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The Christmas Dog

The Christmas Dog

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The Christmas Dog

3/5 (62 Bewertungen)
169 Seiten
2 Stunden
Sep 1, 2009


Betty Kowalski isn't looking forward to the holidays. She just can't seem to find Christmas in her heart. There's church, of course. But who can she bake for these days? And who would care whether or not she pulled out the Christmas decorations?

Her new neighbor just adds to the problem. He's doing home improvements that don't appear to be improving much of anything. These days when Betty looks out the window, she sees a beat-up truck, a pile of junk, lots of blue tarps, and--horror of horrors--an old pink toilet.

But when a mangy dog appears at her doorstep, the stage is set for Betty to learn a very important lesson about what Christmas is all about. This contemporary Christmas story is a timely yet gentle reminder that God can work miracles through something as seemingly insignificant as a little brown dog.
Sep 1, 2009

Über den Autor

Melody Carlson is the prolific author of more than 200 books for women, teens and children. The recipient of numerous writing awards including the Rita and the RT Career Achievement Award, she makes her home in Oregon with her husband.

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The Christmas Dog - Melody Carlson

The Christmas



©2009 by Melody Carlson

Published by Revell

a division of Baker Publishing Group

P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287

Ebook edition created 2012

Ebook corrections 12.11.2012

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

ISBN 978-1-4412-0478-3

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

The internet addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers in this book are accurate at the time of publication. They are provided as a resource. Baker Publishing Group does not endorse them or vouch for their content or permanence.



Title Page

Copyright Page


















About the Author

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As Betty Kowalski drove home from church on Sunday, she realized she was guilty of two sins. First of all, she felt envious—perhaps even lustful—of Marsha Deerwood’s new leather jacket. But, in Betty’s defense, the coat was exquisite. A three-quarter-length jacket, it was beautifully cut, constructed of a dove-gray lambskin, and softer than homemade butter. Betty knew this for a fact since she had touched the sleeve of Marsha’s jacket and audibly sighed just as Pastor Gordon had invited the congregation to rise and bow their heads in prayer.

It’s an early anniversary present from Jim, Marsha had whispered after the pastor proclaimed a hearty Amen. As usual, the two old friends sat together in the third pew from the front. On Marsha’s other side, next to the aisle so he could help with the collection plates, sat Marsha’s husband, James Deerwood, a recently retired physician and respected member of the congregation.

Naturally Betty didn’t show even the slightest sign of jealousy. Years of practice made this small performance no great challenge. Instead, Betty simply smiled, complimented Marsha on the lovely garment, and pretended not to notice the worn cuffs of her own winter coat, a charcoal-colored Harris Tweed that had served her well for several decades now. Still, it was classic and timeless, and a new silk scarf or a pair of sleek leather gloves might dress it up a bit. Not that she could afford such little luxuries right now. Besides, she did not care to dwell on such superficialities (especially during the service). Nor would she want anyone to suspect how thoughts such as these distracted her while Pastor Gordon preached with such fiery intensity about the necessity of loving one’s neighbors today. He even pounded his fist on the pulpit a couple of times, something the congregation rarely witnessed in their small, dignified church.

But now, as Betty drove her old car toward her neighborhood, she was mindful of Pastor Gordon’s words. And thus she became cognizant of her second sin. Not only did Betty not love her neighbor, she was afraid that she hated him wholeheartedly. But then again, she reminded herself, it wasn’t as if Jack Jones lived right next to her. He wasn’t her next-door neighbor. Not that it made much difference, since only a decrepit cedar fence separated their backyards. It was, in fact, that rotten old fence that had started their dispute in the first place.

This fence is encroaching on my property, Jack had said to her in October. She’d been peacefully minding her own business, enjoying the crisp sunny day as she raked leaves in her backyard.

What do you mean? She set her bamboo rake aside and went over to hear him better, which wasn’t easy since his music, as usual, was blaring.

I mean I’ve studied the property lines in our neighborhood, and that fence is at least eight feet into my yard, he said.

That fence is on your property line, fair and square. She looked him straight in the eyes. It’s the public access strip that’s—

No way! He pointed toward the neighboring yards where the public access strip had been split right down the middle. See what I mean? Your yard has encroached over the whole public access strip and—

Excuse me, she said, shaking her finger at him like he was in grade school. But the original owners agreed to build that fence right where it is. No one has encroached on anyone.

