“The Dogs of Christmas,” by W. Bruce Cameron. Forge. $15.99.
Just about every emotion imaginable is incorporated into this time-warp Colorado roller-coaster adventure across a psychological landscape of true grit and inspiration.
While a “lost/stolen” dog is the centerpiece of this delightful novel, it’s all about relationships, too.
After a breakup, reclusive computer geek Josh Michaels finds himself broken-hearted in his remote cabin at 8,500-foot elevation with few personal connections other than his online work relationships. Never a dog owner, his life takes a sudden turn when a neighbor suddenly walks out and leaves him to care for “his” dog while he heads for Europe.
Josh does his best to resist but Lucy’s pleading eyes convince him otherwise. Upon bringing Lucy into his small cabin, he discovers she’s pregnant, which only triggers more anxiety and a lack of confidence that he’s up to the task.
What to do? He calls the local animal shelter pleading for help and connects with Kerri, a dynamic young woman with a fierce passion for animals. Lucy, however, delivers her litter, all stillborn, at the nearby veterinary hospital, leaving Josh crestfallen. As he departs the hospital with Lucy and prepares to get in his truck, he notices a box in the back reading “4 the vet.” Inside, huddling and shivering are five newborn puppies.
Josh seizes the opportunity, taking the puppies home and allowing Lucy to become the nursing mother he had figured on all along.
With Kerri’s assistance from puppy raising to an eventual adoption process – the shelter has a holiday promotion known as The Dogs of Christmas – a budding relationship evolves between the two.
In the process, Lucy becomes Josh’s “best friend.” Plus, he finds himself falling equally hard for his new furry family of five, which has one of the puppies, Rufus, becoming the self-appointed guide for blind littermate Cody.
As Christmas nears, Kerri encourages Josh to place all of his beloved puppies up for adoption but he has other ideas which test the strength of their connection.
Building an argument that it is too much for him to keep Lucy and the entire litter, Kerri says, “So the thing to do is to understand that what dogs give us is always just a brief period of time of being with us, which has to be good enough because it’s all there is. So we need to celebrate it while we can, and then move on. That’s the lesson of the dogs, that it’s important to both live in the moment and then go on to the next wonderful thing. “
But just as Josh is beginning to come to grips with Kerri’s rationale for putting the puppies in the The Dogs of Christmas project and rekindling their relationship, a note is posted with a photo on the shelter bulletin board reading: “Dog Lost/Stolen; Lucy; Pregnant or nursing puppies; Call Serena; I love my dog; reward.”
Again, Josh is being tested. What to do with the love of his life? The full mettle challenge is about to reflect what kind of guy he is and if he’s someone Kerri can live with for a lifetime.
As the shelter promotion nears and homes are found for all puppies, Josh readies himself to say goodbye to each. However, a couple of unexpected twists follow, setting up an upbeat, closing scenario.
Packed with nuggets of wisdom and serving as an impassioned homage to canine castoffs, “The Dogs of Christmas” offers plenty of rich nourishment, a can-do resiliency and warm holiday spirit.