Those of you who follow this column know that I am a dog lover.
And you  know that the dogs I love most (at the present) are Libby-the-Lab, Willow-the-Lab, and Bo-the-Lab.
Libby, at six, is the senior Lab.  She is the family dog.
Bo, at three, is our son’s Lab.  He lived with his boy in Auburn until recently, when the lad graduated and came to live with us while he figures out what comes next.
Willow, the youngest, is our daughter’s dog and like her girl, runs full-tilt-boogie or crashes.  There is no neutral gear.
Libby is black.
Bo is yellow.
Willow is chocolate.
We have the trifecta. They are good dogs.
So we are comfortable with leaving them loose in the house when we are gone for an hour or so.  There is a “doggie door” which lets them into a fenced yard, so they can “potty” or just lay in the sun.
Doggie paradise.
Or so it would seem to me.
When we are gone overnight we have left them with a dog “sitter” who comes to the house, checks on them, feeds them, plays with them, and puts them in their “sleeping crates” when day is done.
Never a problem.
Back before Christmas my wife’s family held its annual Xmas Whing Ding, complete with enough food to feed a regiment for a year.  The location rotates between the siblings and this year we were gathering in Franklin, TN.
Hearing that we would be gone for three days (two nights) our neighbors volunteered to handle the Lab-sitting duties.
They were well qualified, since they too  lived with Labs.
There was Luke, the blond Lab of wonderful disposition.
There was Coal, the very  large, black  Lab, who  was the senior member of the group.
And there was Buddy, also blond and trained to guard, protect, and love.  But Buddy wasn’t in town so it fell to the “parents” of Luke and Coal to see to our three.
Then, just before we left, I began to feel uneasy.
Although all of the dogs were well behaved, it was reported that Coal had managed to open the refrigerator and eat a pound of cheese.
Then our dogs dug a large hole in the front yard.
Labs, for the most part, are not diggers. They are water dogs. Maybe they were digging a pond for themselves.  But I knew better.
The Labs were restless, and leaving restless Labs running free in a decorated house might not be the wisest of moves.
Yes, decorated.
You see, my lovely wife takes a backseat to no one when it comes to Christmas decorations.
Soon after December arrives she festoons the house with greenery and seasonal accessories.
There is a tree trimmed with ornaments from top to bottom.  Here and there and everywhere are pictures of our kids at various ages, sitting in Santa’s lap, looking apprehensive, or (once in the case of my daughter) screaming her head off.
And the statuary – large and small, secular and religious, tastefully arranged on tables, on the mantle, and hanging in various places around and about.
Look but better not touch.
If you are a dog. Especially if you are a dog.
But our dogs had done very well.  When we were out shopping for an hour or so, we returned to find everything in place.  So it seemed reasonable to assume that if we were gone longer everything would be OK.
And just in case, there were neighbors to feed, water, walk, and entertain them.
What could go wrong?
So off we went.
The family gathering had hardly begun when my wife gets a text from one of the neighbors.
“I suspected something was amiss,” she wrote,  “when I  saw the Christmas tree skirt out in the yard.”
She went inside to find that one of the three (or two, or maybe all three) had taken the skirt that was around the base of the tree, dragged it through the doggie-door, and after a romp, deposited it near the hole they had dug – remember the hole?
Then they went back into the house and began picking and choosing from the treasures that fell from the tree when they stripped off the skirt.
Displaying a certain respect for objects with some religious significance, they put most of their energy in stripping from the lower branches of the tree a little drummer boy, one of the three ships that came sailing in on Christmas day, Aubie and another Auburn ornament (is one of my Labs a closet UA fan?), and others that were hanging low.
And Blitzen.
Hanging from a hook were Santa’s reindeer. Dasher,  Dancer, Prancer etc etc.  At the end, closest to the ground, was Blitzen.
Blitzen was gone.
And when I asked “who ate Blitzen?”
All I got were innocent stares.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History  at Jacksonville State University He can be reached at