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An Early Christmas Present

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The eight year old Darcy Lewis had been looking forward to getting a dog, a puppy specifically, since shortly after her sixth birthday when she had asked her daddy for one. When he explained they would be going to a dog rescue that had a wide range of dogs, and puppies, she had been ecstatic.

For, not only would they be getting a dog (a puppy, most likely), but it would be one that was in need of a home.

Not that any dog from a pet shop or someplace similar didn't need a home too, but these dogs had lost their first homes, or had been abandoned, or were just lost. So, it was like adopting a member of their family, like her Uncle John and Uncle Tem and Uncle Nick, and Nana. They all had families before she knew them, she was sure, but she had adopted them all into her family.

So, it was something she was used to.

It was crisp and clear when Daddy got the truck that was parked in the stable when he was going to be gone for awhile.

As usual, he had put it into neutral and pushed it onto the dirt road before he let Darcy get in. She buckled up, marveling at how much her daddy changed when he was dressed in jeans and a flannel print, hooded, jacket-sweatshirt, thing that changed him from faceless government mook to goofball(ish) dad.

Darcy, personally, liked him better this way, and was gleeful over the fact that she got to have him this way for the whole day!

Buckled in and driving down a backcountry road, however, was tiring and soon, Darcy was asleep, even as the big band music began.

Phil glanced over to the side and smiled when he saw that Darcy was asleep.

He winced a bit when he hit a bump in the road which made Darcy’s head bounce against the window, and he let out a low sigh of relief when she didn’t wake.

He focused on the road, his eyes flickering to the side, before he frowned slightly.

He had noticed that she had been squinting lately, but only recently, and he drummed his fingers on the steering wheel.

Maybe he should have taken her to the optometrist first.

He mentally shrugged and slowly made his way to the interstate.

Phil smiled as he parked at Green Heaven Dog Rescue, Darcy bouncing in her seat excitedly.

He stepped out as Darcy continued bouncing and a man with gray streaked hair walked forward. “Phil, good to see you. Jasper said you would be coming,” he greeted and Phil stepped forward, shaking the man’s hand.

“Robert. Good to see you. Darcy, come out and meet Robert,” Phil called and Darcy scrambled out, shutting the door behind her before she hopped over to where they stood.

Robert smiled and held his hand out to Darcy. “Nice to meet you, Darcy. I’m Robert,” he greeted and laughed as Darcy took his hand and shook it firmly.

Phil began to make small talk as Darcy bounced next to him impatiently.

He placed a calming hand on her shoulder and she stilled, hesitantly. Robert smiled and lead them to where the kennels were. There were dogs running around in the dog run, tails wagging wildly and barking as Phil and Darcy began to walk by, leaping up at the fence. “All the dogs are fixed, either from their previous homes or once here,” Robert explained and Darcy tried to move ahead.

Phil gently pulled her back and Robert shook his head. “She can go on ahead. All of the dogs that are in the open are up for adoption,” he stated.

Phil frowned down at Darcy and she kicked at the dirt clod moodily. “Sorry Daddy,” she stated and he nodded before releasing her shoulder.

“It will be your dog. If you go to the kennel area before us, make sure to read the tag on the side before getting too attached. Some dogs won’t be good with children,” Phil gave in and Darcy grinned before she walked quickly ahead.

Phil watched her go, stomping his nervousness down, harshly.

He and Robert continued to talk about the dogs, and, a few minutes later, Darcy came trotting back. “Daddy, Daddy, I found my dog!” she exclaimed, grabbing his hand.

“Oh, really?” Phil questioned while Robert hid his smile from behind his hand.

“Yep!” she answered and continued to lead the way.

It was like following a dog-seeking missile.

Darcy moved with a single-minded determination and Phil stared in surprise at the, adultish, white large Spitz type dog with a tail that curled up, over his rump. “Your dog?” Phil questioned, surprised as the white dog began to wriggle happily as Darcy returned.

“Yep!” Darcy stated, ignorant of both Phil and Robert’s surprise.

“Is he good with kids?” Phil asked and she pointed to the tag.

Phil stared at it, ignoring the excitable white Spitz.

Aegis, Akita, Male, Neutered, 3 years old

Raised around children, not recommended for households with children under age 6

Recommended for a household where he would be the only pet

Given to the Green Heaven Dog Rescue by owner due to behavioral problems

Has basic training

Phil eyed Aegis, who was much calmer. “Aegis, sit,” Darcy ordered and the dog obeyed.

Robert, however, seemed to still be needing a brain reboot.

“Mr. Robert?” Darcy called and he shook his head.

“Sorry Darcy. Do you want to walk him?” Robert answered.

“Yes please!” Darcy exclaimed.

Phil watched Darcy walking Aegis at heel, doing gentle tugs whenever he started to get distracted, Robert walking next to her.

Aegis followed her calmly once she had established she wouldn't accept his trickery, though he kept challenging her.

“She’s doing very well,” Robert stated, and Darcy beamed under the compliment, before gently tugging Aegis’s leash so he would keep at heel instead of staying to sniff at a part of the wall.

He grumbled quietly, but she seemed undisturbed by the noise, along with Robert, so Phil didn’t worry about it.

It didn’t really sound like a growl, now that he thought about it.

He wasn’t too surprised when Robert demanded that Phil walk the dog as well, something he easily took over on, having Darcy run ahead, but never behind, Aegis.

“I already did a walk around of your property and interviewed Peggy Carter, Darcy’s grandmother. And I’ve interviewed you. Now, Darcy, why do you want a dog?” Robert stated.

“I wanted a friend,” Darcy answered.

Robert smiled and they talked about who would care for Aegis, and how that would be done, and what veterinarian they would be using (which Phil had secured, so Darcy had to look to him for that).

“Phil, all we need is you to fill out the paperwork and the fee, and Aegis is yours,” Robert stated.

Darcy laughed brightly and hugged Phil. “Thank you, Daddy, for the best Christmas present ever!” Darcy exclaimed and Phil smiled as he hugged her lightly.

He decided not to point out that it was just the beginning of November.

Phil smiled as he watched Darcy run around the snow dusted ground, Aegis bounding at her side.

The dog had settled quickly, and easily, into Darcy’s life, a routine finding itself in morning walks before breakfast, and waiting on the porch Monday-Friday for Darcy to return from school. Of Aegis lying at her feet while she did homework and games of ‘Search’ being played throughout the yard before dinner.

However, it was now nearing Christmas and it was just the three of them this year.

He wondered if the reason Darcy had been so firm with the ‘off’ command was so Aegis could sleep at her feet if he so desired.

“Most likely,” he murmured before he took a sip of hot chocolate, Darcy’s laughter cutting through the air as Aegis jumped up, dancing in a little circle in anticipation of Darcy throwing the bright red tennis ball.

“Aegis, sit,” she ordered and his rump hit the ground.

Only then did she throw it.

Aegis tore off after it, waiting for it to hit the ground before he jumped on it, pinning it with his paws. “One more toss, and then inside,” Phil called.

Darcy pouted, but nodded and Aegis trotted up. “Aegis, give,” she ordered and Aegis let out a grumble.

Darcy shifted her body language into one that demanded and, in a firmer voice, she repeated herself.

Aegis dropped the ball into her hand and she pocketed it before heading up to the porch. The dog followed and Phil pat her head. “Darcy, you are doing a very good job with him,” he stated.

Darcy smiled and hugged him, earning a hug in return, though one-armed as he wished to keep the mug from even tempting Aegis to sneak a taste.

The white Akita merely watched and wriggled in place.