Is there one Christmas present you received, that you will never forget?  For some reason, it will always stand out as being special - maybe because of who it was from, or because of your age at the time.  I don't mean something that was necessarily expensive, or flashy - my best gift ever, was neither of those, in fact.

For Christmas in 1981, I was turning 11 years old, and all I wanted was a puppy.  That's it.  But that was not an option at the time.  So, my Aunt Sandi got me what she thought would be the next best thing - a Snoopy stuffed animal, with 10 different outfits to dress him up in.

And I did dress him up, every day for about a year.  Eventually I stopped changing his clothes all the time - but I always talked to him a lot.  I was an only child, so I opened up to Snoopy quite a bit.  And it's kind of funny how I always did feel better after talking to him.  Snoopy is a good listener, as it turns out.

I took him to college with me, but I don't think he liked the college lifestyle very much.  There were a lot of days and nights that I wouldn't come home, and I'm sure he missed me.  Believe me, if I had stayed at home with Snoopy and studied a little more, my grades would've been much better, too.

A few years later, I was the singer in a band in California, we were the "Rude Mechanicals", which is actually a term from Shakespeare.  I was on the road a lot, and, once again, not exactly leading an exemplary lifestyle.  Snoopy and I didn't talk all that much during those years.  In fact, I'm ashamed to admit that I actually tossed him in a plastic trash bag, and forgot about him for a little while.  But I had lost sight of a lot of things that should have been important to me at that time.  I was a young man, that was knowingly doing a lot of bad things.

Then I moved to Minnesota, and somehow Snoopy made the trip in that plastic bag, too.

He saw me get my life back together.  Then I got married, and during a fight with the ex wife, the unthinkable happened.  She wanted to do something that would hurt me, something that I would be very upset about.  She knew I loved my 'Snoop' - so she grabbed him one night, and CUT BOTH OF HIS EARS OFF with a pair of scissors.

I filed divorce papers the next day, of course, but he still looks kinda like a punk rocker, with his ears cut off.

Snoopy now resides with my mom in St. Paul, where he is happy, dressed, and very prominently displayed, for all to see.  I still talk to him when I'm there, and always pick him up, and give him a big kiss.  I love that dog.

That was a Christmas present that has been a meaningful part of my life for the better part of 30 years, and always will be.  And whenever I see him when visiting my mom, I am always reminded of how blessed my childhood really was, and more directly, how important this stuffed animal was to me.  He's certainly still one of my best friends, all these years later.

Thank you Aunt Sandi.  And now that my son is 11 years old, maybe it's time to pass Snoopy down to him.

On second thought, I'm never giving that dog up.

I'm off right now, to get Isaac his own Snoopy.

Happy Holidays!