SNOW PUFF and BOLO: The Story of Mrs. Santa's Dog
It was a night to remember...Chapter One.
The night was cold and beautiful with the almost full moon and all the stars of heaven reflected by the new snow. It was not yet time for the sun to rise; it was now Christmas Day and Santa was tired, but he was done and he would soon be on his way home.
But first there was a problem.
At his feet in the snow was a homeless, white puppy with a black spot on one paw.
"Come, little lady. I'm done my work and yours is only just beginning. But first we must find you some warm milk and a warm corner of the sleigh. There's space enough to spare. No one chooses to be alone at Christmas, not even Santa. Thank heaven I have so many helpers. Now it's time to find some help for you, too!
Santa bent down and lifted the small puppy with one of his great hands. As he examined the puppy more closely, the puppy suddenly licked Santa's cheek with an affectionate puppy kiss which caught Santa by pleased surprise.
"Ho! Ho! You are a loving one! Perhaps you are Santa's Christmas present to Mrs. Santa. But first---some warm milk will be our present to you, and I know just the place!"
With that, Santa climbed back into his sleigh, whistled to his team of reindeer, and the sleigh, Santa, and puppy rose into the night air as if on a magic carpet. Now there was magic in the air.
They traveled but a short distance and descended to a big red barn. Santa carried the puppy inside, It was warmer inside. The cows seemed pleased at the unexpected return visit, and Santa patted each one as he passed. He carried the puppy in one hand and went to a corner of the barn where a young calf and its mother occupied a separate stall of their own.
There was fresh straw in the stall, placed there no doubt by the dairy farmer and his children after the other cows had been milked Christmas Eve.
Santa spoke softly to the cow and her calf: "Your friends are milked and resting, but now is feeding time for you two and I believe you can spare a small bellyful for my small friend here. She was alone and hungry this sacred and holy night."
And, as if that was all he needed to explain, Santa pulled up a wooden, three-legged milking stool and milked the mother cow gently with squirt after squirt of steamy milk going into a tin cup Santa had found hanging on a faucet nearby.
Filling half the cup, Santa placed the cup on the straw and the white puppy drank freely while the young calf and mother cow watched.
As the puppy finished the fresh milk, Santa rinsed the cup, put a red and white Christmas candy cane in the handle of the cup and hung it back on the faucet. The puppy was already falling asleep in the straw and Santa lifted her ever so gently and placed her in the cradle of his left arm.
"Thank you for your Christmas gift to my young companion. Now we must leave. My Christmas chores are done for another year. May God bless you and your gentle farm family."
There was excitement at North Pole as Santa's helpers saw the sleigh approaching. Santa was home!
It was a tradition of long standing that everyone celebrated Santa's return, for it meant the successful completion of a year of planning and work. There would be time enough ahead to gather around each night after supper and hear of all Santa's Christmas Eve adventures. At this early hour of Christmas morning, however, the hot chocolate and turkey sandwiches were always extra special. While Santa was away, everyone had pitched in to decorate the common room and prepare a special, light but hearty breakfast for his return.
Mrs. Santa was the busiest of all. She missed him and always worried "just a little" until he was safely home again. Supervising the decorations and preparing the food was her way of losing her concerns in the work of serving others, including the very special man to whom she was so devoted.
While most stories would be shared later, it was the tradition that Santa share one special Christmas Eve experience at this "Welcome Home" meal.
This year was no different. When Santa had kissed and hugged Mrs. Santa, and honestly "oohed" and "aah-ed" over the decorations and the prepared food, and grace had been said over the food and the safe events of the night, Santa spoke briefly to all those who had gathered.
"This night is special for what we celebrate at Christmas. It is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, born to the Virgin Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem so many years ago. Yes, once He too was a small child like those we have honored in His name tonight. He taught us to love God and to love everyone as God loves them. [He spoke of the lost sheep and how the good shepherd would even sacrifice his life for his sheep, that each might return safely home] ....as I have been blessed to do tonight. I thank God for that, and for each of you, and each of those His 'sheep' we have sacrificed for tonight.
