The Dogs of Christmas: A Novel

The Dogs of Christmas: A Novel

by W. Bruce Cameron

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250203533
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 10/16/2018
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 50,537
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

W. BRUCE CAMERON is the New York Times bestselling author of A Dog's Purpose, A Dog's Journey and The Dogs of Christmas. He lives in California.

Read an Excerpt

ONE

 

The phone rang.

Josh looked over at it, not sure if he’d heard correctly. A muscular contraction twitched its way up his spine, something like a false start toward answering it. The leather chair he was sitting in made a whispering noise as he shifted. He unconsciously lowered his book, as if that would help him see who was calling, somehow.

The date was October first. Nobody’s birthday, no holiday—no reason for anyone to be calling.

It rang again.

His eyes drifted over to Amanda’s picture on the table next to him, and that’s why he stood up. In all probability it was a wrong number or, worse, a solicitation to buy something or insure something or do something. But remembering what it was like to hear her voice on the line irresistibly compelled him to cross the room and reach for the phone before it rolled to voice mail—though he knew, of course, that it could not be Amanda.

He didn’t recognize the number in his caller ID. “Hello?”

“Michael! Dude, you don’t answer your cell phone? I left you like five messages.”

Josh was frowning, trying to place the voice squawking in his ear.

“I need your help, buddy. I have a major situation,” the caller continued.

“Sorry, who is this?”

“It’s Ryan. Your neighbor? Come on, Michael, you remember me.”

“My name’s not Michael,” was all Josh could think to say. Ryan? Who the heck was Ryan? “It’s Josh Michaels.”

“Right, well, that just proves how stressed I am. Josh. Remember me? Brews at the Little Bear?”

The Little Bear was an old-west-style saloon that had been in the mountain town of Evergreen virtually since there had been an Evergreen. The place was always crowded—Josh sometimes went there because being packed in with so many people gave him the illusion that he was popular.

Brews at the Little Bear. Oh. Right. Josh briefly closed his eyes. Yes. Ryan. A shared conversation built on the misconception that their circumstances were similar. You’re lucky, Ryan had said. I got thrown out, had to find my own place even though I was unemployed and completely broke. Your deal, I know it sounds harsh, but in the end you’ve got a place to live.

Lucky? That he’d lost Amanda?

Not lucky. Amanda was gone but still here, her scent still imagined on the air, her presence just outside the periphery of Josh’s vision, the bed heavy in the dark with a sleeping form that was really only shadow and memory. It took a special kind of stupid to call that lucky.

And Ryan, Josh now recalled, was precisely that stupid. The man had listened to Josh’s tale of loss with the impatient expression of a debater waiting for his time at the microphone, plunging into a rant the moment Josh finished speaking. Ryan hated his old girlfriend. Hunched over a beer and making gathering motions as if enlisting Josh as an accomplice, Ryan spoke in hot, resentful terms about his breakup, all but suggesting he was due some sort of justice and, if not that, revenge. What was her name? Well, that didn’t matter. Josh just remembered feeling more and more distant from Ryan, watching him from across the table, then as if from across the room, and then as if from far, far away.

Had he really given this person his phone number?

“You said to call if I needed any help with anything,” Ryan reminded Josh, answering the unspoken question.

“Right, you said you tried to light a fire in your woodstove and the house filled with smoke.” The last thing anyone would want up here at 8,500 feet, living among lodgepole pines desiccated by Japanese beetles, was for some idiot to burn his cabin down. As Josh recalled, his offer of assistance had been limited to ensuring Ryan didn’t set fire to the entire mountainside.

“Well, this is like that times a thousand. My brother—you’re not going to believe this—got arrested. In France.” Ryan proclaimed this last word with a triumphant emphasis.

Josh waited a moment so that Ryan could explain what this had to do with him. “So…,” he finally prodded.

“So I need your help, bro. I’ve got Serena’s dog here. Someone needs to watch it.”

That was the ex-girlfriend’s name. Serena. “Well, no, I can’t,” Josh replied.

“Dude, I have got to go to Europe! They won’t let you take dogs there and anyway it’s not even my dog and I have to leave right away on a flight in like four hours. Okay? Can you hear how I’m really stressed here? Loose and I are coming over, I’ll explain it then.”

“Loose?”

“Its name’s Loose, what can I tell you.”

Josh took in a deep breath, but the firm and unequivocal statement he intended to deliver was snuffed out by the dead tone that blanketed the line once Ryan clicked off.