He rubbed his hand through his straggly dark hair, jutted out his unshaved chin, narrowed his eyes. It’s over the line, lady.

Betty did not like being called lady. But instead of losing her temper, she pressed her lips together tightly and mentally counted to ten.

And it’s falling down, he added.

Well, she retorted, since it’s on your property, I suggest you fix it. As she turned and walked away, she felt certain that he increased the volume on his music just to spite her. It seemed clear the battle lines were drawn.

Fortunately, the weather turned cold after that. Consequently, Betty no longer cared to spend time in her backyard, and her windows remained tightly closed to shut out Jack’s noise and music.

Now Betty tightened her grip on the steering wheel, keeping her gaze straight ahead as she drove down Persimmon Lane, the street on which Jack lived. She did not want that insufferable young man to observe her looking his way. Although it was hard not to stare at the run-down house with the filthy red pickup truck parked right on the front lawn. Obviously, the old vehicle couldn’t be parked in the driveway. That space was buried in a mountain of junk covered with ugly blue tarps, which were anchored with old plastic milk bottles. She assumed the bottles were filled with dirty water, although another neighbor (who suspected their young neighbor was up to no good) had suggested the mysterious brown liquid in the containers might be a toxic chemical used in the manufacturing of some kind of illegal drugs.

Betty sighed and continued her attempt to avert her gaze as she slowed down for the intersection of her street, Nutmeg Lane. But despite her resolve, she glanced sideways and let out a loud groan. Oh, to think that the Spencer house had once been the prettiest home in the neighborhood!

As she turned the corner, she remembered how that house used to look. For years it had been painted a lovely sky blue with clean white trim, and the weed-free lawn had always been neatly cut and perfectly edged. The flower beds had bloomed profusely with annuals and perennials, and Gladys Spencer’s roses had even won prizes at the county fair. Who ever would’ve guessed it would come to this?

The original owners, Al and Gladys Spencer, had taken great pride in their home. And they had been excellent neighbors and wonderful friends for decades. But over the past five years, the elderly couple had suffered a variety of serious health problems. Gladys had gone into a nursing home, then Al had followed her, and eventually they both passed away within months of each other. The house had sat vacant for a few years.

Then, out of the blue, this Jack character had shown up and taken over. Without saying a word to anyone, he began tearing into the house as if he was intent on destroying it. And even when well-meaning neighbors tried to meet him or find out who he was, he made it perfectly clear that he had absolutely no interest in speaking to any of them. He was a rude young man and didn’t care who knew it.

As Betty pulled into her own driveway, she wondered not for the first time if Jack Jones actually owned that house. No one had ever seen a For Sale sign go up. And no one had witnessed a moving van arrive. Her secret suspicion was that Jack Jones was a squatter.

It had been late last summer when this obnoxious upstart took occupancy of the house, and according to Penny Horton, the retired schoolteacher who lived next door, the scruffy character had brought only a duffle bag and three large plastic crates with him. But the next day, without so much as a howdy-do, he began tearing the house apart. Penny, who was currently in Costa Rica, was the one who informed Betty of the young man’s name, and only because she discovered a piece of his mail that had been delivered mistakenly to her mailbox. It looked like something official, Penny had confided to Betty. It seemed to be from the government. Do you suppose he’s in the witness protection program? Or he’s out on parole, Betty had wanted to suggest, but had kept these thoughts to herself.

Out of concern, Betty had attempted to reach the Spencers’ daughter, Donna, by calling the old number that was still in her little blue address book. But apparently that number had been changed, and the man who answered the phone had never heard of anyone by that name. Even when Betty called information, citing the last town she knew Donna had lived in, she came up empty-handed. So she gave up.

Betty frowned as she bent to open her old garage door. The wind was blowing bitter and cold now, and she had forgotten her wool gloves in the car but didn’t want to go back for them. She didn’t usually park in the garage, but the weatherman had predicted unusually low temperatures, and her car’s battery was getting old. She gripped the cold metal handle on the single-car garage door and, not for the first time, longed for a garage-door opener—like the one Marsha and Jim had on their triple-car garage. One simply pushed the remote’s button and the door magically went up, and once the car was inside, down the door went again. How she wished for one now.

Her grandmother’s old saying went through her head as she struggled to hoist up the stubborn door. If wishes were fishes, we’d all have a fry. Oh, yes, wouldn’t she!