"Tonight was special for me for many reasons, but especially for one reason I will share with you now. Tonight I received a kiss when I was almost done our work. The young lady who gave me that kiss was happy to return with me and will serve Mrs. Santa as Mrs. Santa's constant companion. She will love Mrs. Santa faithfully, and Mrs. Santa will grow to love her, too! I want you all to meet this young lady, and, when you have, I will tell you her story."
Santa winked at the reindeer keeper, and the reindeer keeper winked back and left the room only to return a moment later with the still sleepy puppy.
Everyone clapped when the reindeer keeper handed the waking puppy to Mrs. Santa. Mrs. Santa stood up with the puppy in front of her and, taking a close look at the puppy, she received the same affectionate puppy kiss on her cheek to the same pleased surprise Santa had experienced earlier.
"Ho! Ho! You too can see she is a loving one. She's a good addition to our North Pole family." At that moment the puppy let out a puppy bark which came at just the right time to be an "Amen" to Santa's official welcome. "What will you name her, dear?", asked Santa.
"Oh, naming is a very special decision, dear", said Mrs. Santa. "I think I will wait a day or so to be sure I give her just the right name. For now, I'm busy feeding my husband and this large family. She and I will get acquainted later, but for right now, she's still your responsibility!"
When Mrs. Santa saw the puppy again, the meal was over; Santa was relaxed in his big chair in front of the fireplace, and the puppy was asleep again,---on Santa's lap.
Now any puppy is just naturally happy, unless they get into trouble. Unfortunately, puppies are so naturally happy that they naturally get into trouble. Mrs. Santa's puppy was no exception.
It was a tradition in North Pole that everyone, just everyone, slept late on Christmas Day. It was an old, old tradition, and everyone kind of snuggled down into their beds and smiled the first time they woke up, and the second time, and the third!
After all, a year's work successfully completed on time was reason enough to enjoy the reward of some extra rest. And besides, North Pole stayed very dark much of Christmas Day as even the sun seemed to enjoy "sleeping" late. Just like Santa's trip, the sun had made a trip south for Christmas and, unlike Santa, it was in no hurry to come back to North Pole.
Everyone knew Santa and Mrs. Santa needed some extra rest for having worked so hard all day and night on Christmas Eve, so nobody in North Pole really wanted to get up early and make any noise that might disturb Santa's or Mrs. Santa's sleep.
Puppies don't know much about such things.
The first thing Mrs. Santa's puppy did Christmas morning was to play with one of Santa's large boots. Nobody was awake. The boot reminded the puppy of Santa. Besides that, it felt good to chew the top of the boot, and it tasted like a little breakfast---which is what any puppy looks for the first thing every morning.
In the silence of North Pole's Christmas morning, only the clocks were awake and tocking to each other. The puppy was soon bored with chewing and decided to play, but everything was tick-tock quiet around Santa's house.
Until now, except for eating part of Santa's boot for breakfast, the puppy was in no trouble at all. That was about to change.
The puppy decided to pretend that Santa's boot was another puppy. She wrestled with the boot; she shook the boot, and then she BARKED at the boot and pretended to attack the boot, alternating more barking with ferocious puppy growls, challenging her boot "playmate" to fight back. Then, grabbing the top of Santa's boot, the puppy backed into the upstairs hallway and onto the stairs.
The boot seemed to come alive, tumbling on top of the startled puppy. She yelped in surprise and tried to get away, only to tumble through the spokes on the stairs railing and land on top of the still tocking grandfather clock which began to teeter and totter while the puppy longed desperately to be anywhere else except on the top of the teetering and tottering clock.
Some ancient heritage passed down from generations of puppy grandparents gave the puppy an instinct to howl, and HOWL she did, and she kept howling until all the household, including Mrs. Santa and Santa, were wide awake early on Christmas morning.
