From-the-EditorGrandma’s Christmas present was lying on the floor of the dining room in our house the other day. On Thanksgiving, our neighbors who were watching it for us while we were on vacation, sent us a photo of it, standing on their kitchen table! And, just last night, the present tried that same table trick at our house, but was quickly shooed down by my husband, Eddie.

Grandma’s present was actually her present two Christmases ago. You might ask, if it’s her gift, why is it spending so much time at our house?

For as long as I can remember, the girls have begged us for a dog. But Eddie and I were united in our resolve not to have animals in the house. In fact, Eddie often joked that was the one thing on which he and I agree!

Yet, two Christmases ago, Alicia, then 11, came up with the next best thing. She convinced Grandma Román to adopt a puppy. Since Grandma lives close by, she decided, it was almost like having a dog herself, and, of course, I was thrilled we’d be off the hook at our own house. Everything was set. Grandma was excited with the idea and we were scheduled to pick the miniature beagle up from a lady in Illinois a few days before Christmas.

But the night before, somehow the puppy was no longer available. Trying to console a crying Alicia and a disappointed Grandma, I turned to Craigslist and found an adorable border collie, cocker spaniel mix available for adoption.

Knowing nothing about dogs, I asked the seller whether it would be a good dog for a grandmother. Oh sure, she assured me, and it was set. We’d be by to pick up the 6-week-old puppy the next day.

coquiCoqui is the Román’s border collie, cocker spaniel mix.Coqui is adorable and the black puppy with the speckled forelegs and white underbelly, melted even my non-dog lover heart.

As the weeks went by and the rambunctious little puppy chewed his way through shoes, gnawed on cabinets and nipped at people, we learned more about the border collie breed and discovered it is a high-drive, extremely energetic breed, requiring lots of exercise! Certainly not the type of activity Grandma could offer.

Eight weeks into Coqui’s stay with Grandma, it was evident his placement with her and her 96-year-old mother was not a good fit.

What to do? After an “incident,” Coqui needed to leave Grandma’s immediately, but where to take him?

He came to our house and I remember staring at the black ball of fur in much the same way I held baby Marisa when we first brought her home from the hospital some 18 years earlier. What was I to do with this creature?

Nearly two years later, Coqui is still with us, undeniably a central part of our family. Eddie and I find ourselves talking about the cute things he’s done – in much the same way we’d talk about the girls. Our lives revolve around him in the sense we plan outings and vacations, making sure he is cared for.

In return, Coqui and his antics bring a smile to our faces, even on the most challenging of days. He’s always there to greet us (enthusiastically) when we come home, looking for a belly-rub, while giving his own wet “kisses” in return.

I reflected on our life with Coqui, after reading Annemarie and Jacob Scobey-Polacheck’s columns this month (See Page 4) Annemarie’s dog-free life could have been my own. And, like her, I’m equally amazed at how quickly I have been converted by this furry, four-footed little creature. I’ve learned tolerance and patience and have been introduced to a daily walking regime that has to be doing wonders for my health.

As Jacob points out, dogs have a thing or two to teach us humans about forgiveness and being genuine with emotions. Don’t miss his insights and the lessons he’s learned from his own pooch, Zola. Annemarie’s reflections on life with a dog in the family are sure to bring a smile to your face, too.

Animals also feature prominently in another of our features this month. On Page 3, author and journalist Paul Salsini shares his research on the history of Nativities, something he collected as he wrote a children’s book, “Stefano and the Christmas Miracles.” Interestingly, for thousands of years, animals were part of the representation of Christ’s birth. These gentle creatures quietly stand by, looking out for the Holy Family at this special time, suggesting the importance of all of God’s creatures.

As St. Francis of Assisi reportedly said, “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”

That’s a wonderful message for all of us this Advent, for animal lovers and non-animal lovers alike!

May you have a blessed Advent and Christmas season!