Betty shivered as she got back into her car. She still couldn’t get that obnoxious neighbor out of her head—all thanks to this morning’s sermon! But what was she supposed to do? How could she love someone so despicable? How was it even possible? Oh, she’d heard that with God all things were possible . . . but this?

She decided to commit the dilemma to prayer. She bowed her head until it thumped the top of the steering wheel, asking God to help her love her loathsome neighbor and to give her the strength she lacked. Amen, she said. Then she tried to focus her full attention on carefully navigating her old Buick forward into the snug garage, although she was still thinking about that thoughtless Jack Jones—if that was his real name.

The next thing she knew, she heard a loud scratching sound and realized she’d gotten too close to the right side of the garage door. She took in a sharp breath and quickly backed up, readjusted the wheel, and went forward again, but when she turned off her engine, she knew it was too late. The damage was done. And, really, wasn’t this also Jack Jones’s fault? He was a bad egg—and had probably been one from the very beginning.

As Betty sat there, unwilling to get out and see what the scrape on her car looked like, she replayed the man’s list of faults. And they were many. Right from the start, he’d stepped on people’s toes. With absolutely no consideration for his neighbors’ ears or sleeping habits, he had used his noisy power tools in the middle of the night and played his music loudly during the day. Of course, these habits weren’t quite so obnoxious when winter came and everyone kept their windows shut. But how many times had Betty gotten up for her late-night glass of milk only to observe strange lights and flashes going on behind Jack’s closed blinds? Sometimes she worried that Jack’s house was about to go up in flames, and perhaps the whole neighborhood

