Dec. 7th – Jessie meets Dasher

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Jessie by the barn.

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.

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Dec. 6th – Jessie learns Santa is the real Santa Claus

To Jessie’s delight, Santa and Molly prepared a feast for Molly’s birthday lunch. Jessie was stuffed and could barely follow Santa into the living room after the meal. She watched as he lit a fire in the chimney, sat on the sofa, and began snoring softly in the afternoon darkness. Jessie quietly snuck onto the sofa looking to see if he was going to object. When Santa didn’t awake, she turned around in a circle and laid down with her head on a pillow. Her snores soon joined Santa’s.

When Jessie woke up it was hard for her to tell how long she had been sleeping. She knew it wasn’t suppertime yet as Molly hadn’t called her. In any case, while she was sleeping, two of the Elvin people had come into the living room and were sitting at a table in the corner with Santa.

One of the elves was the elf she had encountered in the kitchen and she was wary of gathering his attention. She kept her eyes closed and pretended to be sleeping while she listened to Santa and the elves talk.

“So, you’ve updated the address database again Himley. I hope this will work out better than last year’s software upgrade. It cost us several million dollars to hire elves to re-input the children’s names and addresses that were lost. “Santa  pushed his wire rimmed glasses up his face and pulled the computer on the desk closer to him. He squinted and looked at the screen.

“Now Santa, you know that wasn’t our fault. The power went out when the upgrade was half way done and corrupted the data. The database upgrade has already occurred and all of the children have been entered. We’ve even upgraded the interface so that our agents can monitor both the ‘Naughty and Nice’ list and the ‘wish list’ more closely this year. We were very embarrassed when you delivered lipstick to Tommy Milkins. I guarantee it will not happen again.” Himley slammed his fist on the table to emphasize his point. He turned red when Santa looked at him quizzically.

Jessie looked at Santa. Jessie knew Molly called Chris Santa, but she hadn’t realized other people did as well. The only Santa she knew that people called by name was Santa Claus.   Could Chris be the real Santa Claus?

Jessie thought back to last year.  Santa last year had brought her a fluffy dog toy.  She had gotten a glimpse of the jolly man when she woke up while he was at the tree.  Chris doesn’t look like Santa Jessie had seen. In fact for some reason he looked younger every day.

Yesterday, there had been fine lines around his eyes and his hair had been white around the temples. Now his hair was fire engine red, and his face was soft and chubby. Chris looked nothing like Santa.

From across the room Santa looked at Jessie and smiled. He closed the computer. “I trust your instincts Himley. Just keep me informed if any errors are found with the data. Now, today’s a holiday. Why don’t you go and enjoy a meal with your family. The list will wait until tomorrow.”

Chris showed Himley to the door and said good-bye. He came and sat down beside Jessie. He petted her soft fur and rumpled her ears.

“Yes Jessie, I am Santa Claus or at least the latest Santa Claus. My family has been in the business for many years. Each generation hands down the position to the youngest son of the family. I know I don’t look like Santa but Christmas Magic transforms my appearance a week before Christmas every year. Santa Claus is my business name. Christopher Cringle is my real name.” Chris got up and crossed the room where he stoked the coals in the fire.

“You’ve always been a good dog Jessie, and when I saw in my magic snowball that you were homeless I set out to find you. I hoped you’d decide to come and live with us. I know you miss the lady you lived with before, but I hope you’ll be happy here. Maybe this year you can come with me on my Christmas journey. It’s a long night travelling by myself.

But, if you decide you’d rather live with a normal family I’ll find you one. I promised I’d take care of you and I intend to take care of that promise.” Santa looked directly into Jessie’s eyes.

Jessie was confused. Somehow Santa had known what she was thinking. It made her slightly uncomfortable, but she loved Santa and Molly. They had been so kind to her since she’d come to the North Pole. She had to make Santa know that she loved them and wanted to stay with them.

Jessie wagged her tail and began licking Santa across his face. She continued licking until Santa laughed and then protested. “Thanks Jessie but you don’t need to give me a bath. I’m glad you’ve decided to stay with us. I’ve gotten rather attached to you in the last couple of days. Now, let’s go sneak some eggnog from the kitchen.

Jessie smiled and jumped down. She couldn’t believe that Santa Claus was her friend. Today she felt like she was the luckiest dog in the world. A new home, a new life, and a kind family; Jessie had everything that she had ever wanted.

Dec. 5th – Jessie celebrates Molly’s birthday

It was 11:30 p.m. and Santa woke Jessie from where she slept in front of the fire. She dozily looked up at Santa, yawned, and turned in a circle to lie down and go back to sleep. She thought that it was much too late.

“Wake up Jessie! It’s Molly’s birthday and we’re going to celebrate. Let’s go outside and see what the elves are up to.” Santa pulled out a jacket Mrs. C had made for Jessie and gently put it on the squirming dog.

