Taking Care of Nikki

By Linda Porter Carlyle

Joseph Anderson Donetti held the telephone away from his ear.

“Come over! Come over! You’ve got to come over here right now!” Mac’s voice shrieked through the receiver.

“What’s the matter?” Joseph asked anxiously.

G.M. turned from washing the dishes to look at Joseph. She had a questioning look in her eye.

“Nothing’s the matter!” Mac hollered. “Just come over! I just got the best Christmas present in the world! I can’t even believe it!”

“Sounds like you’d better hurry over to Mac’s house,” G.M. said with a smile.

“I’m coming.” Joseph hung up the phone.

“Hurry back and tell me what’s up,” G.M. said. “It sounds exciting. And put on your jacket.”

Joseph grabbed his jacket and slipped it on as he ran across the lawn. His sneakers left footprints in the frost that still clung to the grass.

Mac was waiting for him with the door open. “Look!” she whispered. Her eyes glowed.

Joseph looked. Mac held in her arms the cutest, tiniest puppy he had ever seen. “Wow!” he exclaimed. “Where did you get him?”

“Come in. I’ll tell you.” Mac led the way to the living room. She sat down in the big, overstuffed chair near the warm wood stove. The puppy curled up contentedly on her lap and stared at Joseph with his big dark eyes.

Joseph laughed. “Can I pet him?” he asked.

“Sure,” Mac answered. “Just be really, really gentle. He’s so little! He’s five months old, and he only weighs two and a half pounds! That’s the same as two and a half boxes of butter!”

Joseph knelt down and stroked the puppy with one finger. The puppy turned his head and licked Joseph’s hand. “His tongue tickles,” Joseph said. “He likes me! Where did he come from?”

“It’s a miracle!” Mac explained. “Last summer, when my mom and I were at the Growers’ Market, we saw this lady with a little tiny puppy peeking out of her purse. We stopped to talk to her and pet the puppy. And my mom said that someday she might like to have a dog like that—it’s a Toy Fox Terrier—and she gave the lady her name and phone number.

“They’re really expensive dogs, though, and Mom said we couldn’t afford one right away. But this morning, the lady called and told my mom she had a puppy that she couldn’t sell because he had broken his leg when he was very young and the bone wasn’t growing back together exactly right. She asked if we still wanted a puppy. And when my mom asked how much it would cost, she said it was free!

Mac took a deep breath and beamed. “We just picked him up.”

Mrs. Evans appeared in the doorway. “Joseph, would you like to go to the pet store with us to pick out a collar and leash?” she asked.

“Sure!” Joseph jumped up. “Can I call G.M. and ask if it’s all right?”

In the car, the puppy curled up on Mac’s lap. He put his head on her leg, shut his eyes, and gave a soft sigh. Mac laughed. “I’m going to name him Nikki,” she announced. “Because I was reading in my Christmas book about St. Nicholas—he was a real person you know—and it’s Christmas time and this is my Christmas dog.”

“Nikki,” Joseph repeated. “I like it!”

Mac carefully carried Nikki across the parking lot, protecting him from the chilly air.

“What color leash do you want to get?” Mrs. Evans asked.

“Blue,” Mac answered promptly. “Because he’s a boy dog. I think blue would be best. Do you want to hold him while I look?” She passed Nikki to Joseph. Nikki licked Joseph’s hand and then made little scrambling movements, trying to fly back through the air to Mac. Mac laughed and reclaimed her dog.

It was hard to find a collar small enough for little Nikki’s neck, but they finally found a thin, blue one and a leash to match. Everyone they passed in the store aisles stopped to look at Nikki and ask what kind of dog he was.

“Nikki is sure a popular dog!” Joseph said as they climbed back into the car.

Nikki curled into a tight ball on Mac’s lap. He put his nose between his front legs. Mac gently stroked his back. “He likes me,” she said happily.

Mrs. Evans looked over her shoulder as she backed out of the parking space. “You know,” she said, “God gives us pets to teach us important lessons. And I’ve learned an important lesson already from Nikki.”

“What?” Mac asked.

“Well, you see how much he loves you already,” Mrs. Evans began. “He wants to be in your arms and in your lap. He feels safe with you, and there’s nowhere else he would rather be. That reminds me of how we should be with God. We should know that He is always ready to hold us, love us, and protect us just like you are with Nikki.”

Joseph sat still, thinking. “And God feeds us,” he said suddenly, “just like Mac will feed Nikki. And God teaches us things like Mac will teach Nikki things!”

“And even if Mac forgets to take care of Nikki, God will never forget to take care of us!” Mrs. Evans added.

“Hey!” Mac interrupted. “I’m never going to forget to take care of Nikki!”

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