This was the first "extended" Watching story after the original short story of The Watching. A lot of new readers will not have read this story and if you are a long time reader, I hope you enjoy it as much as you did the first time it was written.
Simon is real, he still lives with me and enjoys watching his grandchildren and great grandchildren playing here. He is quite active and healthy and enjoys life. And yes, he still is a bit of a worry corgi. Of course, all my stories are real and based on real animals and people. And some event always triggers the ideas for my stories, so that is real, too. And there is the magic of Christmas, that a story can come so easily out of some random ideas and thoughts along with real characters in my life.
Since we did not publish the story this year, if you like it and want to help homeless corgis with medical bills, please visit www.corgiaid.org and give them a donation. It is my passion to help with homeless corgi and other animals and this is a great organization that spends 99% of the money received to help this mission. Thank you all and may you have a blessed Christmas with your loved ones, both furred and non furred, and a lovely and happy New Year!
The Watching, 2004
By Millie Williams
Corgis are happy, upbeat dogs with sunshine in their little souls. However, Simon was not happy. He was depressed, and that is a bad attitude for a corgi to have. He managed to hide it from those at the Castle. He was still happy enough at dinnertime, happy to see the humans and other animals who lived there, happy to go out and play a good game of Stick. But deep inside, he was not happy.
It had all come about because of The Watching, the special ceremony that many corgis and other animals participated in on Christmas Eve. Humans had their special events, and the corgis and animals had their own. The Watching rules stated that no puppy under six months old could attend. This was because it was such a solemn event, and no one wanted a shrieking puppy crying out or getting bored and whining non stop through the special event. Although Isabelle, his mother, had made a special request to bring Simon, it was turned down. Simon had been born three days too early. There was nothing to be done for it. Puppies come to Earth when they come to Earth.
The Emperor had given him a special hambone to gnaw on, thinking that it would make him forget about the ceremony. The Lady-In-Waiting had held him in her arms in the special rocking chair, and rocked him and read his favorite book to him, The Cat in the Hat. His mother and the other corgis tried hard to think of nice things to do to help assuage his feelings. Everyone thought he had gotten over it. Everyone was wrong.
Now, Simon was a very serious young red and white corgi pup. He took his responsibilities very seriously, always trying his hardest and sometimes the Lady-In-Waiting would have to remind him it was okay to laugh and chase his tail or splash through some puddles. He would, and he did, and he enjoyed it. But he never would have thought of these things on his own. He fretted about things, like if Blanco, the Princess' white burro, didn't have his hay bales stacked neatly in the barn. Whether the top that was on the trash can outside the Castle's back door was correctly on and tight so the raccoons couldn't get in and scatter the trash around. Whether one kind of bird or another that ate at the feeders outside the windows were getting their fair share. He obsessed about bits of gravel that the others tracked or kicked up on the sidewalk, carefully nosing them off back into the yard. He was a born organizer and one is needed in every family. Since good King Jordan had left for the Bridge some years before, no one had taken over these duties and kept an eye on everything.
Everyone expected great things of Simon. But first, he had to learn to be a puppy. And that was something that Simon never wanted to be.
As the holidays drew closer, all the corgis began to make their gifts.
Very few corgis actually bought gifts, they all much preferred to give
things that they had made. And what innovative and interesting gifts
they made! The littlest puppies made simple things such as dyed
macaroni necklaces. This resulted in little paws being dyed different
colors, as well as a muzzle or two. The Emperor could not stop smiling
at the Great Table in the Castle when the pups ate their dinners. He
loved the colored muzzles and paws and would speculate as to how many
necklaces he and the Lady-In-Waiting would be wearing on that Christmas
day. Puppies also made a lot of paintings, gluing bits of corgi hair to
whatever animals they drew. There were dozens of these on the walls,
the maids carefully slipping off some of the older pictures to be sure
there was room for newer pups to have room to put theirs up on Christmas day. Clay modeling was also quite popular and much care had to be taken in admiring a creation, remarking on how like an owl it was, when the puppy had actually fashioned a giraffe. One had to seek careful hints, such as "Now these are interesting purple spots, does this animal have spots like this?" and hope for a statement that would help one to guess the identity of the creation.
The older pups tried to come up with different ideas and tried to
reflect the fact that they had grown up and were "adults". Photo books
with favorite pictures were a good choice to make and always
appreciated. Scarves, carefully cut out and hemmed. Everyone could
always use a new scarf. Some of the youngsters made collar covers and a
few who were really good could make some simple stuffed toys.
