Cinder’s Christmas

By Marsha Tennant

Cinder's Christmas

Christmas and canines just seem to go together. A puppy wearing a big red bow, bounding around the Christmas tree, is a familiar image. It reminds us of the joy and childlike delight we experience at this time of the year. In my family, however, the pup had oversized paws, could not run without falling down, and the bow was far from neatly tied.

Cinder was my husband’s hunting dog. She came from a long line of Maryland aristocrats. Her pedigree said she should be the one of the best in the duck blinds. She lived up to her name on the Chesapeake Bay. That dog flat out loved to hunt. She was the first to load into the old green Bronco used to carry the cargo to the water. She made it clear this was her purpose in life. She was a working dog!

Unfortunately, Cinder was not as disciplined or cooperative on land. One Christmas, she was recovering from delivering eight black and yellow lab puppies. She had cared for and quickly weaned them as she eyed the hunting calendar posted on the refrigerator. Our spitz, Snowball, was all too happy to take over puppy daycare for her. Cinder’s goal was to get back in shape for the season ahead. The day the vet cleared her to “return to work” made her smile. Yes, she came back home grinning and circling my husband like she was ready to go at that moment. The call of the cold and wet duck blind was calling her name.

It was Christmas in Virginia. There was a protocol as to how we celebrated the season. Ham biscuits, cheese balls, coconut cake and eggnog were the must-haves for our family. My mother used the screened-in back porch for the “other” refrigerator. It was cold enough in the 1970s to leave food out there for days. Sometimes it resembled a church covered dish supper. A small bounty of made-from-scratch food and libations was spread out on the tables and chairs.

We were spending the days before Christmas at my parents’ house. They were not too keen on Cinder being inside. They were from the generation that believed animals belonged outside. Cinder loved the cold, so she was okay on the porch. As the big day approached, my mom was busy cooking and baking ahead. The porch frig would soon be overflowing. The aluminum foil wrapped dishes illuminated the porch in the true holiday spirit. Cinder knew not to mess with the food.

Christmas Eve was when the eggnog was made. It needed to “sit” overnight. High end brandy, along with eggs and cream were combined to make a concoction unlike anything else. It was one of the highlights of the holidays. It never occurred to us that Cinder would show any interest in the liquid gold. So it was set on the porch with the rest of the food.

Christmas morning arrived. We were all up and ready to begin the family traditions we had enjoyed over the years. My husband headed to the porch to let Cinder out to do her business. She was already out… literally! We heard him yelling, “Wake up, girl!” He kept saying this over and over. Our ninety pound lab lay motionless on the concrete floor. She was groaning and rolling her eyes. Slowly we began looking around to see if we could discover what had happened to her. It was then we heard my mom scream, “That damn dog drank my eggnog!” Cinder was still not responding too well, and my husband was distraught. He and this dog were joined at the hip in their passion for hunting. My mom could have cared less. She was ranting about the expensive brandy and other ingredients. To add insult to injury, she was complaining that Cinder drank at least half of it. She had put the eggnog in a big pot with a lid to cover it. Evidently it was not secure enough. Cinder decided to begin celebrating early.

These were not the festive sounds of the season. Cinder was groaning while trying to get to her feet. Mom was letting out a string of phrases I had not heard from her in my entire life. My dad laughed nervously and suggested that the alcohol would probably kill the dog slobber. That only incited my mom’s rage.

Eventually Cinder was able to walk and respond to simple commands. There would be no emergency visit to the vet. Mom settled down and went into the kitchen to begin cooking breakfast. We decided to wait to open packages until reasonable calm returned to the house. No matter what had just happened out on the porch, it was Christmas.

Cinder was not able to hunt for several days.

About this writer

  • Marsha Tennant Marsha Tennant is the author of the children’s book, Margaret, Pirate Queen. She was recently published in AARP Bulletin and Mary Jane’s Farm. She and her husband retired and moved to the beach from Calabash in an attempt to downsize and spend time with their new grandson. A second Pirate Queen book is circling while porch sitting these days!

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2 Responses to “Cinder’s Christmas”

  1. Erika Hoffman says:

    Very enjoyable read. So glad the booze didn’t do Cinder in!

  2. Marsha,
    That was some hangover for poor Cinder. My step daughter’s dog ate all the ham sandwiches we stashed outside one Christmas, so your story brought back memories.

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