The Best Christmas Present of My Life

by Saralee Perel

While I was wrapping Christmas gifts, the phone rang. It was my husband, Bob, calling from his cell phone. He was breathing rapidly and very upset. "I bought you a chocolate teddy bear as a surprise and the dog ate it!"

"Did you call the vet?"

"Yes. It's not just the chocolate. It's the foil. We have to get it out of her right away."

Soon Bob came through the door with Gracie, an adorable golden retriever-ish dog, who usually has a big goofy grin. But she wouldn't even look up at me or give me any licky-face kisses. Bob, clearly in agony, had a panicky look on his face I had never seen before.

As we rushed Gracie out back, Bob said, "I hate myself for letting this happen."

"Sweetheart, you didn't do this on purpose. Please don't hate yourself. It won't help. You adore Gracie." I'd have given anything to take his anguish away and have it myself instead.

With a turkey baster, we administered the remedy by mouth that our vet said should make her throw up.

Then we waited.

I stood by them in our woods. Gracie looked awfully nauseated. Swaying, she walked slowly with her head near the ground. Still nothing happened. We were in constant touch with our vet. We knew we had very little time.

Bob's eyes filled with tears. My heart broke, watching him kneel beside his close pal. "I called her a bad dog," he whispered, soothingly rubbing her back as he tried not to cry. Gracie, agitated, started licking his face.

Whenever we're upset or crying, she tries to make us feel better. "Here she could die and I called her a bad dog," Bob said.

"You had to reprimand her," I said, touching his shoulder. Still we waited. Nothing. So as instructed, we gave her the remedy again.

Bob said, "I bought you a stuffed teddy bear for Christmas. It had the chocolate bear in its arms."

I touched my sweet husband's face. "You didn't do anything wrong, Bob. You didn't mean for this to happen. It was an accident."

Gracie, very weak now, tried to push her face under his chin to make him feel better. He rubbed her behind her ears. "What if I never see her after today?" He could barely talk. "When I went into the drugstore, I put the chocolate under the seat. I never thought she'd eat it."

"Stop, sweetheart," I said softly. "Of course you never thought that. She's never once eaten anything from the car. You're the best 'parent' in the world."

"Please," he prayed, looking up at the heavens. "Make my dog vomit."

I looked back at our home. I could see our Christmas tree through the sliding glass door. It was surrounded by presents and twinkling with lights all in the shape of tiny stars. The scene, so beautiful, was such a contrast to the angst in front of me.

And then, it was as if the entire Mormon Tabernacle Choir, wearing white robes, slowly and regally rose above the tree-lined horizon. Choir members began to sing softly, then escalate to a magnificent chorus, "HAL-LE-LU-JAH … HAL-LE-LU-JAH!"

Gracie threw up, foil and all.

Bob and I cried with tremendous relief. Gracie, caught up in the moment, joined us in a three-way wiggly hug.

I learned two things:

  1. People who love their pets like family never, ever, mean to hurt them.
  2. Vomit is the best Christmas present I ever had.

Saralee Perel is an award-winning nationally syndicated columnist. Her new book, Cracked Nuts & Sentimental Journeys: Stories From a Life Out of Balance, is available in local bookstores.

It can also be ordered through Amazon, or directly from the publisher, as well as from Saralee for a personalized signed copy.

For more information, please visit her website: or e-mail her at

Her novel, Raw Nerves, is now available as a paperback and an e-book on Amazon.