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My springer angels

Every year, as I open the boxes of holiday decorations, certain ornaments bring back a flood of memories of Christmases past. A few are vintage ornaments in the bright, shiny red, teal, green, or silver of the 1950s, carefully boxed with their wire ornament hooks and passed down by my mother. I see these same ornaments in childhood Christmas photos, with our family dogs Sheba, and later Sherry, posing in front of the tree, looking mortified at wearing a Christmas bow. But the ornaments that always give me pause are those connected to my dogs. Carefully, I open the small white box labeled “dog bone ornaments” and remove the three handcrafted, Milk bone-shaped ornaments with a loop of red yarn for hanging, personalized with Marmaduke, Molly, and Chester’s names, a gift from their groomer. I hold the ornaments in my hand and remember Christmases in Santa Fe, and later in California, with them. Chester was my first springer, a chance encounter at a shelter that over the years showed me the depths of devotion. After Marmaduke and Molly died, I adopted Dixie, an older springer, to keep him company, and then Byron, my first Welsh springer, joined our family. The year that Chester and Dixie died, both of cancer and within weeks of each other, I found these springer angel Christmas tree toppers at a craft fair. The one in the plaid dress represents Dixie; the white-robed angel is Chester. As I set out the Christmas decorations each year, I display them together, in memory and in gratitude for the joy they brought me every day. This week, as I carefully wrap tissue paper around them and store the ornaments for another year, I am comforted by this ritual, these objects that still connect me to my dogs, long gone but not forgotten. What about you? Do you have special ornaments representing your dogs? Or Christmas traditions with your dogs?

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