“Now, Jessie you need this jacket. It’s really cold out tonight. Even the deer are huddling together to keep warm”

Jessie was not happy but sat still for Santa. When he was finished she took a look at herself in a nearby mirror. She was adorned in red and green plaid from head to toe. Her outfit even had matching booties to protect her feet. Jessie hung her head low. She raised her legs up and down trying to free them from her booties.

Santa laughed. “I know the shoes are uncomfortable Jessie but they are necessary. You’ll get used to them. Now let’s go outside. Mrs. C. is waiting at the eggnog station.”

At the sound of the word eggnog Jessie’s ears perked up and she walked to the door as quickly as she could. She wasn’t used to the shoes and her movement looked like a combination dancing and wobbling.

Santa smiled when he saw the dog but didn’t laugh. Jessie had to wear the clothing to protect herself from the bitter wind. He didn’t want the dog to dislike the clothing any more than she did now.

Santa and Jessie walked outside the door and headed around the steel tree. Jessie stopped and looked around. There were so many elves surrounding them that Jessie couldn’t count them. There were big elves, little elves, young elves and old elves. Each of the elves seemed to be in a merry mood.

Wherever Jessie looked the elves were having fun. Some of the elves were building snow sculptures and snow structures. Others were rolling fruitcakes down a slope knocking down the snow creations. On a big stage several elves stood in front of a microphone. They held mugs of chocolate and were singing as loud as they could. The result was a large tinny noise that bothered Jessie’s ears.

Jessie shook her head from side to side. The little hat on her head slid down over her eyes. Jessie tried to pull the hat off using her front foreleg. She almost had the hat off when Santa chuckled, reached down and put the hat back in its original position.

Jessie sighed but was too interested in what was going on to worry about the hat. Directly in front of her was Mrs. C. She was standing at a little station where two were helping her dispense eggnog and sugar cookies to crowd. When she saw Jessie she smiled and chuckled.

“Santa tells me that you don’t like your coat Jessie. Well I can see why. You look like a couch in that plaid and you hat is way too big. I tell you what. We’ll pick out some fabric together and I’ll make you a new outfit tomorrow. Now, someone here likes eggnog. If you shake my hand I’ll give you a saucer full.”

Jessie’s tail wagged causing small tornados of snow flying behind her.  She sat down and raised her hand for Molly. Molly smiled and gave the dog her saucer of eggnog.

When Jessie was finished with the treat Santa petted her on the head. “Come on Jessie. It’s almost midnight and I always lead the count down to Molly’s birthday. This year you can help me. Come on girl. Let’s go up on the stage.”

Jessie wasn’t sure what Santa meant by a countdown but she would follow him anywhere. She walked with him up on the stage where a young elf dressed in sequins was holding a microphone. When Santa approached she handed him the microphone. Santa looked at his watch and then began counting down numbers. Five… Four… Three… Two… One… Happy, happy birthday Molly!

The circle in front of Jessie erupted with singing, toy drums, trumpets and an electric guitar. The noise was almost unbearable for Jessie, and she began to back away. Santa reached down to steady the dog. He held up his hand and the noise surrounding them ceased.

Santa began to talk to the throng “I’d like to thank Molly for her work this year, and for her continual love and support.”  Santa leaned over and kissed Mrs. C on the cheek.

“Now for what everyone has been waiting for. Let’s start the light show.”

Santa raised his hand and from somewhere out on the tundra beautiful music began to play. Softly, slowly lights in the sky began to ebb and flow in time with the music dancing in and out of the stars. Jessie watched as green, blue and purple ebbed in and out of view. The combination of music and lights were so beautiful that Jessie whimpered and leaned against Santa’s leg.

Jessie was happy Molly was having a birthday party.  She had grown to love Santa and Molly in the short time she had lived with them.  Somehow she knew that the next year was going to be happy for her.  Somehow, it seemed like this was a celebration for her too. To her it was a  celebration of finding a home and a family.

Jessie looked at the light show again.  Somehow she knew that this  was truly Santa Magic. It was full of love and caring and Jessie knew that this is where she belonged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dec. 4th – Jessie makes an Elf friend

“It’s time you went out and explored Jessie. You’ll be safe anywhere in town but don’t wander into the ice fog. If you do you’ll get lost and we might not be able to find you. Don’t worry though. You will be safe in town. The news that you have joined us has pretty well spread through the Elf community after your adventures in the kitchen yesterday. The elves are a jolly group and they had quite a time joking about it at their bonfire last night. The younger elves are looking forward to meeting you. Maybe you could go and play a game of ice hockey with them. They’d like that.”

Molly closed the door to the oven and placed a tray of sugar cookies on the large butcher block table. Every day since Jessie had come to the North Pole Molly had baked the cookies first thing in the morning. She couldn’t figure out where they went because Santa and the dog never ate them at night.

Jessie wagged her tail at the sweet aroma of the sugar cookies. Her tail knocked a spider plant off of the table. She skittered backwards into the corner and lowered her ears.

