Todd McCray, a developmentally challenged young man who still lives with his parents, hears on the radio that the local animal shelter is looking for families who would be willing to offer temporary foster homes to their animals over the holidays. Todd's father, George, has never really wanted a dog, but Todd uses his powers of persuasion to convince his dad that it would be a good thing. They go to the shelter and pick out a big black dog that Todd names Christmas. When Christmas gets home he is so comfortable with the McCray's that it seems like he's always been a part of their lives. During their traditional Christmas party, Todd and George start telling all their family and friends about the Adopt a Dog for Christmas program, leading to several more dogs finding homes, but when Todd finds out that there are still several dogs in the shelter, he is determined to find every one of them a place to spend the holidays. All throughout the experience, George has been trying to make sure that Todd understands the temporary nature of the arrangement by frequently asking him, "When does Christmas end?," but when all is said and done, it may be George who has to figure out the answer to his own question.
Sometimes it's nice to just kick back with an easy, uncomplicated story that doesn't have any major emotional turmoil, serious conflicts or evil villains to vanquish. In fact, the main purpose of A Dog Named Christmas seems to be that of providing the reader with a feel-good story that is sure to put one in the holiday spirit. A Dog Named Christmas is a simple, straightforward tale of looking for joy in the little things in life and about being of service to others (even if it's a dog) not just at Christmastime, but all year long. It is also a heartwarming story of the bond between a father and son and how they both grow and change through their shared experience of fostering a dog over the Christmas holiday.
Although there are several secondary characters who appear in the story, this book is really about the McCray family, the dad, George, the mother, Mary Ann, and Todd, their developmentally challenged adult son who still lives with them. I really like that the McCray family is a loving and close-knit one who get along well and don't have any major family conflicts. Mary Ann is a feisty but fair woman who is the rock that keeps both George and Todd grounded. Todd is a sweet and endearing young man who reminds me a lot of Forrest Gump. He may be slow on the uptake about some things, but he also has a very perceptive nature and is high-functioning, making him able to do a lot of things that "normal" people can do. He also has an amazing talent with handling and caring for animals. It is Todd's plea to his parents that initially sets things in motion for them to offer a temporary foster home to Christmas, the dog, and it is also Todd's determination to see every dog have a place to spend the holidays which empties out the shelter in time for Christmas.
Although he doesn't really seek to be the "star" of the story, in my opinion, the main character (besides Christmas of course) is really George McCray. A Dog Named Christmas is told in first-person from his perspective, and even though he plays a pivotal role in the adoption of all the dogs and is proud of the accomplishment, he tries to keep the spotlight on Todd. What ends up happening though, is that George has a transformative experience himself. After two "bad" (read heartbreaking) dog experiences as a young man, both of which occurred during his time in the Vietnam war, George is reluctant to ever have a dog in his life again. He has always used the excuse that he's a farmer who has plenty of animals to care for and doesn't need another. Todd can be very persuasive though, and eventually talks George into the temporary adoption. The two of them go to the shelter together to pick out Christmas, and bring him home to discover that he's the best dog ever. Throughout this whole process, George is seeking to teach his son a valuable life lesson about the importance of keeping his word. When all is said and done, Todd has surprised his father with a maturity that George didn't think he possessed, and George is the one who has learned a lesson about dealing with the past and moving forward to the future.
I really enjoyed the way that the author painted Christmas as an independent dog who picked the McCray family every bit as much as they picked him. I strongly believe that animals can be quite perceptive and have always thought that our pets "chose" us too. When adopting them, I always looked for that special connection, and was blessed to find it, so I can really relate to the relationship between Christmas and the McCray's. There were several fun, light-hearted moments in the book that had me smiling, and overall, I found A Dog Named Christmas to be a pleasant, uplifting and heartwarming read, that has found a spot on my keeper shelf to be enjoyed again during future holidays seasons. A Dog Named Christmas is a very gentle story with no objectionable content which would make it a great book to share with the entire family as a holiday reading tradition. I highly recommend this book to all animal lovers or anyone looking for a short, relaxing read during this busy time of year, and it would make a wonderful holiday gift too. A Dog Named Christmas was also made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie that aired on television a few weeks ago. I recorded the program and am really looking forward to watching it.
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