Josh went to his window, a floor-to-ceiling expanse of paned glass next to the front door from which he could see his front deck and the yard and driveway beyond. The air was dry and clear this October afternoon, sun streaming down through the trees as if poured from a bucket. Amanda loved to hike on a day like this, a Saturday. They’d find a mountain trail and she’d be tireless, always ready to keep going. Ironically, she’d always wanted a dog, but Josh, picturing all the extra work that would go into taking care of a pet, said no. He saw himself as too busy for a dog.

If they’d gotten one, though, then Josh would have had a friend to help him mourn her. Wasn’t that the thing about dogs, that they stood by you no matter what? That was Josh’s impression, anyway.

Though their homes on the sparsely populated hillside were less than a hundred yards apart, Ryan drove over. He was apparently one of those people who kept his vehicle in full-time four-wheel drive because he lived in the mountains and thought that’s what you needed to do. Josh watched all four of the oversized tires bite the dirt as the SUV bounded up the switchback. It came to a grinding halt, rocking, and Ryan stepped out of the vehicle.

He was dressed the way Josh would be for air travel, wearing khaki pants, a sweater, and a light jacket. He gave a slight wave at Josh through the window, and Josh crossed to his front door, deciding to prevent Ryan and his dog Loose from their intended trespass. He stepped out on the deck, his boots ringing on the boards.

“Hey, Josh,” Ryan called as if they were the best of buddies.

Immediately after losing Amanda, Josh had let his hair and beard grow, just like Ryan’s—the whiskers not bushy, exactly, but sculpted into a permanent ten-days’ growth, the hair brushing his collar. Then during a teleconference Josh noticed his clients eyeing him and realized that he was pushing people toward a conclusion they were already willing to embrace, that he was some sort of lone nut living in a cabin on a mountain, coding applications in the day and then at night, what, running with the wolves? Building bombs out of wood pieces? Josh went back to the clean-shaven look, his dark hair short, and now Ryan’s wooly appearance, stringy blond hair down past his ears, reinforced the wisdom of Josh’s decision. Ryan looked as if he’d joined a cult that was against grooming.

“I appreciate this big time, buddy,” Ryan said gratefully.

“I can’t do it, Ryan. I’ve never even had a dog before. I don’t know the first thing about taking care of them.”

Ryan raised his hands to his head and winced as if he were having a migraine. “Can I just explain? This is serious. Do you even know what the laws are like in Europe? It’s like, Canada times a thousand. I have to hire a lawyer who speaks like both French and English, how am I going to do that? My brother’s arrested and it’s just totally messed up.”

Josh sifted through all of this carefully, looking for the part that explained why he should provide care for Ryan’s ex-girlfriend’s dog. He couldn’t find it. “Can’t she just take him back?”

A canine face, brown and black, rose up in the back of the SUV, looking out the window at the two men. A pink tongue peeped into view.

“Who, Serena? She’s traveling. And anyway she dumped the dog like she did me, that’s who she is, man, I told you. Look, just … it’s just for a few days. I’ll call you as soon as I’m settled in France, and I’ll make arrangements from there to have someone pick him up, okay? But I have to go now.

Josh steeled himself. “Look, this isn’t my problem, Ryan. I’m sorry about your brother. But I can’t take a dog. It’s impossible.”

“Well, then, what am I going to do?” Ryan asked, lifting arms out to his sides and then dropping them flat on his hips. “There’s supposed to be a storm coming. I just let the dog go and it’ll freeze. There. The dog dies.”

“You’re being ridiculous.”

“I’m leaving for Europe!” Ryan shouted in frustration. “Are you going to help me out here, or not?”

No. That’s what Josh was going to say. No, I will not help you out. Get off my property. But he glanced involuntarily at the dog before he spoke, and what he saw in those eyes made him hesitate. Suddenly, he took everything in from Loose’s perspective. Its owner gone, something that defied canine explanation. Living with Ryan, a man who felt that a flight to France, a place in Europe, preempted all other concerns, human and otherwise. Ryan probably would just abandon the poor animal, just as he was threatening. Loose would be bewildered and alone. The dog probably would die.

“I…,” Josh faltered helplessly.

Ryan saw something in Josh’s expression and seized it.

“Thanks, man, I owe you.” Ryan walked around to the back of his SUV. “I promise as soon as I get things figured out, I’ll call you. This is for like two or three days, max. I have the food right here.”

Ryan lifted the gate and, with a moment’s hesitation, a large dog, marked like a shepherd but with something else mixed in, leaped heavily to the ground. It shook, raised its head to Ryan for a touch that wasn’t forthcoming, and then trotted up to Josh, its head lowered and its tail beating the ground submissively.

Josh’s mouth was open in shock at the sight of the big dog. He put his hand down and was nuzzled with a wet nose, but his surprise choked off anything he might say.

