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Patricia A. Nugent: Away from the Manger

Too late, I spotted Baby Jesus’ feet sticking out of Punkin’s mouth – snatched from the tabletop nativity scene. I flew across the room to rescue the Prince of Peace. Punkin took a big gulp, and Jesus disappeared down his gullet.

I’d had that creche since childhood. Each day, I’d hop-scotch the shepherds from table to table across the living room –– bringing them closer to the manger where Jesus would be making a grand entrance on Christmas morning. As an adult, I still moved the Wise Men closer, following the star, even though I’d long rejected the literal narrative of his virgin birth. The story still holds magic and nostalgia for me.

But the Savior had disappeared into my dog’s stomach. Like Jonah and the whale.

his was unusual behavior for Punkin. He didn’t typically eat our stuff; it was more his style to crash into it. But since a mast cell tumor had invaded his golden body, he’d been on oral chemotherapy, which dramatically altered his behavior. The potential cure turned my joyful, interactive golden retriever into a recluse who hid under the piano rather than interact. Knowing that was no life for Punkin, we discontinued treatment to try to re-kindle some of his spark before he died. The Universe granted us a couple more months.

During that time, he ate Jesus. Seemed fitting in a way.

I called the vet’s office: “My dog just ate Baby Jesus from the manger.”


I repeated myself: “My dog just ate Baby Jesus.”


“I’m serious. It was ceramic – about one square inch. I’m quite sure it went down whole – I didn’t see Punkin chew him.”

Pause. “Well, that gives a whole new meaning to ‘the body of Christ,’ doesn’t it?”

I allowed myself to laugh, despite concern for my dog and the disappearance of the lead in my childhood nativity scene.

“Unless he shows distress, just watch for Jesus to exit the other end. It could take 2-3 days.”

“I think he’s too big to come out the other end.”

“You’d be surprised what Jesus can do. Don’t underestimate him. It’ll pass.”

Tittering in the background tells me I’m being broadcast. That clinic had quite a run (and financial boon) with Punkin’s antics over the years.

I hung up and told my husband we had to monitor every poop, searching for the baby. Like King Herod.

“Jeezus,” he muttered.


Over the next few days, we watched for the Second Coming. Nothing that appeared was recognizable as the body of Christ. After three days, we had to assume he’d found another way out.

Excerpted from the book Healing with Dolly Lama: Finding God in Dog © Patricia A. Nugent 2021

4 comments on “Patricia A. Nugent: Away from the Manger

  1. Barbara Huntington
    December 23, 2021

    Needed a morning laugh tempered by the loss of a furry friend

    Liked by 2 people

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