Phoenix, My Golden Retriever, And Believing In Santa Claus

(Editor’s Note – this is a children’s short story that has obviously evolved over some 25 years since I first wrote it. I have read it aloud to children’s groups and it’s all based off of my true life events up to what occurred with Phoenix and I two years ago)

That magical night approaches and the air is filled with anticipation. Snowflakes dancing like a dervish as the sun begins to set, yet lifting up the curtain for the evenings events. To be levitated with unbound excitement and singing with rapture. This is but one part of the wizardry of Christmas Eve and the arrival of Santa Claus.

This is our true tale shared with you over so many perfect, wonderful years. The enchantment and trust for all things possible on the most spiritual of nights. A launching pad for the lengths you can push your imagination to bring that joy and happiness into your life with your mind pure in thought. To read beyond, around and through where you have always put up barriers. To break past the blinders and open up doors you never thought possible.

To see that there is a message far beyond the story itself.

To believe…

With that, gather the children around and here is our Christmas Eve story for you. Phoenix, My Golden Retriever, And Believing In Santa Claus…

When I was a very small boy my dad, mom and I packed up into our 1960 dark blue Pontiac Bonneville. We left our California town to make the wintry mountain journey to Reno, Nevada to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my beloved Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt and Uncle. As with any young kid the magic of Christmas was always very real though we didn’t have the grand scale of commercialization of the holiday that exists so globally today. My dear Mom instilled in me, while having the option of choice, that Santa Claus was always very real and to never give up that belief, if I so chose.

On this particular Christmas Eve it was so very blustery and stormy in this alpine town. Being an only child I sat by the Christmas tree alone in the late evening, the fireplace roaring and illuminating the dark room with a glow that cast odd shadows. I could hear muffled chatter from the adults in an adjacent room. I gazed upon the tall tree with all of the lights sparkling and blinking so festive and bright. The gifts wrapped in their pretty splendor of colors and ribbons. Pondering which one’s might be mine and what I might get.

All of a sudden I heard a noise on the roof. Startled, I ran into the kitchen to where the adults were gathered like tall timber. I looked up, eyes wide with fright and my mouth agape and tugged from below on my Mom’s knit sweater. I pointed towards the ceiling, “Mom, there was a noise on the roof! I’m scared!”

She knelt down to me and smiled placing the warm, gentle, soft palms of her hands on my wee little shoulders. She assertively said, yet with a twinkle in her eyes, “Oh honey, that has got to be Santa and the reindeer landing! He must have had trouble with the weather and needed to land early! Hurry, you must be asleep before he can deliver your gifts!”

I ran to the bedroom and leaped into my guest bed as my Mom tucked me in I said, “Mom, the milk and cookies for Santa Claus!” She calmly smiled and kissed me on my forehead and said, “My sweet son, don’t worry your Dad and I will make sure Santa has milk and cookies waiting for him on the hearth before he slides down the chimney. Now you need to get to sleep.”

Somehow, I dozed off quickly into a wondrous slumber before I noticed daylight at my very next blink. In my pajamas, robe and slippers I bolted not initially for the Christmas tree but to the fireplace hearth. To my elation and beaming joy I found a plate of some nibbled on cookies and crumbs accompanied by a half-filled glass of milk with a drink stain streaming down. I squealed with delight and jumped with a 6-year-old fist pump…yes!

He had truly arrived.

The next few years went on as I got older and my friends began to tease me relentlessly that Santa Claus was not real. I asked my mom for confirmation on this and she said, “Never ever stop believing Mike, if you so choose, because he is real.” This continued in my heart for the next 40 years and I stood my ground to this day on that belief. Christmas would always be magical and he would always arrive and deliver gifts and toys.

Which brings us to now, on the threshold yet again this year. My beautiful Golden Retriever boy, Phoenix, and I will escape to all of the wonder that Santa Claus might bring. As has been the past 10 years with the two of us. Anything is possible and always in one way or another more magic is always conceived.

I will give you the dialogue from our very special Christmas Eve two years ago:

Me, ”Phoenix! We need to get outside to wait for Santa!”
Him, “What?! Are you going to throw my ball for me?”
Me, “No silly, Santa Claus! Tonight is the night!’
Phoenix, with his tail waggin’, eyes sparkling and that Golden Retriever grin, “Ohhh, cool! You better get bundled up, Daddy. I love this night. Did you look on the computer to see where he is at?”

You see, these days we have NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) tracking him on the Internet so that helps a bit. You can click right here for you to follow at NORAD Santa Tracker.

Me, “Yes, he just left Utah, but I still want to see if we can get a glimpse of him and the reindeer in the sky first, don’t you?”
Phoenix, “Yep, that’s the best part!”
Then Phoenix paused, “But Dad, how does he get around the world in one night so fast?”
Me, “Ah, that’s the neatest part, honey. For Santa Claus a second is a month, a minute a year, and year is a millennium.”
Phoenix, “What is that in dog years?”
We gave each other a quizzical double-take look .
Phoenix again, “I’m just messin’ with ya, Dad.”

I put on my best winter clothing, grabbed a steaming hot adult beverage and a chair to plant myself in the backyard in the snow. Phoenix sat down next to me on my right side as I petted and stroked his soft, warm fur. We both peered up into the dark night sky looking at all of the brilliant bright stars. I would tell him of my Christmas stories from years gone by. Family, friends, joy, magic and most of all the meaning of Christmas as it exists to me. That being the spirit of giving and not of material things. More so of the love and kindness and the celebration of all that we have with us, around us and within us. That special energy that surrounds us, bonds us and keeps all of us connected.

