Christmas Eve was falling over the Big Dark Forest. It was so peaceful and quiet. The peacefulness was enough to put everyone into the Christmas spirit, no matter how big, bad and mean they were.
Mad Dog, the wolf, was sitting all alone in his dingy old den. All he had in his den was a bed, table and a little lamp. He had no room for anything else. His den was too small.
Mad Dog sat on his bed, singing Christmas carols out of a school book that he had stolen the previous day from Racum Raccoon. Mad Dog had tears in his eyes as he sang.
"Here it is Christmas Eve," he sobbed. "I am all alone again. Every year it is the same old thing. I have no-one to care about and no-one cares about me. I wish that just once, someone would care about me."
He sang the Christmas carols until he sadly fell asleep.
Meanwhile, far off in another part of the Big Dark Forest, Racum Raccoon and his parents were putting the gifts under their Christmas tree.
"Well, I believe that is all the gifts until Santa comes," said Mr. Raccoon.
"No, it isn't," spoke up little Racum. "There is just one more gift. I didn't know what I should do with it, so I just left it under my bed."
"Well dear," Mrs. Raccoon said. "Why don't you bring it down? I'm sure we can find some room for it under our tree, somewhere."
Racum went up to his bedroom and crawled under his bed. Amongst all the dust and his toys, Racum found the gift. It was a beautifully wrapped gift with shiny red foil paper and a nice big gold bow and ribbon on it. Attached to the gift was a tag marked: "To Mad Dog".
Every Christmas, Racum had always wondered what Mad Dog did over the Christmas holidays. Christmas was meant to be spent with your family and friends. Mad Dog was short in family and extra short on friends.
Mad Dog's family deserted him when he was just a pup, because he was just too big and too bad and too mean. He used to beat his brother up for no reason at all. He also used to pull his little sister's hair. He was told by his father many times to stop picking on his brother and sister but he would not listen. Mad Dog came home one day from fishing and found his family had left him. As for friends, Mad Dog has never had one.
Racum felt sorry for Mad Dog. He knew it must be terribly lonely going through life with nobody to care for. He just could not imagine anyone not having a Christmas. As far as Racum knew, Mad Dog had never had a real Christmas, EVER!
"Well, isn't that sweet," Mrs. Raccoon said when Racum returned with the parcel in his arms. "Imagine buying a gift for Mad Dog Wolf. I would never have thought about getting him a gift."
"That's the reason I got him a gift," explained Racum. "Nobody ever thinks about Mad Dog. He must be so lonely. I just bet that if Mad Dog had somebody to care for him, then he wouldn't be so mean to everyone."
"You know, Racum," Mr. Raccoon said. "You are probably right. Why don't you go over to Mad Dog's den and give him his Christmas gift? I'm sure he'll appreciate it. You may be right about him being so mean to everyone. If somebody would only take the time out to show him that they care, he just may not be so mean."
"While you are there, Racum," added Mrs. Raccoon. "Why don't you invite Mad Dog to spend Christmas with us? There is plenty of room and lots of food!"
"Oh Mother!" Racum exclaimed. "Could I, could I really?"
"Yes Racum, I think that would be the best gift Mad Dog could ever receive," said Mr. Raccoon. "Well, the second best gift."
Racum Raccoon walked the distance to Mad Dog's den. He was cold but very happy when he knocked on the door.
"Ah, who is it?" Mad Dog said sleepily.
"It's Racum Raccoon. Please let me in. It's cold outside."
"Come on in," Mad Dog said.
Racum entered Mad Dog's dingy old den. It was smaller than Racum's bedroom.
"Hi Mad Dog," said Racum. "I have brought a Christmas gift for you."
"For me? You must be mistaken," sobbed Mad Dog.
There were tears in Mad Dog's eyes as Racum handed the gift to him.
"Nobody has ever given me a gift before," sobbed Mad Dog.
"Well, I suppose that nobody has ever given you a second thought, besides me. Every Christmas, I have wondered about you. Everyone else thinks that you are just too mean to care about Christmas," explained Racum.
"I really don't like to be mean," Mad Dog said honestly. "I just act mean, hoping that somebody will care enough to ask me to stop."
"Well," said Racum. "I care. So, I am telling you to stop being mean to people and then they would be nice to you."
"I'll try," said Mad Dog. "I'll really try."\
"That's all we can ask from you, Mad Dog," commented Racum. "As long as you try your hardest, nobody will mind at all. Now, wipe those tears away and open your gift."
Mad Dog opened his gift. Inside the parcel was a bright orange lunch box with his name printed in big black letters.
"Oh Racum!" sobbed Mad Dog, once again. "Thank you. Now, I've got my own special lunch box. It even has my name on it!"
"You won't have to steal anybody else's now that you have one of your own. Open it up. There's something else inside it."
Mad Dog opened his new lunch box. Inside it was a pen, a pencil and eraser and a box of crayons, too.
"This is great!" exclaimed Mad Dog. "Now I have my own things for school. Thank you very much Racum. Oh, by the way, I have something to give you."
"What is it?" asked Racum.
"It's your Christmas carol book," said Mad Dog as he handed the book to Racum. "I'm sorry. I stole it from you."
"Thank you for returning it. You see, you are learning not to be mean already. Oh, by the way, my parents would like you to be our guest for Christmas dinner."
"I would love to!" said Mad Dog, overjoyed.
Racum and Mad Dog walked hand in hand through the Big Dark Forest to the Raccoon family's house. They sang Christmas carols all the way there.
Mad Dog never had to steal from anyone ever again. Everyone in the Big Dark Forest learned to respect Mad Dog and he learned to respect them. They also began to trust him and he in return, also trusted them. He became close friends with everyone in the Big Dark Forest and he is now living in a bigger den and is very happy.