By Hardy Jackson

I am a dog lover.
And the dogs I love most (at the present) are Libby-the-Lab, Willow-the-Lab and Bo-the-Lab.
Libby is the senior Lab. She is the family dog.
Bo is our son’s lab. He lived with his boy in Auburn until the lad graduated. Then he came to live with us, live with the Jacksons, “Bo Jackson,” get it? 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 to bed when day is done.
Never a problem.
My wife’s family holds an annual Christmas reunion. Complete with enough food to feed a regiment for a year. The location rotates between the siblings and one year we gathered in Franklin, Tennessee.
Hearing that we would be gone for three days (two nights) our neighbors volunteered to handle the lab-sitting duties.
Then, just before we left, I began to feel uneasy.
You see, we had decorated the house.
Yes, decorated.
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.
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 okay.
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.
Then they went back into the house and began picking and choosing from the ornaments 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, 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