The adults didn't usually make gifts, seeing this as something special
that the pups were allowed to do. But occasionally they would make some
gifts for the youngest ones, usually in the form of food or a promise of a special outing in the woods. Puppies loved to go for rambles in the woods but were not allowed to go by themselves; they must always have an adult with them.
Then there was Simon. He was too old to make "baby gifts" as he called
them. But the older pups who were going to be attending their first
Watching said he was a baby because he couldn't go to the Watching.
This made him more miserable and he started to stay out of the Great
Hall in the evenings, and kept to himself. He felt like he didn't
belong anywhere at all and took to hanging around Blanco's stall a good
Simon felt that he just didn't belong anywhere.
One day, Simon attempted to make something very different for the Emperor. He had taken his favorite objects, sticks, and had tried to tie them together into something. First, he tried to make wind chimes. But the sticks and the strings kept getting all tangled up. After a few hours of frustration, he decided to make a wall hanging and tried to decorate it with feathers that he had found in the Royal Chicken yard. But the wall hanging looked like a mess, and he stuffed it under a bush, which of course, puzzled the Gardener who found it later on.
It was getting closer and closer to Christmas and finally, St. Frank, Patron Saint of all the little animals here on Earth, decided that something must be done. He had been busy planning The Watching for this year and decided that Simon needed a job and found some small chores for Simon to help with. This pleased Simon very much and kept him busy and occupied during the day. It was exactly what Simon needed, to be able to organize and help out. At night, he would still sulk about not being able to attend, but then, at least he felt included and not shut out of the whole ceremony.
St. Frank also spent some time throwing Simon's ball for him. He showed Simon different ways to catch and to anticipate where the ball would land. Simon took the lessons very seriously, not having as much fun as St. Frank would have liked to have seen. Simon approached this as he did all things, cautiously and intently. St. Frank wished the child would let loose a happy scream as he dashed for the ball. But it just wasn't in Simon's nature. However, St. Frank still took the time to be with Simon, and Simon blossomed by being needed.
As the time approached for The Watching, decorations were put up, parties planned, and events scheduled. Like most corgis everywhere, the corgis at the Castle usually made a week long celebration, starting right before Christmas and going to New Ears Day. New Ears was a special day with its own ceremonies, including the Washing Of All Ears by the eldest corgis in the Castle, but that is another story for another time. Corgis would sit patiently by the mailbox and wait for the mailman, who brought wonderful, beautiful cards with wondrous
smells for them to look at, with good wishes from friends all over the world. Cards would be sent back and everyone helped except for Princess Buttercup, because she was a messy little tomboy fluffy and a good many stamps and return address stickers somehow always ended up stuck to her coat. Buttercup took this with good form, though, and would busy herself playing in the mud in the yard when others were preparing the cards. She did, however, always manage to hit a few of the cards with a slightly muddy paw, thereby showing that she could participate, too.
Finally, the special day arrived, bright and sunny. The corgis had all prayed for mild weather and clear skies. And it looked like this was going to be so. After breakfast, preparations began, the sleds were decorated, and special collars and jingle bells were laid out. Blanco and the other ponies were bathed and groomed and everyone got a good brushing. After lunch, a long nap was taken and then a light dinner was served. No one wanted to walk on a big meal and there would be a special breakfast at dawn, when the corgis arrived home. It was a very long walk out to the Watching site and would take several hours to march each way.
Soon, they were on their way. Sleigh bells jingled and Blanco lead off the procession, pulling the sleigh with the eldest of corgis, and Lickety Split, a beautiful older white Welsh pony, followed with another sleigh filled with more blanket covered elder animals. Several elderly squirrels sat on Lickety Split's back and chattered away. Lickety Split was careful where he swished his tail. When he accidentally knocked one of the squirrels off, he had to stop and wait until someone could help it back up. It was easiest to just not swish. Blanco had elderly birds sitting on his back and the edges of the sled. There were some bright cardinals with a bit of white around their beaks. Some corgi had tied a bit of green ribbon around each one's neck and it was a sight to see. The cardinals were quite pleased with how they looked.
