Justin reminded Millie, pointing to a poster advertising the event.
“I know,” Millie sighed, sadly remembering Rocky’s passing. “You go ahead and take these two dogs. You can leave now and I’ll close up.”
“Ok. Merry Christmas,” Justin smiled.
“Merry Christmas,” she replied, returning the sentiment.
Justin left with a large brown mixed breed dog and a smaller black and white terrier.
“A few things to straighten up and then I’m done here,” Millie thought, locking the front door and posting a ‘Closed Until December 26th’ sign in the window.
After finishing some paperwork she was ready to leave.
On her way out the front door, Millie heard a whimper and noticed a medium size black dog tied to a trash can outside, a few feet away.
“What do we have here?” Millie questioned, as the whimpering continued.
“Hi there,” she greeted, slowly approaching the animal.
The dog was excited yet confused.
Millie saw a note attached to the makeshift rope leash.
“I found this dog a while ago,” the note started, “and I can’t keep him any longer. Please find him a good home. He is a nice dog. I call him Banjo. Thank you.”
“Oh,” Millie sighed, “what are we going to do with you?”
Glancing back at the dark empty building she just left, Millie thought for a moment.
“Let’s get you into the shelter,” she decided.
Millie untied Banjo and they went inside.
Turning on a light, she gave the dog a closer look.
“You need a bath and a good brushing,” Millie recommended.
Banjo had some fleas and was underweight. On the surface, no other major problems were found.
After a bath, brushing, and a flea treatment, both Millie and Banjo felt better about things.
“Are you hungry?” Millie asked.
Banjo looked up and panted.
“Let’s get you some food and water,” she said.
Millie filled a water bowl and put some food in a second bowl.
An excited Banjo gobbled up the food and drank about half the water in the bowl, occasionally stopping to look at Millie.
“Poor thing, you are so thirsty and hungry,” she observed.
After Banjo finished eating, Millie attached a leash to his collar.
“You want to go out?” Millie suggested.
Banjo started bouncing up and down indicating a yes to the question.
Millie and Banjo went outside to the back of the shelter for a quick walk.
“Brrrrrrrr,” Millie thought out loud, “it’s getting colder.”
They headed back inside, with Banjo leading the way.
Millie looked around the shelter thinking about what to do next. Visions of her deceased Rocky crept to the forefront of her thoughts. She was at a crossroads.
“I just can’t,” Millie sighed, “I can’t take Banjo home with me. I’m not ready for another dog at home, especially on Christmas Eve, the anniversary of Rocky’s death.”
She made a place in one of the cages for Banjo, with a dog bed, water bowl, and some food.
“Here boy,” Millie called out.
Banjo whimpered and resisted any movement toward the cage. His excitement changed to anxiety.
Millie thought a moment and decided to move the dog bed along with the water and food bowls outside the cage.
“Here Banjo, you don’t have to go in the cage,” Millie consoled, patting the dog bed and motioning him to come closer.
Still, Banjo would have no part of the makeshift arrangement Millie had made.
Banjo sat down, whimpering with alternating looks between Millie and the front door.
“Banjo, come!” Millie said in a raised voice, taking a more commanding approach.
Finally, Banjo got up and came over to Millie and the dog bed. He curled up and put his head down.
“Good boy,” Millie complimented, patting Banjo’s back.
“I’ll see you in the morning. You will be safe and warm here,” Millie tried to reassure Banjo she would return Christmas day.
She got up and headed to the front door.
At this point, Banjo was only uttering a slight whimper along with a sad disappointed face.
“I’ll leave a light on. Good night, Banjo,” Millie waved as she went out the front door.
Banjo curled up tighter in the dog bed and rested his head wondering what the night would bring.
After a few minutes had passed, the wind outside began howling.
Banjo’s head popped up as he heard a sound in the direction of the front door.
The door opened and Banjo immediately stood up, excited, and let out a few barks.
“Hi Banjo!” Millie said happily as she walked in.
Banjo wasted no time before he ran over to Millie to greet her with puppy kisses.
“Hi boy. I can’t leave you here all alone on Christmas Eve. It just isn’t right,” she explained.
“You’re coming home with me,” a confident smiling Millie proclaimed.
Banjo looked up, and with tongue hanging out, smiled as only a dog could.
“Thank you for showing me it’s time to move forward,” Millie said, putting a leash on Banjo.
Together they headed out the front door into the cold windy night to go home.
Millie looked around and saw the familiar large white banner with green letters, ‘Home for the Holidays’.
“Yes,” she thought out loud, “it’s been a while but this year we will both be home for the holidays.”