In 1897, an eight-year-old girl named Virginia O'Hanlon wrote to the New York Sun and asked if Santa Claus really existed. (The answer then--and now--YES!) Over 120 years later, a related question surfaces: did Santa really have a dog?
Author JoAnn Sky tackles this question in her children's book, appropriately named SANTA'S DOG (and no, JoAnn doesn't work for The Sun). But this story is not just relevant to Christmas. See, the Santa's dog has a very special link to military families. Since November is Military Family Month, it's the perfect time to share "the story behind the story."
In other words, yes, Virginia, Santa did have a dog. So grab a cup of hot cocoa and a cozy blankie, and snuggle in with your favorite fur-baby to read the absolutely, positively TRUE story of Santa's dog...
Sampson was three years old when author JoAnn Sky brought him home from a kill-shelter in Las Vegas, only hours before he was scheduled to be put down. JoAnn's husband was deployed to Iraq, and she desperately needed a friend. Sampson, a mixed-breed dog (part husky, part angel) became JoAnn's trusted companion during this trying time. He never left her side. He kept her safe—and sane.
When JoAnn's husband returned, Sampson was there to happily welcome him home. When the pack expanded again for three children, Sampson took it in stride. He seemed to know it was his job to watch them, in particular, the littlest pack member as the boy played with his trucks in the backyard. Sampson was a stalwart protector. One day when no one was home, fierce winds blew open the front doors to the house. When JoAnn returned home and saw the doors wide open, she panicked. But she had nothing to fear. Sampson had positioned himself six feet inside the entrance...guarding. No one was getting in his house.
One day, it occurred to JoAnn that while Sampson didn't ever do anything wrong, JoAnn had to call him several times before he'd look up—like he'd just realized she was there—and then come to her. JoAnn decided something must be wrong with Sampson's hearing! She took him to the vet, and the vet assured her that Sampson's hearing was just fine and that this was typical of "northern" breed dogs—they do things on their own time (like coming when called...). JoAnn went home and told her husband what the vet said, and her husband replied, "Northern dog? I bet he's Santa's dog and got lost from the North Pole!"
Sampson's selective hearing continued, and he also continued to be the best dog ever until he crossed the Rainbow Bridge several years later.
Soon after, JoAnn and her husband were enjoying a glass of wine and remembering Sampson. Sitting on their living room carpet, they talked through a story about a dog who fell from Santa’s sleigh, came to live with a military family while Dad was deployed, and then had to choose whether to go back home with Santa or stay with his new family. They toasted Sampson, positive that he’d decided to stay with them when faced with such a tough choice. To this day, JoAnn and her husband know that Santa gave them the greatest gift of all time: his dog.
Almost ten years later, JoAnn finally wrote that story...
SANTA'S DOG by JoAnn Sky
(Click the image below to watch the video read-aloud—and while you're there, don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don't miss our next video!)
SANTA'S DOG is a heartwarming story that teaches the value of helping others and doing your duty—while reinforcing that love is a beautiful gift. If you love dogs, if you have family or friends in the military, or if you believe in Santa... this story will touch your heart.
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Know a teacher or librarian or homeschooler who'd enjoy SANTA'S DOG? Teacher packets full of lesson plans and problem-based learning projects are available for each of JoAnn Sky's children's books. To receive a free copy of the SANTA'S DOG teacher packet, CLICK HERE and sign up for the Dogs & Books newsletter!