Following Lickety Split, there was another group of small sleighs with blankets and hot drinks. In the center of the blankets was a new corgi, called Noelle Marie. She had been recently rescued and was sitting with Paris Lynn and the Angelic Silver. Noelle Marie was shy, and she had bad knees. She had asked for new knees for Christmas so she could run and play. Paris Lynn and the Angelic Silver kept her calm and focused. Noelle Marie had had several litters and didn't know where any of her puppies were. And she had never been to a Watching, either. She was excited but unsure, and the other two girls chattered away, to keep her mind off of being fearful. She had been placed on top of the highest blankets so she could see everything and her spotted coat was visible from quite a distance, as the sleigh swayed to and fro.
Bringing up the rear were the younger corgis and other animals, who were able to walk the entire distance. It was quite a long line, stretching into the woods.
Some of the eldest of corgis knew that this was their last Watching. They had put applications in with St. Frank and several had been accepted for very special jobs over the Rainbow Bridge. They didn't talk about this much, as it upset those close to them. They would only speak of it among themselves. In any case, they would enjoy the ride in the sleighs, and know that next year, they might be chosen to work "behind the scenes", as it were.
Simon stood at the window and watched everyone go. The only ones left in the Castle were the humans, the tiny babies under six months old, and several corgis who had volunteered to stay at home and watch the puppies so that all the others could go. He felt badly, but not as badly as he had in the weeks previously. He knew at least he had been a part of The Watching, and St. Frank had told him how to focus on how he would be going next year, when he was over six months old.
He decided to play in the corner of the Great Hall with a ball for a while, then, being bored, he dozed off with his head on the ball.
Then he heard a voice.
Simon sat up and looked around. Who was calling him?
"Over here!" Simon followed the sound of the voice and here was a small
chipmunk! He looked curiously at the little striped rodent.
"Come with me," the little animal said, "for I have a surprise for you!"
Once outside, the little chipmunk explained what he wanted and Simon's eyes grew round. Was this allowed? He put the thought away and decided to act and not think so much about things. In his serious style, he told the chipmunk, whose name was, coincidentally, Alvin, that they could go faster if Alvin would climb on his back and ride. Alvin reluctantly agreed, but he did know that Simon spoke the truth. Where were they going? Why, to The Watching, of course! Even though it was forbidden, the two young animals raced through the woods, forgoing
the safer path and risking danger from being lost. However, Alvin seemed sure about where they needed to go.
It took several hours to get there, as going overland and without a trail is much harder than sticking to a path that is well worn and smooth. Peeking through the woods, the two baby animals could see the corgis gathering in the distance, spreading out blankets and greeting ones who were newly arrived. It was twilight now, and to be honest, Simon was just a little concerned. From what he had heard of The Watching, this was where it took place. Right next to where they were standing. He wasn't sure he wanted to be next to such a powerful event, especially when they weren't even supposed to be here. He was having second thoughts about having come.
"What do we do now?" he asked Alvin.
The chipmunk told him that his instructions were to wait by this big rock and be patient. This was hard for Simon, as he just knew, in his very serious way, that he was going to be in deep trouble. The chipmunk could run up a tree and hide or dive under the rock. But Simon was bigger and it would be harder to hide quickly. Sighing, he laid down and put his serious little head on his front paws. It had been such a long walk, and after a bit, he dozed off and Alvin burrowed under his chin to stay warm.
Suddenly, Simon was awake. And to his great dismay, St. Frank was standing right there, tapping his foot and looking grave. Simon swallowed and nudged Alvin awake. Alvin scampered to Simon's back.
"Oh, St. Frank," Simon began, "I can explain..", while knowing in his heart that he could not. He couldn't even think of an excuse or a reason for why he was here.
"Shhh..." said St. Frank. "I know why you are here. You were brought here!" And in the twinkling of an eye, Alvin, who only weighed a few ounces and was quite small suddenly loomed over him and when Simon looked to see what was happening, he realized it was St. Frank's old friend, Brother Wolf. Simon had heard stories about Brother Wolf. This was amazing Christmas magic!
Quickly, St. Frank explained what was needed, and Simon, who was too stunned to talk, nodded his agreement.
In just a few moments, The Watching was to begin.
As in previous Watchings, the sky, which was dark, began to lighten. Colors began to shoot across the sky and blaze in different shades. Although those in attendance were supposed to be totally silent, Simon could hear a slight "Oh!" scattered about the watchers as a brilliant beam would shoot heavenward or a sharp intake of breath as some colors would twirl and dance. It was better than any fireworks anywhere and even the corgis who were scared of fireworks enjoyed the show that The Boss put on every year. He stared, mesmerized, and enjoyed the sight.
