The stockings were hung by the fireplace with care, the grandchildren were abed. We had just come from Naval Academy Chapel services, with visions of the "Silent Night" candles reflected in the little one's eyes. No snow fell, but a freezing rain fell in the bleak midwinter's lowering darkness. It made us all grateful for hot cider by the fire.

Leroy the Boxer had finally been released from his cage to join the grown ups around the glowing tree. Then, the doorbell rang. Good Neighbor had arrived with his big Brother to pick up his son's Christmas tool bench.

In a flash, Leroy made it out the door. The 85-pound dog was in hot pursuit of a car circling the cul-de-sac. The mystery car didn't slow down, even when son Jim and girlfriend Heather joined the chase, crying out for him to stop.

Instead, the unknown driver stepped on it. Leroy, wearing his padded jacket, incredibly kept pace. Jim jumped in the family SUV to tail the disappearing dog and driver. Jim turned on his emergency flashing lights and beeped the horn to get the car to stop. Heather, Good Neighbor, and Brother dashed behind on foot, while I brought up the rear.

Jim and the pace car were soon out of sight. Out on the main road, Jim flashed his high beams and laid on the horn, hoping to stop a second oncoming vehicle that was bearing down on Leroy. Too late. The second car hit Leroy and passed over him, never stopping, never even slowing down. Leroy's chased car too disappeared from view. Distraught, Jim saw blood on the road.

But Leroy was still up and racing. Homeward. Right into big Brother's powerful arms. I caught up with them, stopping to pick up Heather's shoes. She had lost them in the scramble.

Neighbor carried Heather piggy-back while Brother held Leroy's harness in a vice grip and walked him home.

Halfway home, Brother observes mildly what the scene must look like: "Two large black men in black leather jackets, chasing a barefoot white woman through a middle class neighborhood. On Christmas Eve. And she's crying out for her dog..."

We all laugh heartily at the scene, as Brother says: "the 'Supe' [Superintendent] would not be pleased." At once, we are reminded that both our rescuers are service Academy graduates.

Back home, the Christmas tool bench is retrieved and Leroy is examined in the light. Miraculously, he's suffered only slight abrasions and a little blood from his stump of a tail. His thick padded jacket seems to have absorbed the shock of impact.

May we never forget the fervent prayers of our daughter and son-in-law that night or how close we came to tragedy. Not just the danger of losing a beloved animal, but the possibility of a head-on collision for Jim, or a head-on collision with mistaken identity for Good Neighbor and his Brother.

So we settled in for a long winter's nap under the eye of Him who superintends all. In our little cul-de-sac, we had peace on earth and we experienced a renewed love of neighbor. God blessed us every one.