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I sat alone in Bill Miller's BBQ eating lunch and double-checking my shopping list. As always, Bill’s was jam packed and buzzing with bits and pieces of conversation. Dishes were clanging and banging, while Christmas Carols played in the background. Jovial waitresses were decked out in Santa hats – holiday cheer abounded!

Suddenly a rather scrubby, poorly dressed fellow entered and approach the young clerk at the cash register. From what I could gather, he was asking for a handout of some sort. The clerk seemed anxious and unsure of how to handle the situation. While speaking, the man glanced out the front window several times, which caused me to do the same.

Evidently he wasn’t alone. He had two companions outside, one being a terribly thin dog that appeared to be a medium-sized, mixed breed. The sight of the devoted and underweight canine friend was all it took. My appetite vanished right along with my warm fuzzy feelings of the holiday season.

“Oh, I can’t handle this,” grumbled a man at the table next to me. He pushed his plate away, got up, and walked to the cash register. “I want several big broiled chicken breasts for that poor dog out there.” His voice was coarse and he had a look of true anguish on his face. “Can you bag up a couple of to-go meals for the dog’s owners too?”

The clerk’s nervous expression was instantly replaced with a huge smile. “Yes, sir! Oh – thank you so much.”

The chicken was ready before the meals, and the generous stranger high-tailed it out the door. Being curious, I hustled outside and lingered by my car. Passing by the dog’s owner, I had noticed the smell of alcohol.

But the aroma of chicken had the dog’s tail wagging to beat the band. In fact, her entire body wagged. Her newfound-friend offered small bites while stroking her lackluster, drab, reddish coat and speaking in a calm, loving voice.

“Her name is Sadie,” said the man. “She’s a real good dog. We found her roaming the streets about four months ago. She just kind of took to us and hasn’t left our side since. My name is Ed. That guy inside is my brother, Charles.”

As I studied Sadie more closely it was apparent she had been, or was possibly still, nursing a litter of pups. She was definitely in need of the chicken she was savoring.

Her big, beautiful, brown eyes spoke volumes as she devoured each bite with all the manners of a true lady. I wondered how long it had been since she’d had the satisfaction of a full tummy. What a shame, as it was obvious she was a kind, loyal, and gentle soul.

When finished, she gave her new friend a quick kiss on the cheek, then walked over, sat at the feet of her owner, and continued to lick her chops. A complete stranger had given her a gift beyond description, and I wondered who this man might be.

Then out walked Charles with the to-go meals and both brothers expressed sincere thanks. Ed offered up an added comment. “God bless you, Mister, and Merry Christmas.”

The generous stranger looked both men in the eye. “You know this loyal companion of yours would feed you first, any day of the week. Even if she had a drinking problem – she’d meet your needs before buying another bottle. In fact, she would lay down her life for you.” The brothers hung their heads in shame.

“Sir, we love Sadie. She’s all we have,” stammered Charles. “I promise you right now, we’ll do the best we can for her. But I want you to know she always has fresh water from the faucet at the gas station over yonder. And we’re awfully careful when we find food in dumpsters. Nothing has ever made any of us sick.”

Ed interrupted nervously. “We took her pups to the Animal Shelter hoping they’d find good homes. They said Sadie was older and wasn’t likely to be adopted. We couldn’t stand to think they might put her down, so we kept her. We’re a family.”

The stranger spoke again with his deep, gruff voice, “I’ll make a deal with you. When you can’t feed Sadie she will have a running tab at this café, but one of the employees will always watch to be sure she is fed every single bite. The food is for her – I hope you understand what I’m saying. I’ve known the owner of this place for years. All you need to do is ask for the boss, and tell him Sadie needs chicken breasts -- he’ll take care of it.”

Tears welled up in the eyes of both men. Ed knelt down and wrapped his arms around the dog’s neck. “Did you hear that Sadie? You’ll never have to fall asleep with your stomach growling again.”

Both men began to offer thanks once more, but the gentleman turned away as tears began to trickle down his face. He crouched down and spoke directly to Sadie. “If your owners take care of you, I’ll see to it that they get an occasional meal too. I’ll be getting reports on your condition from the folks that work here. They’ll be watching for you, sweet girl.”

I climbed into my car and dried my eyes as I watched Sadie’s benefactor walk back inside. Through the plate glass window I could see him speaking with the owner who was nodding his head in approval, while shaking hands with Sadie’s Christmas Angel.


By . . . Kathleene S. Baker








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