Wiggles’s Christmas Wish

fiction by Larrie Wanberg

Wiggles's Christmas Wish

Photo: Britt Wanberg

It was Christmas morning in a tiny coastal village in central California that had little claim to fame, except that a dog named Wiggles was voted “Mayor” by the residents, as the Red Golden Retriever was the only dog in town.

The family named him Wiggles as a puppy, because when he wagged his tail, his hindquarters shook from side to side with excitement. Later when the father of the household got elected as mayor of the village and as the dog went with him most of the time, the dog got the nickname Mayor.

The city council revoked an old leash-law ordinance, so Wiggles could roam freely in the city limits, and he soon took on some of the behaviors of his owner.

Every morning, through a doggie-door off the kitchen, Wiggles would begin to make rounds on his own. He would trot down the sidewalks with a tennis ball in his mouth to greet every passerby with a wagging tail and a welcoming whimpering that was his familiar greeting. Some residents believed that Wiggles was the only dog they knew who smiled with a broad grin when recognizing a friend.

For schoolchildren, he would drop the tennis ball at their feet; they would toss it ahead, and Wiggles would retrieve it for them with plenty of wags. Some children would take Wiggles into their classroom for a round of greetings. Then, he was on to the city café for some time with the senior retirees at a daily reserved roundtable for morning coffee.

Late on Christmas morning, the real mayor decided to take a jog through the park at the edge of town and onto the bike trails that weaved through the trees and open fields between the village and a neighboring large town. Wiggles jumped up and down, swirled in a circle, and dashed ahead along the bike trail.

A squirrel ran across the trail in front of him, looking like one of his furry toys in motion. The zigzagging chase began until the squirrel managed an escape up a tree. Puzzled, Wiggles sniffed around the tree and picked up a scent. He followed it until a bunny jumped up ahead of him and a new chase began through the high grass of a field. Wiggles lost sight of the bunny, retraced a few steps, and found that the scent disappeared down a rabbit hole.

Suddenly, Wiggles realized that he didn’t know exactly where he was. He headed down the trail in search of his master, the mayor. The trail widened, and he spotted a park bench ahead where an elderly woman was sitting.

The woman didn’t look up.  Spontaneously, Wiggles jumped up onto the bench, laid down, and gently rested his head in her lap. She started to stroke his fur and pat his head. Wiggles didn’t know that her pet dog had recently died. He only knew intuitively that she needed comfort.

The lady noticed his collar with two ID tags and phone numbers. She used her flip phone to call the first number, but it was disconnected after the mayor got an official cell phone. The second number connected her to a doggie daycare center in the neighboring village, where Wiggles sometimes joined his buddies for some group play.

The call center of the daycare routed her call to the mayor, and they arranged a meeting place.

The reunion was a joyous one. A conversation revealed that the lady was sad, realizing that she would be alone this Christmas. Wiggles was by her side, wagging his tail and trying to talk with his whimpering.

The mayor said, “Our wish is that you’ll join us for dinner tonight!”

The lady replied, “Oh, no. I can’t.”

“But Wiggles insists,” said the mayor. Wiggles added a bark for emphasis.

“I do have a gift for Wiggles—a fuzzy toy that sits on a shelf, at my place,” she said. “Well. It was my Christmas wish to find a new friend!”

And Wiggles starting prancing to lead the way home for Christmas dinner, with a new friend at his side.

Wiggles got his wish, too, as the lady later landed a part-time job at the doggie daycare, becoming a grandparent to Wiggles and a whole community of furry friends.

 
Larrie Wanberg writes features that draw on eight decades of life experience highlighted by three career recognitions: as a researcher through a Fulbright Scholarship to Norway in 1957; as a health care provider in behavioral science through a 27-year military career and awarded upon retirement in 1981 the highest non-combat medal, the Legion of Merit medal; as an educator, through a 50-year career in college education, culminating in the 2010 Public Scholar award at the UND Center for Community Engagement.

This article originally appeared in the December 14, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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