Much of writing involves discipline—sitting at the desk, day in and day out, and working even if you aren’t exactly filled with inspiration. I believe this is called discipline, and it is essential not only for writing but for many other things, too.
However, once in a while a writer gets lucky, and a story seemingly drops out of nowhere, practically whole cloth with only a small amount of fiddling. So it was for me this November with my short story “The Dog Angel,” with two things coming together to inspire me.
First, there was Aimee Man’s melancholy but lovely Christmas song “Calling on Mary.”
Then there was this ornament, which I featured in a previous post.
Actually, there was a third inspiration, and if you look closely through the glass table, you can see Rumer Godden’s The Story of Holly & Ivy, one of my favorite Christmas tales. Do read it if you haven’t already. Anyway, “The Dog Angel” is a sort of homage to The Story of Holly & Ivy.
In my imagination, I saw a little dark-haired girl and her dark-haired mother, two drifters in the snow, homeless. They were in Waterville, Maine, in the 1970s, in the South End, the Franco-American section of town where I lived when I was very young. Because I like fantasy and folderol, I added a dog angel.
And the rest, dear readers, I will let you discover for yourselves if you are in the mood for a Maine Christmas story. “The Dog Angel” is a free online read available on our Hinterlands Press website. It’s a longish story—about 7,000 words—but it pops along, and you can certainly read it in sections if you like.
Happy holidays to all! May the spirit of generosity be with us not only now but throughout the rest of the year, too.
92 thoughts on “The Dog Angel: A Maine Christmas Story”
Your wish for a spirit of generosity to last year long is a wonderful wish. How I hope it affects us all.
Aw, what a sweet story — I love the dog!!! Isn’t it funny how ideas spring from out of nowhere sometimes?
Many thanks! It really is a wonder when a story just comes together like that.
Thanks for the online story, I have marked that for my January reading month…looking forward to it. I agree with Susan, may the spirit of generosity last the year long, for all of us.
Yes, indeed! Enjoy.
Thank you for this delightfully uplifting story!
You are very welcome!
Can’t wait. Thanks for a gift.
You amaze me! I love Aimee Mann and Rumer Godden!!❤
And I think dogs are angels on earth even before they get to heaven. I am so looking forward to your story. Thank you Laurie for adding to the magic of Christmas! 🌟
We are definitely kindred spirits.
Wonderful! I will make it this evening’s reading.
I sat here in my car and gobbled up your story! I hope she got Eight Cousins for Christmas (and doesn’t Rose In Bloom come after? ) What a wonderful magical Christmas story. I loved everything about it! The French language, the healing glowing dog angel and the feeling of caring neighbors. The little girl with her love of reading and cream horns could have been me. Thank you Laurie!❤
So wonderful to read how you gobbled up the story. Very glad you loved all the various aspects of the story. And, yes, “Rose in Bloom” came after, which I also read. You probably won’t be surprised to learn I got my own copy of “Eight Cousins” at Zayre’s. 😉
How wonderful to know! We were both reading our Louisa May Alcott books at opposite sides of our country — you in the very north east and me in the very south west. I wish I would have known you but now we are friends across the miles!
Right? Well, as you noted, now we are friends across the miles.
Well, I thought I’d just read the beginning now and save the rest for later, but you know…one sentence led to the next. So sweet. A perfect Christmastime story.
Thank you, thank you! What a wonderful compliment.
You’re welcome. I enjoyed it.
Thanks for the story and the background (how had I forgotten Rumer Godden?). I will mark the story for reading in the next few days!
My pleasure! Hope you enjoy it.
I did. I do crave a good ending–much better than the little match girl (ugh). And who hasn’t met a dog angel?
You got that right! And what’s the sense of having a dog angel and not having a good ending?
What a beautiful story. Right up there with Tomie dePaola’s retelling of The Legend of the Christmas Poinsettia. Both books choke me up in the same way at the endings. If I hadn’t retired from first grade, your book would have been in my read aloud pile by my chair. Thanks so much for sharing!
P.S. “Zayre’s”. Yup, the store of my youth…..
Or is that “Zayres”…..oh, punctuation!
In Waterville, it was always said and intended as a possessive. Don’t know why. We did it with every single store. 😉
Going forward, I will give it further thought. But I did deliberate. 😉
LOL! Here in Massachusetts, it was always Zayre’s in my mind, and I didn’t even notice how it was spelled in your story. But, as I was commenting, it didn’t look right, and I thought, “Oh, great, Julie! After teaching kids to read and write for 34 years, you just put the apostrophe in the wrong place. How lame! ”
So my take is :leave it the way it is in your story, just as in Waterville, and Western Mass! 😉
I have come up with a solution: “No more little toys and the occasional book from Zayre—or Zayre’s as everyone called it—a department store downtown by the library.” And from then on I can refer to it as “Zayre’s” Phew, problem solved. 😉
Wow, this comment really made my day. Thank you so very much. And, yes, those of us of a certain age will remember Zayre’s, as we called it. When I looked it up, there was no possessive s, but that’s how we always said it, which was why I had it that way from Darcy’s perspective.
P.S. A fun coincidence—Tomie dePaola and I share the same birthday. Many years apart, of course.
