The Christmas Gift by C. Bailey-Lloyd
In a small, Southern town off banks of Edisto River lived a bright-eyed, skinny, brown-haired girl. Renee was a jovial child, filled with love and compassion. In everything, she managed to find some light.
Renee would take daily strolls to riverbank where she'd gather unique rocks and stray seashells. On her way to her hidden refuge, `neath towering oaks and mossy vines, she'd pass house where Sady lived.
Though Renee never saw much of Sady's owners, she would always stop by to pet bulky but gentle giant. Sady wasn't any ordinary dog - she was special. Whenever Renee would come by, tall black and tan rotty would scoop up her fringed tennis ball and toss it into air for Renee to throw.
The oversized dog was pinned in a very small kennel, but she would always perk up when Renee was there. Renee would squeeze her tiny wrists and hands through rusty, wire mesh and lovingly stroke Sady. In return, Sady would adore Renee with her eyes and rub her side against Renee's small fingers.
Sneaking leftovers to Sady was Renee's favorite thing to do. She knew Sady didn't get much to eat, `cause she could tell from looks of her that mealtime must've been meager helpings of Ol'Roy dog food. Never matter, Renee would bring strips of broken beef jerky, Vienna sausages and anything she could swipe from her fridge. Before leaving Sady, Renee would gather fresh water from River and fill Sady's empty water bowl.
As Autumn leaves began to fall, Renee had noticed that Sady was becoming thinner and lankier, but she couldn't come as often because School took precedence over her walks to river refuge.
One day, Renee asked her Pa if he'd talk to owners of Sady and see whether they'd like to give her big dog. "What'r ya gonna do with such a big dawg?" asked Pa.
"Oh, I don't know, Pa. But I'd feed her and love her," she added, "that's all Sady really wants," she continued, "her owners aren't ever there, and it just seems wrong to keep her pinned in that little fence."
Pa shook his head, and he cupped his hands around Renee's chin, "Pun'kin, we ain't got kinda money to take care of such a big dawg. He'd eat us out of house and home."
Renee pushed Pa's hands away from her face and said matter-of-factly, "first of all, he ain't a he - she's a she, and Sady would never do that."
With that, she trumped off to her room. Downhearted, she slipped on her shoes and coat, and made her way out door.
"Where ya goin?" Pa asked.
"I'm going to see Sady," Renee replied, "somebody's got to love her."
Pa didn't try to stop her. He figured so long as Renee could visit Sady, that would be enough.
Renee went to Sady's pen, but Sady didn't run to fence edge as she normally did. She was laying in corner, head low to ground and she barely lifted her eyes when Renee called to her. "What's matter, girl?" asked Renee.
It had been about a week since she'd last seen Sady. Now, dog had a swollen tummy and she appeared very weak and tired. Sady staggered to her feet and slowly walked to greet Renee. Her tail wasn't wagging as much, and Renee could clearly see hipbones sticking out on large dog. "Come here, Sady," she called to her, "it's okay girl," she pulled a half-eaten pecan log from her pocket, "here, girl. Gotta treat for you."
Sady peered through mesh at Renee. Sadly, Renee stroked sweet dog through fence while Sady hungrily ate pecan log. "Pa says I can't have you, Sady. But one day, when I'm big, I'll come and get you girl," she whispered.
Before too long, it had gotten dark and Renee knew she had to get home. When she arrived back at house, Pa told her, "Renee, ya really need to try to stay home more often and work on your homework," he paused, "you're always off with that dawg in woods and I don't ever see ya workin' on school papers."
Renee nodded her head, "I know, Pa...it's just that..." she started.
"I know ya love that dawg, Renee, but schoolin' comes first," he ended.
Knowing that she wasn't going to get her way much longer with going to see Sady, Renee stayed more at home but still made weekend trips to riverside nearby Sady's kennel. Each time she'd see her, Sady seemed weaker and sicker. What kind of people could do this to such a lovable, huggable girl? Renee thought to herself.
On Christmas Day, first snow was blanketing grounds around Renee's house. Though money was tight and there wasn't enough for any presents, she got Pa to come outside with her to build a snowman. After about an hour of playing and laughing in snowdrifts, Renee had a terrible, horrible thought, `what had become of poor Sady?" she thought aloud to herself. Here she was having a wonderful time playing outside in snow, but Sady would be all by herself with little shelter from bitter cold.
Suddenly, Renee turned to Pa, and she said, "Can I go and see Sady just for a few minutes, Pa?"
Pa winked his eye at Renee, "yep...," he smiled, "but take that old pack of bologna from fridge with ya when ya go. Gotta get rid of that old stuff, ya know."
Renee forced a grin and ran to grab newly opened pack of bologna from fridge and trotted down to Sady's pen. As she neared bend where Sady lived, she noticed that there were some grown men standing around mesh wire. Hiding behind bushed, she could faintly hear them speaking.
"I told ya to get rid of that stupid dawg," said one.
"Yep," said other placing his hands on his hips, "now what ya gonna do?" he added.
There was a bustle in back of pen, but Renee couldn't see what was happening. Her heart sunk. She knew for sure that something terrible had happened, but what?
At about that time, Pa walked up behind Renee and startled her, "what'r ya doin?" asked Pa.
"Oh-my-gosh!" she gulped, "what'r you doing here, Pa?"
"I came to see fabulous Sady you always talk about. Why'r ya hidin' `hind bushes?" he asked.
"There are people there Pa. I ain't never seen them before."
Pa stroked whiskers on his chin, "...hmmm..." he pondered, "well, let's go on home then."