“And here’s a bowl, too,” Ryan announced, lugging a brightly colored bag of food up onto the deck and setting down a metal bowl that clanged when it struck the wood.

“You said this was a male,” Josh objected. “Named Loose.”

“Yeah.” Ryan squinted at him while Josh ran his index finger along the name embroidered on the dog’s collar.

“This says Lucy. Not Loose. Lucy.”

Ryan shrugged. “Serena always called him Loose, what do I know?”

“Not him, Ryan. It’s not him. It’s her. Lucy. The female dog,” Josh corrected sharply.

“Fine.” Ryan spread his hands in a what’s the difference gesture.

“Not fine. It’s not just that she’s female. She’s obviously pregnant, can’t you see? Lucy is a pregnant female dog.”

 

Copyright © 2013 by W. Bruce Cameron

 

Customer Reviews

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The Dogs of Christmas 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 52 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love all his books, especially A Dog's Purpose and A Dog's Journey but, and I almost feel guilty saying it, I think I love this one best.   Cutest cover ever. What a gift! 
Dee_Anne_Walters More than 1 year ago
I admit it, I'm a sucker for Christmas stories as well as dog books.  I loved "The Christmas Box," I cry every single year when I watch "It's A Wonderful Life," or "A Charlie Brown Christmas."  So it was with some trepidation that I read this book, because I had so lovedboth "A Dog's Purpose" and "A Dog's Journey," but wasn't sure that Cameron had a great Christmas book in him.  Thankfully, my worrieswere for nothing.  This, for me, was a classic Christmas story.  Plot twists that kept me on the edge of my seat, humor, puppies, true love, and a Christmas message that deeply touched my heart.  Everyone on my list is getting this little treasure this year! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LOVED IT!  Giving this to all my dog loving friends for Christmas
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all of his books and this has to be my favorite. There are some books that just grab at your heart and hold on. By the time I finished the book, I was crying so hard that I had to stop during the last ten pages to get tissues. It couldn't have ended any better. I am a cat person, but this book made me want to go out and adopt a dog.
Sam_and_Lou-s_Mom More than 1 year ago
This story is sweet, touching, and funny. It makes you reflect on the importance of the relationships you currently have, and the relationships of your past. Most importantly, it shows the unexpected depth of love you can share with your pets.
Bookworm1951 More than 1 year ago
The actual story was good. Heartwarming. However, the writing style left a bit to be desired. I originally thought that this was written by an adolescent based on the style, language used, etc. The main characters seemed shallow to me. For people in their late 20's they often spoke and acted like immature teens. That being said, if you're a dog lover, you will enjoy it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have enjoyed all of the author's books I have read.  This one did not disappoint me.  I am looking forward to reading more of Mr. Cameron's books.
muzzyb More than 1 year ago
This is such a good book that I have a hard time putting it down. It is just about an ordinary guy who has never owned a pet in his entire life, how he got a dog and what happened after. It certainly keeps your interest. I would highly recommend this book for any one to read. In fact I would read again around the holidays.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved reading this book. Kept my interest all the way through.
Supermansgirle More than 1 year ago
Just a heart warming tale about a dog & some puppies that save a lonely guy from a lonely life. All of Bruce Cameron's books are GREAT. I love them all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very good read for dog lovers! Makes the heart warm at the holidays!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book and was touched by the story. I would recommend to other people, especially during the holidays.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great book and very quick read. Loved it!
HaveFaith More than 1 year ago
This story is a good fast read. It is heart warming. I truly enjoyed it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
His other books were so much better. I was disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good light read, especially for those who love dogs. Elements of reality concerning the fate of abandoned dogs contrasted with the joy   of human/canine bond-- with a dusting of Christmas spirit.  Curl up with some cocoa and enjoy.
Nimi More than 1 year ago
I just hd my left knee replaced and while I was reading this charming book I was not aware of the pain I was in. We live close to Evergreen, CO in the summer so it's fun to imagine the puppies as grown up dogs when we go grocery shopping.
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poohbearlinda More than 1 year ago
Loved this book about raising puppies & love.
westiegirl27 More than 1 year ago
great Christmas book. Especially if your into dogs. I read a chapter a day until Christmas.
PumpkinKV More than 1 year ago
Excellent book and of course I cried in the end.  Great holiday gift!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AnnInProspectHeights More than 1 year ago
The Dogs of Christmas is a charming, heart-warming dog story, people story and Christmas story. It was especially enjoyable to read this book during the holidays. I have also enjoyed W. Bruce Cameron's other books about dogs (and one about a bear!), and I don't even have a dog!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I cant wait to read the rest!!! also looking for a book called "furperson"