Mrs. Santa had worked just as hard Christmas Eve as Santa had, and what is more, she tended to worry about Santa and his travels. Usually she was the first one to get up each day. She would light the large kerosene stove and warm the house so that everyone else could wake up to a warm and cozy kitchen. When the stove was hot, she would put potatoes in the pot, biscuits in the oven, and foods in the frying pans, set the table, heat some water, and ring a little hand bell that let the household know another North Pole day had begun.
Although not happy to miss out on her long winter's nap, Mrs. Santa was chuckling over the puppy's adventures and thankful for the early morning company the puppy provided.
"Well, it's time for you to go out to your bathroom!", Mrs. Santa said as she opened the back door and snapped a line to the puppy's collar and the other end of the line to the laundry line just outside the kitchen door.
"Now howl when you need to come in, and no more barking and howling in the house---especially Christmas morning."
With that, Mrs. Santa shut the door to keep out the cold and went back to her daily routine.
A few minutes later, she wiped the frost from a pane of glass in the kitchen door and looked for the puppy.
The laundry line area was usually cleared of snow each day, and Christmas Eve was no exception, but a light snow had fallen during the night and had dusted the ground beneath the clothesline.
Look as hard as she might, Mrs. Santa couldn't see the puppy, so she opened the door and some "snow" blew in---attached to the line attached to the clothesline! It was like a puff of snow, only it had a spot of black on its left front paw.
"So there you are! You looked like a puff of snow coming in my door! Hmmm! You are like a puff of snow. That's the name for you. I'm sure! Snow Puff! Your name is 'Snow Puff'."
"You can explore around later on a leash until you learn your way around, but for now Miss Snow Puff, you need a pillow, and a basket near the fireplace where you can warm up from your morning stroll."
With that said, Mrs. Santa opened a closet, removed a plaid pillow and an old knitting basket. She put the pillow inside the basket, put three logs on the fire that was smoldering in the fireplace, placed the basket some little way away, and put the puppy on the pillow.
"When you are warm again, you can join me in the kitchen," said Mrs. Santa. "But for now, warm your paws here where it's still warm. I'll ring the bell when breakfast is ready."
Christmas Day was a good day to spend your first day as a puppy at North Pole. Everyone was relaxed and happy.
There was some discussion and a mild scolding associated with the chewing on Santa's boot, but the events of the early morning were soon set aside and the new shared adventures began.
Santa usually spent Christmas Day thinking. He thought first about all the things for which he was grateful. He was very grateful. He knew he was doing what he enjoyed most. He lived a life in which every day was spent serving others. He brought happiness and hope to children. He helped parents encourage their children to be better children. He added joy to a very special time of the year, and, in doing so, he expressed his own thanks for life and life's tests and trials.
Santa was grateful for the willing workers who worked with him at North Pole. He knew that without their work (and the work of others around the world who shared that willingness) the work done preparing for Christmas would be too much for Santa and Mrs. Santa alone.
Santa was grateful for his good health, his pleasant home, enough to eat, enough clothes to wear, and even for the daily challenges of his life.
Most of all, Santa was thankful for Mrs. Santa. He often called her "My Heart" for he knew that she was the real heart of North Pole. Whenever someone had a problem that seemed especially hard, they would discuss it with Mrs. Santa and she would wisely listen and discuss the problem until the solution became clear.
It was easy to talk to Mrs. Santa, for she was a loving and caring person and knew that people trusted her judgement. She always tried to honor that trust by listening carefully to what others said when talking to her, so her questions and suggestions would be helpful. Her careful listening was one of her qualities that people loved.
Santa always knew that Mrs. Santa would listen lovingly, and answer lovingly whenever they talked. He always tried to do that, too. Good, careful listening is always important, so Santa worked very hard to be a good listener. He found that very helpful when he listened to the wishes of so many children before Christmas and wanted to remember what each one said!
At dinner Christmas Day, Santa announced that he and Mrs. Santa decided to build a new building to keep gifts in. As part of the planning for the next Christmas, they had realized that more storage space was needed as well as a larger sleigh and possibly more reindeer.
The reindeer keeper and Santa would work with the reindeer, and everyone could suggest an improved design for the larger sleigh.