When I was a young teacher, I took a long weekend course with Tomie at Omega in New York. It was about creativity, and it made a huge impression on my teaching. I always did a “Strega Nona” unit with the kids.
I am green with envy. Wonderful advice. What a treat to share a birthday with such a wise, creative man.
Thank you for sharing your Christmas story, Laurie. I’m so glad it ended well for Darcy and Janine.
My pleasure. No “Little Match Girl” ending, that’s for sure. However, I’m still worried about Darcy and Janine, and more stories are in the works.
It’s so interesting you mention the “little match girl,” Laurie. I hadn’t thought of that fairy tale until recently, when I realized with how many sad or even cruel tales I grew up in Germany. I used to listen to an audiotape recording of that particular tale, and it almost always made me cry. So did your story, but for different reasons. I prefer happy to sad endings.
A-w-w-w, very sweet to hear that my story made you cry. As for stories back in the day…some of them were pretty harsh. But then again, so was life.
Laurie, I just read it aloud to my husband. He is practically weeping. Our dog has a fluffy white tail and pointy black ears! He’s our dog angel, but he’s not going anywhere! (I had to look up some of the French: tête de pioche). Nice story. Thank you! Merry Christmas, with homemade hot cocoa and cream horns!
Oh, my gosh! So moved that you read it aloud to your husband.And a fluffy white dog with black ears? Please give him a pat for me. Merry Christmas to you and yours!
Tahnk you for your generosity in sharing your story.
You are most welcome!
Stories are the best way to celebrate the season, and yours was a fine one. Thanks for sharing it, and for the gentle reminder that generosity always is in season.
Many thanks! My pleasure.
Thank you so much for this story. I am off to read it (beside the fireplace) right now!
My pleasure! Merry Christmas.
Lovely story, Laurie thank you for this gift.
Many thanks! My pleasure.
Looking forward to reading it… thanks, Laurie! x
My pleasure! I hope the Franco references bring back memories.
A lovely story with a promising ending. You just know things will work out for them. And yes, the French did bring back memories of my mother and grandmother. 🙂
Thanks, Eliza! Planning to write a series of Franco stories that catches the language and flavor of the culture. Naturally, there will also be folderol. 😉
Laurie, thank you for sharing your story. I appreciate stories of love and caring, and a sweet dog is a nice touch. Happy holidays. xo
Many thanks and happy holidays to you.
Thank you so much for the story Laurie, I look forward to reading it over the holidays. Wishing you and Clif a magical Christmas too 💜🎄 xxx
Wonderful! And a magical Christmas to you, too.
Thank you Laurie! 💖
Thank you Laurie for this Christmas gift to us all. I’m saving it for a Christmas Day or Boxing Day treat.
Hope you enjoy it.
You are so generous Laurie sharing your story online and free! I am certainly going to read it over Christmas. Thank you! Sometimes being creative is a slog and sometimes things just flow. Have a wonderful Christmas and I hope 2022 is full of ‘flow’ for you and Cliff.
My pleasure! Enjoy.
Beautiful story, but it made me cry. Some aspects of the story hit a little too close to home and childhood memories. You are a skilled story teller, and I thank you for sharing this with us. Virtual hug from me to you. ❤️
Thank you so very, very much! Your kind words mean a lot to me. And a virtual hug from me to you.
A beautifully written, well crafted, story, Laurie. I don’t think it possible to put it down to read it in sections.
Thank you so very, very much. Your kind words made my day.
Thank you so much for the story. I am sure the Dog Angel will help me through the next week as I frantically try to finish off some handmade presents.
Good luck with finishing those presents.
Thank you for the link, Laurie. I shall look forward to reading the Dog Angel over Christmas. Meanwhile, the Aimee Mann song was good to listen to.
Hope you enjoy the story. I focus on a part of the U.S. and an ethnic group that many people haven’t heard of. And…Aimee Mann is so good.
How lovely! I shall look forward to reading the story in the coming days, Laurie. Thank you 🤶
And thank you!
A beautiful song and sweet offer to share your story, Laurie. I know what you mean about some stories just coming out right the first time. That doesn’t happen often for me. Lol. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. 🙂
Thank you for this generous and thoughtful Christmas gift Laurie, I hope to find a bit of time to read it over the holidays. xx
Thank you for the story. ❤
What a lovely, heartwarming story, Laurie, woven in a Christmas season tapestry, presented to the reader as only you can! My eyes are still full of tears.
Oh, thanks so much for your very kind words!
That is a beautiful song from Aimee Mann, too.
She is one of my favorites!
Loved the Maine Christmas Story and reading about what inspired the story!🙂
So glad you liked it! Many thanks for reading it.
My dear, departed sister introduced me to Aimee Mann. This song is lovely.
Especially poignant for you.
I read the story, Laurie. It was just what I needed today. Thank you so much!
My pleasure! Glad you liked it.
I loved the story. It made me weepy because I used to be a house cleaner and always feared an injury that would prevent me from working and make me lose my home. I had some close calls, and a friend’s mom who did the same work had a stroke at a client’s house. Oh my. I could really identify with these characters. I love the way you describe the little haven of an apartment. I also like the way you included the practicality of a bathroom, often completely left out of stories. :-). I hope the daughter ends up with a sizable bookcase of her very own.
Many, many thanks! I am so pleased that the story moved you. More to come!
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