Many years ago, Joel and I used to drive from Illinois to Montana for Christmas. It was something we did every year for the Christmas holiday, the trek across the frozen tundras of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota from Chicago to Bridger. Our dogs at the time, Muddy and Reba, were excellent travel dogs, and the journey meant that we were able to spend a few days with the rest of my family skiing up at Big Sky.

We’d finished a lovely Christmas dinner with my family, my grandparents, and my dad’s sister’s family. Joel, my Aunt Barb, and I drew kitchen duty and began clearing up. Joel and I started on the dishes, and Barb started moving things from large platters to leftover-sized containers and into the refrigerator. We had a large platter of leftover turkey that was perfect to make sandwiches the next few days, and that was moved to a bench on the porch. (In the northern climes, we tend to use the great outdoors as our second refrigerator during winter and major cold-weather holidays). We got everything cleared, the tables and counters wiped down, and started the first load in the dishwasher. I double-bagged the leftover turkey carcass and heaved it up to the top of the six-foot filing cabinets, and that was the end of cleaning up.

Joel and I had just settled in down in the basement to watch Katharine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole in “A Lion in Winter” (fantastic movie by the way) when mum came down the stairs.

“YOUR DOGS,” she said, “ATE THE LEFTOVER TURKEY!!”

“Mom, unless Muddy and Reba learned to rappel and scored some climbing gear from Santa, there is absolutely no way they got to the turkey. It’s six feet up, for heaven’s sake!”

“No, not that turkey,” she said. “The carved turkey, the leftovers that we were planning to take up to the ski hill.”

“Oh. (long pause) Well how did they get that?” I asked.

“You left it outside after you cleaned up. I let all of the dogs out for a bit, and your two found and consumed the turkey. ALL OF IT.” Mum said.

“Yeah, that does sound like Muddy and Reba, or any dog that happens upon a chest-high platter of meat. I guess Merry Christmas to them. And I hope they don’t get sick.”

On the plus side, they licked mum’s good china platter clean with nary a scratch, nick, or crack. Muddy and Reba were extraordinarily thoughtful in that regard. And no, neither of them were the tiniest bit sick, although they both slept really well. We think it was their overdose on tryptophan, although it would have been nice if they’d at least feigned some guilt. (Trust me, they did not.)

This Is the Face That Would Eat Your Christmas Dinner

This Is the Face That Would Eat Your Christmas Dinner
–photo credit Oscar Silva

As horrified as we all were to lose the Christmas turkey to the dogs, we still laugh about that story. Joel and I are in Texas today, having had a Texas Christmas repast replete with roasted turkey breast and brisket, the leftovers of which are currently awaiting to become sandwiches in our chilly garage. We’ve learned our lesson though: no platters, and most importantly, always always always know where the dogs are.