Then the real magic began. The colorful lights dimmed and the ghostlike figures began to appear. Here was a small barn with the doors open. Then a man came out of the barn and lifted his hands upwards. In a few moments, a lady followed, carrying a small bundle, which Simon could see was a human Baby. The Baby was put down in the manger outside the barn and some sheep and cattle wandered over to see what was in their feeding area. The sheep sang in a baa baa fashion and the cows lowed in harmony. Soon, there were the three strange creatures with the humps that fascinated all the corgis, and their humans. They were called camels, Simon knew this, but neither he nor any of the other corgis he knew had ever actually seen one in real life. And then some shepherds came along, followed by more sheep. He stared at them, then he felt a slight push from a wet nose.
Alvin, aka Brother Wolf, said "You're on, kid!" which made Simon feel very special! Not every corgi pup was called Kid by a real live wolf!
St. Frank handed him his special package and stepped back. A large black Labrador named Kal was to accompany Simon. Cautiously, Simon made his way over the field. He could hear some gasps as the crowd realized that a corgi was in the Watching this year. He didn't think anyone recognized him, though. The Labrador said Simon was doing just fine, just keep walking to the spot by the manger. And for Heaven's sake, don't stop to sniff or to…well…you know. Normally, Simon would have sighed, but he was too scared. He was a BIG boy and knew better than to do that at such an important time!
After what seemed a long time, Simon and Kal arrived at the manger. The figure of the man, who had seemed quite ghostlike at first, was clear and sharp when Simon now looked at him. He smiled a gentle smile and Simon wagged politely.
"Thir," he tried to say, his mouth filled with cloth, "I hab a prethent thor the Babeth."
The man's smile grew larger and he accepted the cloth wrapped bundle with a larger smile and unwrapped a special present, the most special of all presents.
Why, it was another puppy! A baby Labrador! What a perfect present for the Baby! Simon gave a little woof of happiness and heard Kal whisper
"sshhhhh!" Uh-oh, he had done it now. Surely someone in the crowd would
recognize him now.
The man placed the baby Labrador in the manger and then the skies became brightly lit. On one side of the sky was a number of odd looking dogs. Many recognized this as a special choir of New Guinea Singing Dogs, who had been brought together specially for this event. No one could resist joining in song with a Singing Dog!
On the other side was an assortment off all kinds of animals. Gasps could be heard as the corgis on the hills surrounding the Watching recognized Pebbles, who had recently gone to the Bridge. Hearts had been broken when she left, but this was now forgotten and healed immediately. And was that Lovey, the rescue corgi who had recently left? Yes, it was! Dancer stood and waved his plume of a black tail. The twins, Quest and Cochise, wiggled their little red bunny butts. They were so pleased to see her again. And Raider was there, too. How handsome he looked, young and strong again. Lovey looked beautiful, as did Pebbles, young and with a beautiful coat. Next to Pebbles...could it be? Of course! Several corgis' hearts leapt with joy. It was Rocky, who had just left them. His eyes were clear and alert and all pain was gone. He had a beautiful voice.
And Staci was next to Rocky! A dog in the crowd whined a little. It was
Nicki the lab, who missed Staci ever so much. She wondered how Staci's
mouth felt and then felt a warm glow of comfort, and knew that the mouth was healed and perfect. Oh, but there was more. Mimi, Staci's sister, had been so lonesome without her sister, that she had gone, too, and there she was, right in the choir, together with Staci! Dan, the cardigan, turned to Nicki, and licked her ears in joy! Nicki's tail thumped in rhythm to the song being sung.
Rally, Reggie and Luke suddenly stood up from their place on the edge of the crowd of animals. They were quite agitated! They had spotted Sara Lee! Beautiful, beautiful Sara Lee, who glowed now, like a new copper penny. Some Angel above must have brushed her and brushed her to make her shine so.
The corgis' eyes were drawn to a corgi with a particularly sweet voice. It was Vera! She had been so sick and courageous to the end. Guido and Helen sat up straighter, proud to hear their sister's voice lifted in aroos once more.
Ceildah jumped up on a stump for a better look. She had tears in her eyes. Was she there? Had she made the long trip? Yes, there she was, in the middle. It was Russka, who was supposed to be singing the song but was madly waving a short leg at her sister, and smiling a smile that lit up the animals around her. Several corgis chuckled when they saw Ceildah waving back.