Meanwhile, work on the new building should start right away, so as not to interfere with the work of preparing the gifts for the next Christmas.
Everyone realized that these changes were needed now, for each year the number of children Santa helped was growing larger and larger. Fortunately, the number of children at North Pole grew larger and larger each year, too! And the North Pole children grew up to share in the joys of the work at North Pole, so that the number of helpers there grew and grew, also.
It was several months later before the new sleigh and new building were ready, and meanwhile the work continued on preparing for the next Christmas.
Snow Puff was growing up and was a familiar sight around North Pole. Some people, especially the children, called her Snow Puff, but everyone also knew her as "Mrs. Santa's Dog."
With the return of the summer sun, there was other work to be done. Mrs. Santa and many of the older children spent days in the fields picking blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries for jams, jellies, and desserts. Each family in North Pole also tried to raise a garden, and the long days of summer sunshine blest them with fresh vegetables and other fruits of especially large size and good quality.
Snow Puff was not the only animal at North Pole, for there were farm animals, too. There were even other dogs. People had wondered for a long time why Mrs. Santa hadn't had a dog of her own before Snow Puff. Mrs. Santa had always replied, "Someday, but not right now."
Now Mrs. Santa realized what she had missed. Snow Puff was the first to greet her each morning, the first to accompany her each day on any trips outside their home, and the last one (besides Santa) that Mrs. Santa said goodnights to each night.
Snow Puff was indeed, "Mrs. Santa's Dog."
In truth, though, Mrs. Santa had always been anxious not to have a dog. She knew that dog's lives are shorter than most people's lives. She knew how much responsibility there is to care for and train a dog, and she also knew that one day any dog she had would be gone and she would miss it dearly.
So, until Santa brought Snow Puff to North Pole, she had avoided having a dog, and had contented herself with enjoying the playfulness and antics of the other puppies and dogs at North Pole.
Now she knew what it was like to have her own dog. She loved Snow Puff as she had known she would. Snow Puff loved Mrs. Santa, too, as Santa had known the dog would, for there is a special loyalty each dog has to its master or mistress.
That loyalty was soon to be tested.
Toward the end of the berry-picking season, Mrs. Santa and some of the older children were picking the last of the wild berries. It was late summer and the blackberries were ripe and glistening. Blackberries are hard to pick because the vines have thorns and you have to lean toward those thorns to pick the best berries which always seem to grow in the middle of the vines!
Mrs. Santa was watching the children and filling her own pail when she saw a mother bear and her cub enjoying berries they were eating carefully from the other side of the same vine.
The mother bear and Mrs. Santa saw each other at the same time, and with the same surprise, and with the same concerns.
Mrs. Santa was anxious to protect the children, and Mrs. Bear was anxious to protect her cub. In that same instant, Snow Puff (who had never seen a bear or a cub before) smelled the bear, sensed Mrs. Santa's concern, and saw Mrs. Santa backing away.
Now bears usually back away from people, but mother bears want people to back away from their cubs. If Mrs. Santa and Mrs. Bear had not been surprised to find themselves staring at each other across the same thick blackberry vines, Mrs. Santa would probably never have seen Mrs. Bear and Mrs. Bear's cub.
In fact, usually Mrs. Santa and the children tapped the bottoms of their empty pails as they went into the berry field, and the noise alerted the bears and other animals to stay away. Today, however, their pails had been partly full of berries from another area and they had not made the usual noise they should have.
There was too little distance between Mrs. Santa and Mrs. Bear's cub.
Mrs. Santa was in real danger and she was even more concerned for the children picking near her when Mrs. Bear growled and charged. The children looked up and sensed the danger. They looked to Mrs. Santa to know what to do. Several dropped their pails and began to run.
Mrs. Bear was concentrating on Mrs. Santa, for she was the human nearest the cub. But Mrs. Bear had not yet seen Snow Puff who had been sunning and napping at Mrs. Santa's feet.
Snow Puff's loyalty to Mrs. Santa was stronger than Snow Puff's surprise at the size, speed, and danger of the mother bear. Snow Puff growled back at the bear and the Mother Bear suddenly stopped to assess this new threat to her cub.
