In the 1930’s, in the Southwestern Mountains of Colorado, lived Dessa Dean, who was in desperate need of a friend. Her mother had died, and she lived alone with her dad away from town. Since her dad couldn’t get a job in town, they moved out by the woods where he could hunt. He would sell the furs of the animals to people and provide meals for his family with the meat. When Dessa’s mom dies, Dessa’s ears “die” along with her. She had gotten frostbite on the tips of her ears. She could barely make it past her front porch without severe pain in her ears.
One day while her dad was out hunting and Dessa was doing her school work, she had a “day mare” about her mom dying. After her “day mare”, she heard something that sounded like scratching at her door and then she heard a soft whine. She couldn’t open the door at first because the wind had blown a snowdrift in front of it, so she stepped back a little, and charged at the door. It flew open and Dessa flew out of the cabin and landed on a snow covered, brown lump trying to get away. It was a dog! Once it got out from under Dessa, it ran away. Dessa noticed it ran funny, like its body went in one direction, while one of its legs flew out in another direction. Later, she finds out the dog has a bruised tendon in its leg.
The dog keeps coming back and a friendship begins to grow between Dessa and the dog. The dog trusts Dessa and lets her pet her. Dessa gives the dog food and invites the dog in. But, when Dessa tries to close the door, the dog whines and barks and tries to get the door open. Dessa didn’t want the dog to run away, but she knew it had to be outside. When she opened the door, the dog didn’t run away, but went back to where it had been laying and went to sleep. Dessa has to burn a lot of logs to keep the house warm with the door always open. Her dad and the dog don’t get along very well, partly because of the “open door issue”, and partly because the dog is eating a lot of food.
Christmas is coming soon and Dessa doesn’t know how it will be without her mom. Dessa’s dad starts to like the dog a little more once it catches a Christmas dinner – rabbit.
Christmas finally comes. While her dad is hunting, Dessa starts to make a feast. She makes fudge for her dad’s Christmas present, cooks the rabbit meat, makes an apple dessert, and spends a very long time making the dog a bone with thick layers of gravy. So the bone would be a surprise, Dessa sent the dog outside. She was starting to get worried because the dog was gone for a while, but she kept working on the bone. When she set the bone out on the porch to cool, she heard the dog come and start to eat it. But after a couple of minutes, it didn’t sound like the dog. Since the door was kept open, Dessa got scared and started looking for a hiding place. But, before she could find one, a big creature walked in. It was a bear! And, it was looking straight at her!
What happened to the dog? Will Dessa be eaten alive? Will her Christmas dinner be ruined? You’ll have to read the book to find out!