Rascal and the Coat of Many Needles

Rascal demonstrates his lack of tree etiquette.

The other day, while standing in the front yard, I studied our Christmas tree. Framed by the living room window, it gleamed with red, blue, and green lights. Snow drifted into my shoes, and Rascal, our short-legged, 17-year-old dog, waddled into a snow pile.

A combination of either corgi/German shepherd or black lab/basset hound (depending on the veterinarian you consult), Rascal struggled. I scooped him up before the snow could completely swallow him and placed him on more solid ground.

Early evening settled around us in a peaceful softness—dusky blue light seeped into the white landscape, streaks of red and pink painted the sky a rosy glow, and early stars highlighted the heavens. Rascal rubbed his nose in the snow and stared into space, as if he too appreciated God’s choice of palette.

Our Christmas tree, I decided, had exceeded all expectations. Taken from the Manistee National Forest, it was one of my family’s best trees, not our typical Charlie Brown selection. Homemade decorations, from pine cones and ribbons to twig reindeer to ornaments fashioned by young nieces and nephews, hung from its branches.

While the charm of our tree might have been unexpected, even more surprising had been Rascal’s complete disregard for tree etiquette. Back inside, Rascal once again ignored the tree, refusing to skirt around it, as if the tree were invisible. He made his unsteady way toward my husband on the sofa. Cutting beneath the tree, Rascal’s back rubbed against the lowest branches.

The result of this constant short-cutting is that Rascal wears a perpetual coat of pine needles, which he scatters throughout the house. At first, I frequently swept or vacuumed, but I have surrendered, unable to keep up with the shower of needles. His lack of manners even forced us to secure the tree to the wall when Rascal’s wagging tail tipped it over.

Rascal, finally, away from the tree (and clear of needles).

Like the biblical Joseph and his coat of many colors, Rascal too was betrayed by his first family, starting life as a stray, but the similarities end there. Taken in by my sister and her family, greatly loved by my nieces, Rascal has also lived with my mother, and now my husband and I have become his caretakers.

In the end, we have been more his people rather than he being our dog. His genes might have given him a slightly odd physique, but they certainly made up for it in lovability and longevity. For the past 17 years, he has been present through some of my life’s greatest sorrows, unknowingly comforting me and imparting vital lessons.

As Rascal taught me during the Christmas of 2021, expect the unexpected, embrace it if you can. He brought the northern woods inside, spreading needles and twigs everywhere he wandered, forcing me to choose between patience and grace or annoyance and harshness. I chose the former, hoping those two attributes will accompany me wherever I go.

I have been blessed to care for this eccentric mutt, one of God’s helpless, sweet creatures who has shown me companionship, love, and selflessness, made even more meaningful during this season of gratitude.

Merry Christmas!

8 thoughts on “Rascal and the Coat of Many Needles

  1. Gail from Lake Emma December 23, 2021 / 6:02 pm

    Merry Christmas to you, Keith and that furry Rascal. May the new year bring us all hope and a renewed enthusiasm for life. After all, we only get one!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erin December 24, 2021 / 2:36 pm

      Merry Christmas, Gail! There is a corgi that lives near us, and whenever I see him, I always think of you! I hope you are doing well and have a wonderful 2022!


  2. Beverly Aslett December 24, 2021 / 5:51 am

    Merry Christmas Erin and family.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erin December 24, 2021 / 2:34 pm

      The same to you, along with a happy and healthy 2022!


  3. Deborah December 27, 2021 / 7:44 pm

    Steve says he remembers Rascal over at Kelly’s. He is a cutie and clearly, happy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erin December 28, 2021 / 1:50 pm

      I hope you and Steve had a happy Christmas! And I look so forward to seeing you in 2022!


  4. jodeesisson December 28, 2021 / 10:02 am

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. May there be many more for all of us. My daughter reminded me recently of a high school story I told her once. You and I were less than fond of the drill team onesies we were made to wear for dancing at basketball halftime. In homage to the wretched fabric used to construct them, we dubbed ourselves “Polly” and “Ester.” What a scream! And a great memory. Thank you for your friendship then, Erin!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erin December 28, 2021 / 1:50 pm

      Merry Christmas to you too! And I hope you and your family have a happy and healthy 2022! I certainly remember our “Polly” and “Ester” days–they are among my favorite high school memories. I so enjoyed our friendship, and I hope to see you in the near future!


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