A Special Gift
Saturday was going to be a special day. It was Grandma Lucille’s birthday! She would be turning thirteen years old – that’s one hundred in dog years! When she was younger, Grandma Lucille was Farmer Johnson’s favorite dog on the ranch. Thirteen years ago he decided that his old Basset Hound, Gus, although a good companion to take with him on hunting trips, was not a very good helper on the farm. He needed working dogs, so he bought four Australian Cattle Dogs to help him herd the cattle and guard the property. Lucille could run faster, jump higher, and bark louder than any boy dog in the whole pack of cattle dogs. She obeyed his every command – she would sit when he said, “sit” and stay when he said, “stay.” She even won the town of Canine’s Frisbee Tournament five years in a row! The barn wall was covered with her prize ribbons. She was clearly a very special dog. But now she was too old to win any prizes. She slept most of the day and limped around the farm with Mrs. Johnson as she tended to the garden. Her once shiny coat was now dull and almost all gray. But the Johnsons still loved her dearly, and they planned a big party for her upcoming birthday.
By now Farmer Johnson had eight young Cattle Dog pups on his farm (grandchildren of Lucille) and one Basset named Poser (son of Gus). They were all very excited about the big day. They started to take time out of their busy workday to make Grandma Lucille a special gift. Even Uncle Poser was making a present for Lucille. He swam in the pond every evening and collected water lilies in his mouth. By Saturday he would have a big bouquet of flowers for Grandma. The other pups each gave up their playtime to search the land for possible gifts. Zach and Maribel found four pine cones and wrapped them in an old, red cowboy’s bandana they found miles from the farmhouse. Cattle Dogs love pine cones. Popper and Nugget took pine needles and stuffed them in an old horse blanket to make Grandma a soft bed. Miles, Slooper, and Daisy saved the milkbones Farmer Johnson gave them each evening after supper to make a big milkbone pie.
But there was one dog who didn’t take time to make anything at all. When the other dogs were thinking of what Grandma Lucille would like, Addie only thought of what SHE would like, which was to play, play, play! Addie did not want to give up any of her milkbones! She ate them quickly, as if they were grapes. And she did not want to walk miles searching the land for silly pine cones; she would rather chase lizards and rabbits. She would think of a gift later, tomorrow, or the next day. But when the big day came, Addie still had nothing to give. Addie figured that nobody would even notice she had forgotten, after all, Grandma Lucille would be getting so many gifts from the other pups!
That Saturday morning, Farmer Johnson emerged from the farmhouse. He gathered all the dogs together in the barn to celebrate. The pups were so excited. They ran to the haystack to retrieve the gifts they had hidden there. Now Addie started to feel a bit guilty. She had no gift to retrieve.
Farmer Johnson began the ceremony with a little speech dedicated to Lucille, his prize-winning dog. Then he presented a big rawhide bone and a new, blue sweater to keep Lucille warm that winter. Mrs. Johnson gave Lucille a big hug and a bundle of homemade biscuits. Then one by one the dogs approached Lucille who was sitting like a queen on top of a bale of hay. They gave her the pine cones, the bed, and the milkbone pie! Lucille was so happy; she smiled a big dog smile! Then Poser gave her the biggest bouquet of white water lilies you have ever seen! And Lucille cried with joy. Then every one got silent and looked at Addie who stood in the shadow of a horse’s leg. Everyone knew by the ashamed look on Addie’s face that she had forgotten to make a gift. In fact, it was worse than that! She had not forgotten, she just didn’t want to take the time to show her own Grandma how much she cared. All Addie thought about was herself. Grandma looked straight at Addie, for a minute her eyes looked very, very sad. Her smile faded and her ears folded back on her head. Then she quickly turned to Farmer Johnson and changed the focus of attention away from poor Addie. “Let’s start the games!” she said exuberantly. Farmer Johnson said, “Yes, let’s go out to the pasture for some ball tossing and frisbee catching!” But as he said it, he glared at Addie. She knew by his look that she was not allowed to join. She stayed in the barn and sulked. She felt terrible for not making Grandma a gift. Addie looked up at the barn wall. The sun shone in through a tiny barn window and lit up all of Grandma’s prize ribbon. Even though they were dusty, you could still see their different colors of blue and red and purple. Some even had gold tassels. Addie suddenly had an idea….
Outside Grandma Lucille was resting next to Mrs. Johnson, watching the young pups and even Uncle Poser run after balls and chase dragonflies. They had already finished the milkbone pie. Addie crept up behind Grandma and made a muffled barking sound. Grandma turned around and saw Addie holding a big, colorful hat in her jaws. It was made from straw and had bright colorful ribbons woven in between. There was also a large gold tassle hanging from the side. Grandma smiled a wide dog smile and walked over to Addie. She put the hat on and licked Addie’s face which was wet from tears. Everybody now caught a glimpse of the spectacular hat and was crowded around the two dogs. “How lovely,” they cried! “How creative!” said Mrs. Johnson. “How wonderful,” said Mr. Johnson and he scooped Addie up into his arms and said, “come on girl, now let’s play!”
Addie never forgot a birthday again. And instead of displaying her own ribbons she won at that year’s dog tournaments, she placed her ribbon on Grandma Lucille’s grave that winter. She said, “Thank you Grandma, for teaching me how important it is to GIVE.”
© 2000 Susan Levines