Ivy ducked her head beneath the tinsel that had been draped across the top of the kennel in an attempt to make the place feel festive. Before she had even put the bowl of food that was in her hand on the floor, a wet snout was pressed into her legs and big brown eyes gazed up at her. ‘Morning Amber,’ she cooed, giving the dog a quick tickle behind the ears. ‘Look what I’ve got for you, honey’’ she chuckled as she placed the bowl on the floor and watched the small golden dog tuck straight in.
‘Right, everyone’s been fed,’ she said to herself as she rubbed her hands together. ‘Time for a tea break.’ As she walked alongside the row of dogs, she smiled – despite only volunteering here for a few months, it was fast becoming her favourite place to be.
After flicking the switch on the kettle and watching it bubble into life, she turned to look outside at the Christmas tree that sat between the kennels, lights twinkling and an angel looking down on her from the top. A quiet contentment spread through her – something she wasn’t expecting to feel the first time she had to spend the holidays alone.
Her knees ached from the mornings work, so after pouring her tea she took a seat, cupping her hands around the steaming mug to warm them. She lifted it towards her mouth and was just taking a sip when she heard voices getting louder outside.
‘I’m so sorry, we can’t take her – we just don’t have the space, all our kennels are full.’
‘But, it’s Christmas Eve. What am I meant to do with it..?’ the man spat, looking angrily down at the bundle in his arms.
‘Here.’ Susan replied scribbling on a slip of paper. ‘They might be able to help. Like I said, I’m sorry we can’t.’ The man walked off without responding and on seeing Ivy, Susan rolled her eyes.
Ivy offered a sympathetic smile, but she couldn’t stop thinking about the dog for the rest of the afternoon and all night too – even turning on a Christmas film couldn’t distract her.
The next morning she wakes to the sound of ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ playing out of her phone. She sang along as she got dressed, adding a Santa hat and light up Christmas tree earrings before heading over to the kennels.
As she walked up the path towards the gate she saw something on the floor. Perhaps Susan left it for her for coming in on Christmas Day. Not that she minded – she had nothing better to do anyway.
Once she was almost at the gate, she saw it move. She carefully lifted the blanket – which she now recognised as the one the man had been holding the day before – to reveal a puppy, with fur as white as snow, curled up and trembling. She picked it up and held her tightly as she unlocked the gate.
After making sure the puppy was warm, fed and watered, she placed her in the bed Susan’s dog Winston usually slept in before tending to the others, giving each one the turkey flavoured treat she had bought especially.
It hadn’t taken her long to decide she would take the puppy home for the evening, so as soon as she finished she scooped her up and grabbed a few bits from the cupboard.
Ivy’s face lit up as snow started to fall but she was equally pleased to get back to the warmth of her house. After closing the door behind her she gently placed the puppy on the floor and watched as she ran to the corner of the room and cowered.
She sat with her for a few minutes before going into the kitchen to make dinner, thinking it best that she left the youngster alone to adjust to her new surroundings. It wasn’t long before she heard a sound from the lounge. The small Christmas tree she’d decorated a few nights before was on its side, the tinsel tangled around the puppy’s tail and her one present torn open on the floor.
Laughing to herself, Ivy went back into the kitchen and added some of the freshly cooked turkey to the bowl of food she had prepared for the dog. Sitting side by side, the two of them tucked into their Christmas dinner before Ivy poured herself a mulled wine and turned on the festive film she’d struggled to concentrate on the night before.
She’d been dreading this Christmas but it had turned out to be the most magical day. As the fire roared, Ivy looked down at the puppy curled up in her arms – I think you might have found yourself a home, Holly.