CHRISTMAS FRIEND

        Merry Christmas, My Friend

"I will never forget you," the old man said. A tear rolled down his leathery
cheek. "I'm getting old. I can't take care of you anymore." 

With his head tilted to one side, Monsieur DuPree watched his master. "Woof
woof! Woof woof!" He wagged his tail back and forth, wondering, What’s he up to
now? 

"I can't take care of myself anymore, let alone take care of you." The old man
cleared his throat. He pulled a hankie from his pocket and blew his nose with a
mighty blast. 

"Soon, I'll move to an old age home and, I'm sorry to say, you can't come
along. They don't allow dogs there, you know." 

Bent over from age, the old man limped over to Monsieur DuPree and stroked his
head. 

"Don't worry, my friend. We'll find a home. We'll find a nice new home for
you." And, as an afterthought he added, "Why, with your good looks, we'll have
no trouble at all. Anyone would be proud to own such a fine dog." 

Monsieur DuPree wagged his tail really hard and strutted up and down the
kitchen floor. "Woof, woof, woof, woof." For a moment, the familiar musky scent
of the old man mingling with the odor of greasy food gave the dog the feeling
of well being. But then, a sense of dread took hold again. His tail hung
between his legs and he stood very still. 

"Come here." With great difficulty, the old man knelt down on the floor and
lovingly pulled Monsieur Dupree close to him. He tied a ribbon around his neck
with a huge red bow, and then he attached a note to it. Monsieur DuPree
wondered what it said. 

"It says," the old man read aloud, "Merry Christmas! My name is Monsieur
DuPree. For breakfast, I like bacon and eggs -- even corn flakes will do. For
dinner, I prefer mashed potatoes and some meat. That's all. I eat just two
meals a day. In return, I will be your most loyal friend." 

"Woof woof! Woof woof!" Monsieur DuPree was confused and his eyes begged,
What's going on? 

The old man blew his nose into his hankie once more. Then, hanging onto a
chair, he pulled himself up from the floor. Buttoning his overcoat, he reached
for the dog's leash and softly said, "Come here my friend." He opened the door
against a gust of cold air and stepped outside, pulling the dog behind. Dusk
was beginning to fall. Monsieur DuPree pulled back. He didn't want to go. 

"Don't make this any harder for me. I promise you, you'll be much better off
with someone else." The street was deserted. It began to snow. Leaning into the
wintry air, the old man and his dog pushed on. The pavement, trees, and houses
were soon covered with a blanket of snow. 

After a very long time, they came upon an old Victorian house surrounded by
tall trees, which were swaying and humming in the wind. The old man stopped.
Monsieur DuPree stopped, too. Shivering in the cold, they appraised the house.
Glimmering lights adorned every window, and the muffled sound of a Christmas
song was carried on the wind. 

"This will be a nice home for you," the old man said, choking on his words. He
bent down and unleashed his dog, then opened the gate slowly, so that it
wouldn’t creak. "Go on now. Go up the steps and scratch on the door." 

Monsieur DuPree looked from the house to his master and back again to the
house. He did not understand. "Woof woof! Woof woof!" 

"Go on." The old man gave the dog a shove. "I have no use for you anymore," he
said in a gruff voice. "Get going now!" 

Monsieur DuPree was hurt. He thought his master didn't love him anymore. He
didn't understand that, indeed, the old man loved him very much, yet he could
no longer care for him. Slowly he straggled toward the house and up the steps.
He scratched with one paw at the front door. "Woof woof! Woof woof!" 

Looking back, he saw his master step behind a tree just as someone from inside
turned the front doorknob. A little boy appeared, framed in the door by the
light coming from behind. When he saw Monsieur DuPree, he threw both arms into
the air and shouted with delight, "Oh boy! Oh boy! Mom and Dad, come and see
what Santa brought!" 

Through teary eyes, the old man watched from behind the tree. He saw the mother
read the note, and tenderly pull the dog inside. Smiling, the old man wiped his
eyes with the sleeve of his cold, damp coat as he disappeared into the night
whispering, "Merry Christmas, my friend."
by Christa Holder Ocker 
from Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul 
Copyright 1998 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Hansen and Irene
Dunlap

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