Phoenix then looked over and up at me in my chair and said, “I like when you tell me your stories, Dad.”
Me, “Well, they are all true. One of the best things about Christmas to me is a focus on the children.”
Phoenix, slightly alarmed, he eyes more alert, darted a question at me, “Ahem, and Golden Retriever’s too, right Dad?”
Me, “Yes, and Golden Retrievers. And kitties, creatures and all beings on this beautiful Earth, kiddo.”
Phoenix, “Even the cat that teases me on the fence?”
Me, “Yep, even that cat.”
Phoenix, sighing with love, “Well…ok. He’s a good cat.”

I went on to tell him more stories and how Santa always came to deliver gifts and toys to all of the good boys and girls around the world. That it’s not about what Santa can give to us but what we can give to one another. It can come in many forms; love, kindness, charity, volunteering, and sometimes even just listening and being there for someone.

Phoenix, “Wow! All those things are Santa Claus?”
Me, “Yes, all those things are Santa Claus, baby. Well, sort of.”
Him, “Ohhh…so that’s why we help people like we do?”
Me, “Christmas to me is 365 days a year, Phoenix. Santa Claus pulls off the real magical stuff but not always in the form we wish for. It comes when and where we least expect it.”

Phoenix, slurring, “Sooo, if I wush fur yu to ween da lottery but insted yu git a date wif Kate Beckinsale…dat iz Santee Caus?”
Me, “Darnit! You were licking up that adult drink of mine weren’t you? It’s NOT water!”
Phoenix, his eyes a bit glazed over, “Sowee…*hiccup*!”

I continued on for a while and the fresh air sobered him up and he suddenly interrupted me and began pawing at me, “Dad! Look!”
Me, “What?”
Phoenix, looking towards the North Star, intently said, “I think I see something. Over there!”
I squinted into the black sky filled with illuminating stars of the glorious heavens above and saw what he did,” I’m not sure…”
Him, “Well? Do you think it’s Santa?”
Me, noticing possible movement dashing across the outline of The Big Dipper, “It looks like something moving in a position to land, honey. I think you’re right. We better hurry and get to bed!”
Phoenix, “Done!” And he bolted into the house and I could hear him thundering towards the bedroom and plopping into his bed at the side of mine.

I picked up the chair and cup, went inside, locked up the house. I then turned off the lights and crawled into bed to call it a night. Before turning off the light on my night stand I looked at him still with one eye peeking hopefully, “You gotta sleep or he won’t come, Phoenix…”
Phoenix groaned with anxious frustration and pretending to sleep through one eye at me, “Ok, Dad…”
I turned the light off and Phoenix barked with alarm, “Dad! The milk and cookies!!”
Me, “Arrgh! Good call!” I went into the kitchen and gathered the cookies and milk and set them on a plate on the hearth.

Then I came back to bed and told my kid, “We’re good now, honey…”
Phoenix, “What would you do without me?”
Me, “I would be lost. I love you, Phoenix.”
Phoenix, “I love you too, Dad. Now shut off the light.”
Both of our bodies relaxed as we fell off somehow into a slumber of anticipation.

The next morning we awoke as Phoenix gave me his soft morning “wuff” to wake up. I put my sweats, slippers and ball cap on. Phoenix bolted for the hearth not to eat the cookies but to check on their post-Christmas Eve status.

They were untouched…*sigh*

He looked away from the hearth then up at me with the saddest look and then hung his head in despair back at the hearth, “I guess I wasn’t a good boy.”
I got down on my knees and petting and kissed and hugged him. Assertively, just like my Mom would have said, “No way! You are the best, good boy ever!”
Phoenix, “Ya, but…”

Knock, knock on the door…

I opened the door and it was my next door neighbor, Keith, “Hey, my wife and I caught someone walking away from your house very late last night but he just vanished. I know we keep an eye on each other but it looks like whomever it was left you something.”
I hadn’t noticed it but I looked down and it was a huge, wrapped Christmas basket. I thanked Keith, grabbed the basket, closed the door.

Phoenix said, “Well, what is it??”
I was completely baffled, “I don’t know, buddy, there’s only a card that has ‘Merry Christmas Phoenix’ on it!”
Him, “Hey, that’s ME!”
I said, “Yep, it sure is sweetheart!”

I let Phoenix grab the paper covering with this teeth and I held the basket as he unwrapped this enormous, mysterious gift. Inside was a treasure of toys and treats. He grabbed one of the toys in his mouth and galloped with joy out into the backyard to play with it.

As he did, I walked over to the neighbor’s house and said to Keith and Camilla with a big smile, “Thank you for doing that for him, you guys.”
Keith was surprised, “Mike, I swear it wasn’t us.”
Baffled, I walked over to Nora, her husband, Grandma and Elizabeth’s house on the other side and explained. Then asked, “Did you guys do that for him?”
They all said, “Nope, it wasn’t us.”

To this day I never, ever found out how the basket got there but Phoenix did come back into the house with his toy.
I started to tell him, “Honey, I don’t know how…”
He cut me off and looked up smiling with that Golden Retriever grin, his eyes sparkling with contentment, “Dad…it was Santa!”
Me with total realization that he had visited us, “Yes it was, honey!”

Love, Light and Blessings to you from us. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Mike and Phoenix

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