Tandy loved to frisk and frolic. Then he would wag his tail with happiness. But for over a week now he had hardly wagged his tail at all. Something was different in the Phillips’ house where he lived. Everyone was too busy to play with him.

One of the things Tandy liked to do best was to roll over on his back, put his feet in the air, and play dead. Before all the busyness, his playing dead trick always brought him a playful tickle on his tummy or a soft tug on his ear from Paul. Sometimes, Paul’s younger sister, Wendy, or Mother or Daddy would stop and play Tandy’s make-believe game with him. When they tussled him “awake,” Tandy would open his eyes, jump up on his four feet, and dance around the room, fanning the air with his tail.

But since Daddy had brought a tree into the house and the family had covered it with shiny balls and bright lights, no one had time to play with Tandy. The little dog was curious about the tree and sniffed at it suspiciously, wondering what it was all about.

Lately, right after supper, Mother would go to the back bedroom and close the door. Soon Tandy could hear the humming of a sewing machine. When Daddy excused himself from the table, instead of going into the living room to relax and read the newspaper, he went out to the garage and shut the door. It wasn’t long until Tandy could hear a tap-tap-tap of a hammer and the whirrrrrr of an electric drill.

And as quickly as Paul and Wendy finished washing the dishes, they disappeared into their own rooms. When Tandy pattered up to their doors, they were closed, and he could hear that they were busy.

One day Paul didn’t shut his bedroom door tightly, and Tandy trotted in. Next to playing dead, Tandy liked best going into the closet and getting hold of Paul’s old leather slipper to chew on. But the closet door was closed. Of course Tandy had Roscoe, a rubber frog, to play with, but it wasn’t nearly as much fun as the slipper.

Although Tandy was given food and water every day, no one stopped to play with him. That’s why his tail had stopped wagging—he, was lonely and unhappy.

One night after supper Tandy could feel a kind of excitement in the air. Soon he saw Mother and Daddy and Paul and Wendy putting packages under the tree. When the doorbell rang, Paul ran to open it. “Hi! Grandpa,” he called, “Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas to you,” said Grandpa, bending down to give Paul a squeeze. When the doorbell rang again, Wendy answered it. In came aunts and uncles and little cousins. Everyone was smiling and saying, “Merry Christmas!” to each other. When they came over to put their packages by the tree, Tandy had to run behind the couch to get out of the way of all the feet.

Then Paul and Wendy’s mother played the piano and everyone sang happy carols. Tandy came out from behind the couch to sit by Paul and listen. And when Paul rubbed his ears, Tandy’s tail started to wiggle just a little bit.

Tandy felt his loneliness slipping away. He scampered through the bedrooms, happy that the closet doors were open. But when he rooted around for his favorite slipper, it was gone.

Trotting back into the living room, Tandy saw that the tree made the only light in the room. Daddy was calling out names and everybody was smiling as packages were handed to them. When Daddy said, “Here’s one for Tandy,” the little dog’s ears pricked up. He tugged at the wrapping until something fell right between his paws. Tandy’s tail began to wiggle when he found Paul’s old slipper inside!

Tandy was content just chewing on the slipper, but when Paul called, “Here Tandy, play dead for the cousins,” he quickly dropped it and did his trick. And when it was finished, Tandy jumped up and frisked about, his tail wagging so fast it was only a blur.

Illustrated by Charles Quilter