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62 Bewertungen / 12 Rezensionen
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  • (3/5)
    Betty is feeling lonely: her children live too far away to visit her, her granddaughter doesn't communicate, her friends are busy with their own families, and Christmas just around the corner isn't helping. Her new neighbor is also making it hard to be neighborly, and when a filthy and hungry dog shows up on Betty's steps, she just knows it's Jack's way of aggravating her further.Despite it being predictable and not terribly well-written, I did enjoy this story, as a sweet and simple tale about love lost, and found again.
  • (4/5)
    I have to admit, I got quite a chuckle from reading this story. The story is not meant to be humorous, but to me the silliness of the main character was what set off my funny bone. I suppose it's because I know a few people just like our main character, Betty Kowalski. You know the type. Betty is a widow, living in her house alone; her grown children have their own children and are busy with their lives and are scattered all over the country. Unlike some people she knows, she does not live in a gated community with security built in, nor does she live in a secured building with buzzers. Her neighborhood is a typical neighborhood with friends she's lived near about half her life. The part I find funny is her attitude toward a new neighbor. She knew who used to live in that house when it was in its prime. Now, the house is old and worn and more than a little bit shabby. She's convinced that he must be a squatter. When hammering and sawing sounds came from the house at night and the pink toilet appeared in the back yard, she was even more suspicious. Then when that viewpoint didn't seem to work, she wondered if he was a criminal. He never answered the door. He didn't talk to anyone, and no one had ever seen him smile. It wouldn't have been so bad if she'd kept her thoughts to herself, but she was not as quiet as she should have been with her opinions to her friends and neighbors. Now the newcomer is ignored and snubbed by most of the neighborhood.Betty's attitude was worth several eye rolls in my opinion, and even one of her daughters felt she was being unfair. But that happens when fear overrules reason and you are alone. The author did a great job writing about this type of fear and isolation so that the reader would feel somewhat irritated while still understanding the woman and her ridiculous assumptions. This is not a typical Christmas story. The turning point happens when a little dirty unclaimed dog appears and Betty assumes he belongs to the neighbor. He in turn assumes it is hers, so for a little while we are viewing a ridiculous tug of war. Poor dog. In the end, this dog actually becomes an integral part of transformed attitudes, but you're going to have to read the book to find out how. A rebellious granddaughter shows up at Betty's house after Thanksgiving, and adds to the confusion of conflicts. My favorite part is how the little scruffy dog wins over hearts little by little and brings about quite a transformation of attitudes. But things have to get worse before they get better. As usual my favorite author of Christmas stories has penned another winner.
  • (5/5)
    Yes, I am sentimental. This heartfelt holiday drama has tension, nerves, family drama, relationship issues, neighbor drama and misunderstandings. Need I mention a sweet dog who doesn't believe his life exists in only one yard?Does he have special powers in bringing understanding and comfort to people?Melody Carlson writes about troubles and solutions and builds beautiful experiences.
  • (4/5)
    If you have a soft spot for dogs then you are going to enjoy this story. This was a cute and endearing story of how a cute little dog brought people together. It is also a story of how easy it is to let our imagination get the best of us when it comes to people and who we think they are without getting a chance to truly know them.Betty is an older lady who lives in a nice neighborhood. But her neighbors who passed away now have a young man living in their house, who seems to be stand-offish and likes to work late at night and plays loud music and has all the neighbors wondering about him. Betty one day discovers a stray "mutt" in her backyard and assumes it is the new neighbor, Jack's dog. It is in desperate need of a bath and some tender loving care. Betty decides to do the nice neighborly thing and returns the dog and leaves him on Jack's porch. The next day Jack returns the dog to Betty and they play this, who is going to take care of this dog routine. Then Betty's grand-daughter shows up at her front door and wants to move in. Avery, the granddaughter, falls in love with the dog and from there this little "mutt" will begin to bring all three people together in a very tender but fun way. It was enjoyable to see how showing a little kindness and getting to know your neighbors can change your outlook on life.
  • (3/5)
    Betty is an elderly widow, living in the same neighborhood for years, but things are changing. Old friends are dying or moving away and new neighbors are not very neighborly. Add to that a stray dog that frequents her backyard and her favorite dogwood, and Betty is not happy.Enter Betty's missing granddaughter and you have the scenario of a young woman making friends with the nasty neighbor and also falling for the stray dog.It was entertaining but not very emotion grabbing. Just a cute story.
  • (3/5)
    Summary: Betty is finding it difficult to get excited about Christmas this season. Her children have grown up and moved away. She will be alone for the holidays. The neighborhood she lives in is changing, not for the better and she's contemplating moving. In addition, her new next door neighbor, Jack is creeping her out. Not to mention the feuding between them over property boundaries. In a downer mood, Betty is seriously considering not even bringing out her Christmas decorations, because really, who would ever notice? Everything changes though when two things happen: 1.) a mangy, stray dog keeps showing up at her doorstep and 2.) she gets an unexpected visit from her adult granddaughter who may end up sticking around for the holidays. Somehow these two visitors lead Betty to re-discover the true meaning of the Christmas season.Ramblings: This story takes place in suburbia, in an affluent neighborhood. The neighbors are very judgmental, including the main character Betty an elderly woman, probably in her early seventies. It was difficult to feel too much compassion for the old woman's situation, because she seemed somewhat hypocritical, claiming to be Christian, but her actions seemed just the opposite of her beliefs. The story opens with a lot of belly aching, complaining and whining. All directed towards the new neighbor, the young Jack who has moved in and began a massive remodel project next door. Its almost over the top, more than most readers could take. However, don't give up just yet, A Christmas Dog does begin to redeem itself when Betty's granddaughter, Avery enters the story. Avery, a twenty-three year old lost soul, trying to find her own way in the world is a very endearing character. She has real life problems, but hasn't been left with a cold heart. Avery is the one who first open's herself up to the little stray dog, most likely because she finds both their life situations similar. A Christmas Dog is a quick read, which wraps up in a satisfying way. Its not totally predictable, plus it is warm and fuzzy.Recommendation: A quick, easy to read, which only took me a couple of days to get through. The story has enough drama and unanswered questions to keep the reader entertained enough to continue reading to find out how the author comes to a point of resolution. I would say it would suit adult readers and animal lovers looking for a little pick me up read for Christmas. It does have religion and christian themes, but they are definitely subtle and wouldn't ruin the story for those who have a different faith. Though the title leads the reader to believe the story is mainly about a dog - it isn't. So if you are reading it for just this reason and no other - skip it. I guess what I'm saying is I would have like to have read more about the dog!
  • (5/5)
    Carlson's main character, Betty, isn't sure she has mcuh patience left this christmas. With a mysterious neighbor, and an even more mysterious dog, she feels she's not into Christmas this year. But, wiht a boost from God(and a little dog!), she tries to make the best of it. love Carlson's characters, as well as the message she puts in the lines of this charming holiday read! Loving your neighbor as your self, having faith and the spirit of Christmas are just a few of the lessons learned in this great book! Grab a copy of this great book and fall in love with this adorable little dog that can teach a lesson! Five stars, two thumbs and praises to a gifted author! **This book was provided for review by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group**
  • (4/5)

    I really enjoyed The Christmas Dog by Melody Carlson. I'd had it waiting in my BookShout!(tm) Web Reader for several weeks before Christmas but finally got around to reading it yesterday. The formatting was very good in BookShout! By the end of one day, I was completely finished with the book.

