A Cold Puppy
>By VeraLee Wiggins
“You hurry home, Eddie. It’s a long walk, and it gets dark early now,” Teacher said kindly. Nine-year-old Eddie put his hat on tightly and bundled into his heavy coat and boots. The winter was extra cold, but Eddie didn’t mind.
In fact he enjoyed the clear, cold days. He bounced along, looking this way and that as he went through the woodsy area. He saw a rabbit hopping over the snow, wearing its white winter coat.
About halfway home Eddie heard something in the weeds beside the road—“Mmmm mmm.” It sounded tiny so Eddie stepped off the road to look. He walked very carefully so he wouldn’t step on it, whatever it was.
As he searched through the weeds, Eddie called, “Hello. What are you? Where are you? Are you all right?” After a few moments Eddie saw something huddled down, almost covered with snow.
It was a tiny, brown-and-white puppy. It was so small that when it stood up its tummy dragged on the ground. Eddie reached down and picked it up. It shook all over, and its little body felt like ice to Eddie, who took off his mittens to feel it.
Eddie felt sorry for the helpless little baby. His Sabbath School teacher said people were supposed to be kind to God’s creatures.
It was cruel to leave the puppy alone in the snow. Eddie cuddled it close to him and talked to it. “You poor little thing. How can I make you warm? I know! I’ll tuck you under my coat and take you home. Then you’ll be plenty warm, just like I am.”
The shivering puppy soon found itself inside Eddie’s coat. And also inside his shirt, cuddling against Eddie’s warm skin. Eddie buttoned his shirt and coat again, then hurried on home. The puppy didn’t cry anymore.
He ran quickly and burst through the cabin door, shouting, “Nellie, come see what I found. Hurry.”
Nellie quickly ran into the kitchen, carrying her mending. Eddie unbuttoned his coat and shirt and pulled the wiggly little puppy out. He handed it proudly to his older sister.
She jumped back, held her hands in the air, and shrieked, “Get that filthy thing out of here, Eddie. What in the world do you mean, bringing it into my clean house?”
Eddie was supposed to mind Nellie, for she took care of him. Nellie’s and Eddie’s mother had died when he was four. Since then Nellie had tried very hard to be Eddie’s second mother. Papa had taught Eddie to honor Nellie, just like the fifth commandment said to honor his parents.
Nellie was good to Eddie and he wanted to obey, but he wanted that puppy even more.
“Nellie, I found it in the woods, and it was nearly dead it was so cold. Please let me keep it. Please.” Eddie cuddled the puppy close. It stretched its head high and gave him a kiss on the chin.
Tears rolled from Eddie’s eyes as he said, “Look, Nellie, it loves me already. May I put it in a little box by the stove? It won’t bother you. Please, Nellie?”
“Eddie, put the dog in a box outside. If you leave it in here the first thing it’ll do is make a puddle on my nice clean floor. Get it out. Now!”
The nice clean floor that Nellie referred to was a rough board floor. And the house was a log cabin, for the year was 1908. Things were different then, and the stove in the kitchen was a wood stove. It warmed the whole kitchen toasty warm. And it made wonderful spicy smells when Nellie cooked good things in the oven.
Eddie had no choice. He had to put the puppy out in the freezing cold. Nellie said so, and Papa wouldn’t be home from work for another hour. When Papa came home he would ask him.
Eddie put on his heavy coat and hat again. Nellie saw and said, “Eddie, where do you think you’re going? It’s dark out now, so just take your things right back off. You’re staying home with me.”
“I’m not going anywhere, Nellie,” Eddie said. “I’m just going to put the puppy out. I’m going to button him inside my coat so he won’t get cold.”
“No, Eddie, you can’t do that. It’s too cold. You’ll catch cold and get sick. Put it in a box with warm rags.”
This time Eddie disobeyed. He picked the puppy up and stuffed it inside the shirt. He buttoned his shirt and coat, and wrapped his scarf around his neck. Then he stepped outside and gently closed the door behind him. He sat down on the rough steps to wait for Papa. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and stayed almost warm until he heard the horses coming up the road.
Eddie jumped up and ran to meet Papa and older brother, Al. They were riding the horses. Papa trotted up to Eddie and reached his arm down. Eddie held his hand up, and Papa easily swung Eddie up onto the horse in front of him.
“How’s my schoolboy?” Papa asked as he gave Eddie a squeeze.
“Fine, Papa, but don’t squeeze me too hard. I have something inside my coat.”
After they put the horses away and had stomped the snow off their boots the two men and Eddie went into the cozy, warm cabin. Eddie smelled warm bread and chili and knew Nellie had made a special supper for the extra cold night. The puppy still cuddled inside Eddie’s shirt, warm and fast asleep.
“Papa, I found a little puppy today in the snow. It was so cold it could barely move and it was crying.” Eddie said as soon as he had a chance.
“Well, where is it, Son?” Papa said. “I haven’t seen any dog.”
Eddie eagerly unbuttoned his coat and shirt and gently lifted the sleeping puppy out. He held it tenderly in both his hands for Papa to see.
“Well now, that’s a fine puppy.” Papa took the puppy from Eddie and held it close to him. He looked it over carefully and said, “It’s really a fine puppy. It’s part St. Bernard, and that’s a good dog.”
“May I keep it?” Eddie asked. “I love it so much, and it loves me too. It kissed me already.”
Nellie couldn’t keep quiet any longer. She burst out, “No, Papa. I work hard all day, keeping the house clean. Think how much more work that would be for me. It’s not fair. I’ve been doing all the housework since I was twelve. Other girls have been going to school, but I couldn’t because of Eddie. Besides, that will be a monstrous big dog. It will shed hair on everything. It will spread mud all over the floor. I’ll never be able to have a clean house again.”
Papa looked at Nellie. He looked at Eddie. And last of all he looked at the puppy. He looked at Nellie again and smiled. “You’ve been a real soldier, Nellie, since Mama died. You’ve sacrificed a lot. We couldn’t have gotten along without you. We must be fair to you.”