The holidays are coming on fast, and at the same time, the economy is terrible. This means that the time when you most want to spend money, you're worried about spending money.


This would be how life works.

This holiday, everybody who loves to give gifts is going to be less happy because they can't give as many. And everybody who loves to get gifts is going to be less happy because they're not going to get as many.

As I see it, there's only one solution, at least for me:

A puppy!

A great philosopher once said that happiness is a warm puppy.

I'm not saying everybody should run out and get a puppy, but I'm assuming you're smart enough to know that. I'm talking to people genius enough to read me, and I know I'm lucky because my job lets me work at home. In fact, lately, I know I'm lucky to have a job at all.

But I'm babysitting for Pip, daughter Francesca's amazing puppy. He's soft, he's warm, he wags his tail at everything and everybody. He has the softest coat ever and because it's so thin, you can feel his little heart beating away. He eats everything I put in front of him. He likes to snuggle against my neck while I read. He's perfectly adorable and he knows it, so he strikes a pose whenever I'm watching. He's got a whole repertoire: resting fuzzy chin on tiny paws, wiping melty brown eyes with tiny paws, sleeping on back with tiny paws in the air. Basically, it's all about the tiny paws.

Plus he's housebroken now. What's not to love?

Then the breeder told us that she would have a new litter ready around the holidays.

So you know where this is going.

Lately I've been thinking I can fill at least half of my empty nest. I lost my great golden Lucy this year, and there is no way to replace her, but a new puppy would bring me back to four dogs in the house, which is my doggie water level. I like to keep an animal equilibrium.

So maybe I should get a new puppy, just like Pip?

Actually, his breed is a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, so his pedigree is better than mine, and I find myself reading books about Cavalier King Charles spaniels, looking at pictures of Cavalier King Charles spaniels, and combing Web sites of baby names, which I haven't done in 22 years. I've even been to YouTube to watch videos of Cavalier puppies, retreating for entire evenings into a fantasy world of tiny paws, wet noses and little yelps.

And you know what? It makes me happy.

Puppies make people happy. Even thinking about puppies makes people happy. That's the power of the puppy.

It's no accident that everybody's talking so much about what kind of puppy President-elect Barack Obama and his family are going to get. In the last month, I've read more about the presidential puppy than about the new cabinet members or any economic stimulus plan. You know why?

Because puppies are more fun than economics.

Even in a recession, and in fact, especially in a recession, all of us would rather think and talk about puppies. None of us knows what to do about the economy, which scares us. Not even the experts know what to do about the economy, which scares us even more. Nobody knows what the future holds, for the country and even for the world. And we can't do anything about any of that.

But this much is certain: The holidays will come.

Francesca has told me that all she wants for Christmas is her puppy.

And now all I want for Christmas is one of my own.

Other things under the tree will be dog sweaters, dog toys, two dog beds, and a new digital camera.

You're smart enough to know how these things are connected.

Because the holidays are about happiness.

And the best gift of all is love.

Happy holidays.