Jessie wagged her tail excitedly as the barn door came into view. The barn was painted red and green and was as large as a football field. Santa had told her this morning that the barn was where the deer lived during the winter months. He was going to supervise the treatment of Dasher who had caught a naasty flu virus just after their last trip. Santa had told her that she could come as long as she didn’t chase the reindeer.
As Santa walked up to the doors, Jessie walked in circles smelling the ground. There were so many fascinating smells that she couldn’t register them all. She knew she would smell deer, but she hadn’t realized that the barn held other animals. Her sensitive nose told her that somewhere within the building that there were cows, horses, pigs, chickens and cats. There were other scents but Santa called her before her brain told her what they were. Santa held the open door to the barn and motioned for her to enter the building.
Jessie entered the barn and looked around in amazement. The exterior walls led to stalls for the various animals that lived in the building. The doors were open allowing the animals to freely walk and converse among themselves.
In the centre of the building was a green space that reached high up into the sky under a clear dome. High above Jessie could hear Prancer talking to young reindeer and giving them flying instructions. Down below there were exercise stations, grazing areas and a lake.
Jessie sniffed once again. Rabbits. Jessie loved chasing rabbits. She really didn’t know why. She never hurt the animals; she just liked catching them. She looked at Santa who was looking directly at her. No, knowing Santa’s love of animals it would not be a good idea to hunt rabbits in the barn. She had already begun to love Santa so much that she would do anything for him.
Santa smiled and motioned for Jessie to follow him. He was talking to an elderly elf dressed in a long brown robe. He carried a bottle of medicine for Dancer. The smell was so foul that Jessie wondered how Dancer could take it.
Santa, the elf and Jessie walked down a long corridor which led behind the stalls. Jessie zigzagged from one side to the other as they walked looking around. Most were empty as it was the middle of the day and the animals were in the dome. In one stall, however, Jessie found a mare and her young colt enjoying a meal of hay and oats. Jessie wagged her tail and edged her head under the stall door. She would have gone in but Santa once again called her.
“Jessie, it’s best that you stay with us. Most of the animals are friendly but if the mothers think you’re threatening their young you may get kicked. Besides, I’d like you to come see the reindeer. If you’re going to travel with me on Christmas Eve the deer will need to get used to your company and Dasher could use a diversion. He isn’t well today and meeting you might take his mind off of his illness.”
Jessie reversed her way out from the stall and hurried to follow Santa. She continued to look into the various rooms but kept up with Santa and did not try to enter any more of the stalls.
Around a corner they came to the reindeer house. It was a large room divided into stalls with a wall of feed and water. There were grooming areas and bathing areas and a hospital wing. Santa hurried to the hospital wing and opened a door to a room with large glass windows looking into the reindeer house and out to the dome. Lying on a bed of straw was Dancer.
Mucus was flowing from Dancer’s nose and occasionally he sneezed. He breathed heavily. At the sight of the dog he looked up and snorted. He moved to get up from the floor.
“Dancer, stay where you are. Jessie will not chase you. She is living with us at the Claus house and I’d like it if you and the rest of the reindeer will become friends. I could use someone to sit with me in the sleigh on Christmas Eve and I’d like her to come.” Santa gently pushed Dancer down to the ground and felt his forehead. He took the medicine from the elf and poured it down Dancer’s mouth.
Dancer snorted and spluttered. He shook his head violently and snorted again.
“I know it’s strong medicine Dancer, but you have a bad case of the flu. We don’t want it to spread to the young ones. I’m going to talk to the vet for a moment. Why don’t you and Jessie make friends?”
Santa petted Jessie on the head and moved out in the hall closing the door. He stood in front of the glass window looking in while talking to the vet. He had a curious expression on his face as he watched Jessie and Dancer.
Jessie wagged her tail and cautiously came closer to Dancer. She licked Dancer on the cheek. Dancer shook his head and snorted. He backed away into the corner turning his back on the dog.
Jessie lowered her head and her tail. She had to make friends with the reindeer if she didn’t Santa wouldn’t let her come with him on Christmas Eve and she really wanted to go. She wondered what she could do to convince Dancer that she meant no harm.
She walked over to the food station and gave a sniff. Directly above her was a tap and a pail lay below it. It was empty. Water! Maybe Dancer would like water. That medicine must taste horrible and Jessie knew how to turn on taps.
Jessie looked around the room for a cloth. She couldn’t turn the tap with her teeth she needed something to pull on. She sniffed around and looked up onto the wall. Hung with reins and curry combs there was a towel. It wasn’t very big but it should work.
Jessie hurried over to the wall and began jumping up to try to snatch the towel from the hook. She was having a hard time reaching it, but was determined she was going to pull it down. Little by little she began pulling the towel down to the ground.
Dancer, from the opposite end of the room, curiously watched as Jessie jumped up and down again and again. When Jessie grabbed the towel and wagged her tail at him, he turned his back once more on the dog.
Jessie lowered her ears but walked over to the tap. She carefully pulled the towel through the spaces in the tap handle. When she was finished the towel was folded in half. She grabbed the two ends in her mouth and pulled. The tap loosened and a small stream of water fell down into the pail below it. She pulled again and a steady stream of water began filling the pail. She waited until it filled the pail and overflowed into a drain below.
Jessie excitedly wagged her tail and picked up the pail’s handle in her teeth. The pail was very heavy but her jaws were strong and she really wanted to please Dancer. She walked across the room trailing water behind her. She stopped behind Dancer, put the pail down, and yipped startling the reindeer.
Dancer rolled over and knocked over the pail. When he saw the water on the floor, and the water pouring from the tap, he looked at the dog. He walked over to Jessie, gently nuzzled her and then went over to the tap and taking a drink. He returned and licked the dog’s head before going to sit in the hay again.
Santa opened the door. “Good news Dancer, the vet says that you should be able to rejoin your herd in a couple of days. Get well. Jessie and I will check on you again tomorrow. Jessie, time to go girl.” He held the door open wide for her.
Jessie hurried out of the room and sat on her haunches waiting for Chris to close the door and join her. When he had shut the door he turned and looked at her quizzically. Where did you learn to turn on taps Jessie? It was a fantastic idea. Now that you’ve made friends with Dancer he’ll convince the rest of the herd to be friends with you. I’m proud of you girl. Now, let’s go home.”
Jessie wagged her tail and followed santa out of the barn. She couldn’t wait to come back and explore. Maybe dancer could introduce her to the rabbits.