And who was the red headed tri color, leading the song? Oh. they could
hardly believe their eyes. It was Ladybug, who had once been a throwaway rescue corgi with no hope. None at all. But The Boss had found her a wonderful home filled with love for her last few years and now she was leading the whole choir! Well, of course, she did have to lead the choir, they all realized. As was her usual custom, she had a bright yellow, brand new tennis ball in her mouth and her black eyes were shining with happiness!
There were so many more that many of the corgis forgot about the beautiful songs to search for a familiar loved face. So many were there, King Jordan, Digory, a precious hound named Quentin. All those who had left their loved ones on Earth, to go to a better place.
There was a large tricolor dog with all the Heavenly Corgis…no one knew who it was. It was a Swiss Mountain Dog! A rustle went through the
crowd…"who?"..."do we know that one?" The answer came back from a young tricolored Cardigan named Sam. Sam was quite distinctive as he had one ear up and one ear down. In spite of vigorous taping, it remained so. Sam liked it. Not every corgi had such an unusual look.
"Heidi...it's Heidi," he said. Heidi had left long before Sam came to live with LauraMom. Why, how could he know for sure that it was Heidi? "She picked me," Sam replied, "and sent me to LauraMom." Sam was very proud of this. Heidi came to him at night and told him things to do to make LauraMom's heart happier. He was very grateful for Heidi's Heavenly help.
Down in the crowd, Indy gave a little shiver of anticipation. The old German shepherd knew this was his last Watching, but was thrilled to know he could participate next year. His old eyes drank in the beautiful sight of old animals made young again and his tail thumped with great happiness. Oh, he wasn't scared at all, now. He was pleased to see Boris, the German shepherd who had lived with the B's, Banjo, Brenna, Blue and Buck Owen. He knew he would have a friend to frap with and to show him all the best cookie trees at the Bridge. He also spotted Tanna, who had left a while back, and was pleased to see her, too. When she spotted Indy, she forgot the words to the
song but gave a little "boof" instead.
Now, the ghost like figures on the ground began to fade away. Kal motioned to Simon, and they stepped behind a large rock and crouched down.
"We have to stay here until everyone goes," he explained.
The two choirs continued to sing and hearing the New Guinea Singing dogs caused most of the corgis that were Watchers to join in. The heavenly aroos of the animals at the Bridge was a strong testament to their faith that life goes on. Nearly everyone was misty eyed with happiness.
However, Simon was just scared. Very, very scared. Although he had been
overjoyed to participate, he was still too young. Someone would know.
Someone would see him. Someone would tell. He fretted. And although corgis were rarely punished at the Castle, he didn't want to be one of the ones who had been punished. He cowered a little and then felt a kind hand.
It was St. Frank.
"I will make an announcement at the end. Then you come to me," he said.
Simon nodded and continued to shrink behind the rock. "And don't worry,
so, Simon. Things work out and you will not be punished." Simon felt a
little better about that. Surely St. Frank would explain and make things better for him!
As soon as the singing was over, the figures faded and the lights began
again, bobbing and flashing, diving and dancing. Every color that you can imagine was used in the light show. Finally, it began to fade away and then a single bright star remained. It began to cast a bright light on the field and St. Frank stepped into the light.
"Friends," he called out, "Thank you for attending this year's Watching. As you know, only those of a certain age may attend so that the event is not marred by puppies whining. However, this year, I decided to make a puppy part of the Event."
Turning, he said "Simon, Come!" and Simon, true to training, scampered over and sat at St. Frank's feet. Several corgis recognized Simon at this point and several said "Simon! It's Simon! What is he doing here?"
St. Frank smiled and said, "And still the Tradition continues. Because Simon did not attend this event, he was PART of this event. It meant so much to this puppy to come that special permission was given. And so he was allowed to participate. Thank you, Simon, for your help with putting on the show."
Simon scuffed and shuffled at little bit. He didn't know what to say and so, wisely, said nothing. He felt St. Frank pick him up.
"This is Simon's gift to you all," St. Frank said. "May you all have a
blessed holiday and a peaceful Christmas with those whom you love."
And then the event was over. And suddenly Simon gave a jerk and was awake. What? What happened? Was it really so? He was in the Great Hall with a ball under his chin. The fire had grown low in the fireplace. Then, he heard the singing of the corgis and other animals approaching and he found an acorn next to his ball.
*** Please be sure and view this years Remembrance page which is the following post on the blog, to see loved ones who have left us and are waiting for us.....