    The main character, Betty Kowalski, reminded me of several older women that I've known in the past. For the most part she was set in her ways, but she could also adapt to changes when she realized she was wrong. Betty had raised two children alone after her husband passed away at a young age. I smiled when I learned that she used the "envelope" system for her monthly budget. One of my friends used a similar "can" system for her budget.

    Now Betty's children were grown and married. Her son had a stepdaughter named Avery, age 23, who had been missing for several months to her parents great dismay—especially annoying to her mother, Stephanie, who needed Avery to make an appearance at Christmas to impress Stephanie's friends and mother. Stephanie treated Avery like she was only 14, hence the rift between mother and daughter.

    Shortly before Christmas a small terrier showed up in Betty's yard. She assumed that the dog belonged to the man named Jack who lived directly behind Betty's house. Betty tried several times to take the dog home, but Jack keep sending him back without any communication between them. She was extremely frustrated. Meanwhile her step-granddaughter shows up on her doorstop without any possessions beyond the clothes on her back. Betty agreed to let Avery stay with her as long as Avery called her parents the next day to let them know she was safe. Avery fell in love with the dog instantly and named him Ralph.

    I could keep going on & on telling the story, but I think you should discover the rest on your own. Suffice it to say that you will enjoy this book if you enjoy stories about a well-meaning senior citizen, a cute dog, a troubled young adult, and neighborhood conflicts with Christmas thrown in to change the way people see each other.

  • (4/5)
    It might take a whole village to raise a child, but it only takes one small dog to bring peace and understanding to a neighborhood. Betty and her neighbors distrust and fear their new neighbor, and Betty considers moving, just to avoid him. But her pastor tells his congregation that they should love their neighbors and so Betty tries. But is it not until a small and very dirty stray dog appears that real communication begins. This delightful Christmas story is a quick read and happy tale. There are problems to be solved, but the Christmas spirit of goodwill can’t be stopped, especially when it’s a canine who is spreading it.
  • (4/5)
    It’s a delightful, heartwarming story about how something as small as a dog can enter our lives and offer friendship, comfort and love. One truly outstanding aspect of this story is the excellent, detailed development of the main character, Betty. You will feel sympathy for her plight and at the same time she will drive you crazy. The author manages to bring all of the characters into the plot and connect their lives. This book is definitely a keeper.
  • (4/5)
    Another day, another Christmas book! I am steadily reading my way through the Christmas category on my Kindle. And what better way to treat myself but with a novella by the Queen of Christmas Books! I think that Melody Carlson’s The Christmas Dog, just might be my favorite of her many titles. I loved this book, and think you will to.Betty is tired and lonely and not really willing to get out of her ruts. But when her adult granddaughter and a lost little dog show up on her doorstep, Betty is challenged to look beyond the surface and challenge what she can see with her eyes. And with a belligerent neighbor, her pastor’s sermon to love her neighbor is really put to the test.I loved that the focus of The Christmas Dog was on an older woman. Betty has had a lot of challenges in her life — an early widowhood and raising 2 children on her own. She believes her life is confined by her limited income and her circumstances. But a dog, a granddaughter and a neighbor work together to get Betty beyond herself. Not really selfish as much as self-focused, Betty’s character evolves within the story. The book also challenged my own fears, insecurities and rush to judgment.A good choice for holiday reading, I recommend The Christmas Dog.Recommended.Audience: Adults.
  • (5/5)
    I think I must have read a different book! The neighborhood wasn’t affluent. I don’t think it was ever a wealthy area, but it was changing. Betty was having trouble dealing with the change. That comes from getting old. I could identify with her. Watching Jack throw out all the things that she could identify was unsettling. That along with both of them misjudging each other at their first meeting.. Of course her neighbor’s wild imagination coupled with her own didn’t help matters. In the end it worked out for everyone. A cute little story with a lot to teach us.