The evening of December 25, 1972 was a very exciting night for my family.

Several weeks earlier we learned that Amanda was going to have puppies and we knew it would be around Christmas.  Her veterinarian provided instructions on what to do if she needed help in delivering or if any of the puppies needed help.  He told us how to hold a puppy’s head in our hand and snap our hand back to help get the mucus out of its nostrils and mouth, if needed.  He told us that Amanda would really know instinctively what to do.  I was 12 years old and my previous cat had two litters of kittens, one of which I observed being born, so I thought I was somewhat aware of the process.  In preparation Dad built a wooden box large enough for Amanda to lay in and put a rug in it for warmth and cushioning.  Then we waited.

Amanda was a full-blood German Shepherd who we got about a year earlier.  We created a name for her that symbolized her heritage and identified her to our family.  We named her Amanda Von Kaydonway Brown.  Von, the German word for ‘of’ and Kaydonway for the first 3 letters of each of our family members’ names mine, my Mom’s and my Dad’s:  Kay, Donna, Wayne.  Amanda was an extremely protective dog.  Not as playful as some but very loyal and protective.  Initially, when we got her she appeared to be frightened of us especially near our kitchen table and we wondered if she been mistreated during her first year of life.  Soon, however, she trusted us completely and clearly felt ‘at home’.

On Christmas evening the wait was over, it was time.  My parents and I gathered around and watched the birth of these adorable puppies and Amanda, who trusted us implicitly allowed us to be present.  She knew right where to have them, in that box, which was in our extra bedroom, so it was indoors and warm.  One of the puppies was not breathing and Dad worked and worked doing exactly as the vet had told us.  We each held our breath as we watched, fearing the worst but hoping for the best.  Just when our hope was almost gone, the puppy’s passageway cleared and it began breathing!  All of Amanda’s puppies were healthy and we all were so happy.

Click to enlarge

I don’t remember how many were in the litter, 5 or 6, I think.  The puppies looked a lot like Amanda with the black fur and brown accents.  We did not know who their daddy was because Amanda insisted on jumping the 6′ tall electric fence and venture out on her own a little almost every day.

At the time the puppies were born we also had a Siamese cat so our modest house was pretty full of pets.  We raised the puppies until they were weaned and sold each one to what we believed were good homes.  Right after we sold the last puppy, we got a Siamese kitten that was clearly too young to have been weened – she was so small she could crawl under the closed bedroom door where we tried to keep her contained.  It didn’t take long for her to identify a source of milk and Amanda very patiently allowed her to nurse until she was able to ween her.  That was such an odd sight to see this very large dog with this very tiny kitten all cuddled together.

I will always remember the joy of that Christmas.

Update from my mother:

When we bought Amanda, her owners told us they were selling her because they had been unable to break her of jumping up on the table to eat the food – during meals. When we got her home, we found she was terrified to eat with people around at all. It was months before she was willing to take a bite of food in our presence – pretty clear evidence they had beaten her into states of terror.

Amanda was a registered Shepherd. She had actually been shown in dog shows and had won best in show in the puppy or young dog category [not ever having shown dogs before, I don’t know the actual category]. As you mentioned, Amanda kept jumping over fences to get out. One day when she was in the street, she was hit by a truck; apparently her rib was fractured and healed with a bump in the bone, which disqualified her from being shown again. She was clearly a beautiful shepherd and, as you said, a very loyal member of the family.

This is my submission for the Advent Calendar Christmas Memories 2009

Day 9 is author’s choice to post from a topic that helps you remember Christmases past!