“It’s okay Jessie. Here have a cookie. Just one now and then out you go. Be sure to be home for lunch. We’re having one of Santa’s favourites – cheese pizza.” Molly opened the door for the dog and Jessie trotted with her head held high and her tongue swinging in front of her face like the pendulum of a clock. She pranced across the little park and down the ice road. As she walked she sniffed the ground. There were so many interesting scents. She sniffed along the edge of the road making sure she didn’t go down any alleys. She knew it was safe but she didn’t want to get lost going home.

As she was walking she heard the sound of small squeaky voices coming from ahead. She wasn’t really familiar with the elves but her ears told her that she was hearing the children of the community playing somewhere ahead. She perked up her ears and followed the sound of the voices. Just down the road she came upon another park. This one was some sort of sports complex. There were ski hills, sledding runs, ice skating patches, and ice hockey pads. Closest to him was the ice hockey pad where the children were playing a game of hockey. They were separated into two teams. One team had red scarves and another had green scarves. The children’s exciting screaming reverberated around the complex as they chased green and red snow pucks across the ice with their hockey sticks.

Jessie sat down on her haunches and watched the game trying to figure out its objective. It did not seem to match the game she had used to watch on TV in Thunder Bay. There was no net and the children all raised their arms in triumph at the oddest times. It took Jessie 15 minutes before she realized that the children were scoring when the ice pucks disintegrated into small pieces.

Jessie moved her legs over and shifted to get a better view of the ice. The movement caused one small Elvin girl to notice Jessie. She excitedly ran over to Jessie and began to talk to her. “Ooohh I know who you are. You’re that Jessie dog that’s living with Chris and his wife. We’ve been waiting to meet you. My name is Chloe. I don’t have any eggnog but maybe you would like to play with us. You can be on my team if you like. “

Jessie stood up and wagged her tail. She walked over to the girl, licked her across the face, and then pranced onto the ice. She moved a little too quickly and slid forwards knocking over two of the children and slamming into the boards. She whimpered slightly, stood up, shook off the snow and then walked more carefully back to her side of the ice.

Fortunately, none of the children were hurt and they seemed to think the accident was funny. There were bright smiles on the faces of the children as they helped each other up.

“Ok Jessie, we’re the green team. The purpose of the game is to get the red team’s puck and break it into pieces. The first team to reach the count of 20 wins,” Chloe said shoving her long red hair into a lime green toque. Her feet seemed to cling to the ice as she ran across it.

Jessie tried to run again but slid. This time the children were prepared and shuffled out of her way. Jessie slid across the ice and into a snow bank at the side of the rink.

Chloe ran across and reached lifted her arms to pet the dog on the head. “Poor Jessie. I forgot you’re from the outer world. You have to get used to the ice here. It’s magic ice created by Chris. It’s used for team ice skating so it has to be slippery. Imagine that your feet are stuck to the ice and then slowly lift your feet straight up and then lower them straight down. If you do this then you’ll learn to cross the ice.”

Jessie stood and shook her head and ears. The children had all gathered in front of her and were calling her name. “Jessie, Jessie. You can do it. Yes you can. Jessie, Jessie”

Jessie tried to trot across the ice but every time she tried she slid. She just couldn’t seem to figure out how to get her footing. She got tired of trying and sat down by a bench at the edge of the rink. She lay down with her head on the ice and her feet under her watching as the children went back to playing. She really wanted to play with Chloe and the kids, but she just couldn’t seem to stand up. After a couple of more rounds the children called a break and they all came over to the bench to sit down.

Jessie was surrounded by children who all wanted to pet or hug her. Jessie wagged her tail and yipped and licked the children’s faces.

Chloe had watched the others playing with Jessie until she called out “Eureka, I know how you’ll be able to play Jessie. We’ll tie our hats on your feet and then you won’t slide so much. Here’s my hat, my mitts and my scarf. I’ll tie them on your feet.”

Chloe tied the articles of clothing on Jessie’s feet and then led the dog back out onto the ice. Jessie took one careful step and then another. It worked. She could prance and walk and run without sliding.

“Come on”, said Chloe. “Let’s play!”

Jessie ran around with the other children trying to catch the ball but the scarf tied to her feet wrapped around her legs and she had to stop every second step to unwrap it. The children played on and Jessie grew more and more frustrated. She tried pulling the scarf off of her legs but it was tied too tightly. Just as she was walking back to the side of the rink with her head held down she spied the ice puck coming her way. Could she get it? Jessie braced her legs and held her mouth open wide down to the ground. One adjustment of her position tangled the scarf around her feet but she didn’t care. She opened her mouth and chomped at the ball. She closed her powerful jaws and the ice ball was destroyed.

A groan went up on Jessie’s team. She’d eaten the green team’s puck not the red team’s puck. The green team had lost. It didn’t matter to Jessie. She was happy. Especially when Chloe came over and asked her if she could come and play tomorrow. Jessie had made a new friend.

One dog's Chronicles of a year in Santa Claus's life

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