Snow Puff could smell the cub when the mother bear left the cub's side. Snow Puff knew instinctively that the other smell was a smaller bear the mother bear might be trying to protect. Sensing there was little she could do to protect Mrs. Santa from a truly angry bear, Snow Puff started barking at Mrs. Bear and moving away from Mrs. Santa and toward the smell of the small bear cub.
Now Mrs. Bear was uncertain for an instant what she should do. Mrs. Santa was still backing away and trying to calm the children with her soothing voice and hand gestures for them to back away too.
Mrs. Bear was getting ready to renew chasing Mrs. Santa away from her cub, when she suddenly realized what Snow Puff was doing. Snow Puff had been too quick and was already on the other side of the cub. As the mother bear tried to reach Snow Puff, Snow Puff kept the cub between herself and the mother bear.
This went on while Mrs. Santa and the children left. By the time Mrs. Bear had encouraged the cub to also chase Snow Puff, the children and Mrs. Santa were safe. Snow Puff joined Mrs. Santa and the children for a warm heroic welcome which spread to the whole town when people realized how Snow Puff's bravery and quick thinking had saved Mrs. Santa and the children from harm.
That night, Mrs. Santa had a private supper with Santa and started their meal with a prayer of thankfulness for Snow Puff's protection. She ended the prayer by saying that she was thankful Heavenly Father had a plan for the protection the dog had given for the children and for her.
Santa said, "If I had known you and a mother bear would meet under those circumstances, I'd have brought home five dogs last Christmas!"
One Snow Puff was enough!", said Mrs. Santa to Snow Puff's great delight, as shown by her rapidly wagging tail.
With the return of snow, the busy efforts of those at North Pole increased. The outdoor work of summer had ended with the canning and freezing of foods for the winter. Each family's shelves were full of spices, jams, jellies, vegetables, and other provisions to last through the long winter ahead.
Wood had been cut and stacked near enough to each house to get at easily in case of severe weather.
Snow Puff's fur had thickened and lengthened as the weather turned crisper and the summer and fall breezes gave way to the first winds of winter.
Snow Puff's friend Bolo had longer, thicker fur, too. The carefree romps and exploring of summer had given way to sniffing the air for snow and staying indoors more, when Mrs, Santa would let Bolo in too.
Bolo was Snow Puff's age but had been just too young to leave his mother and be given as a Christmas puppy last Christmas. Now he was getting full-sized and too big for very young children, but just right for active children who might want or need a dog of his age.
In the summer, Bolo and Snow Puff had three favorite games they played together. One was "follow the leader." In that game they took turns being the leader and the one in the lead led the other one to the most interesting, new, and different places the lead dog could find, sniffing as they went along.
A second game was "hide and seek." Bolo and Snow Puff took turns hiding from each other and then, when almost found, the one hiding would jump out and bark to surprise the one who was doing the seeking.
Their favorite game, though, was "hunting."
It was their favorite because they could do it together and sometimes it took teamwork.
They most enjoyed hunting the small animals that stayed on the ground. Unlike the squirrels they also hunted, the ground animals stayed close enough to make the hunting fun. The squirrels would climb an evergreen tree and sit there chattering and laughing at them, but the ground animals knew there was always some risk, even when they found a good, rocky place to hide until the hunters left.
Voles were fun to hunt for, too, but that was only easy when the last snow was melting in the spring and some of their winter homes were easier to find and dig into. Besides, voles were the job of the North Pole cats and not the kind of "big game" dogs could be proud to hunt.
One day, while hunting together, Snow Puff and Bolo chased a small animal into the protection of a small, old tool-shed where farming equipment was stored. In checking the other side of the shed, Snow Puff and Bolo found a hole that went under the bottom edge of the shed.
It took no time at all to realize the hole had been made by a skunk, for the dirt at the entrance to the hole had the strong, pungent small of one. Unfortunately, neither Bolo nor Snow Puff really knew what a skunk was! They did know they didn't like the smell that was irritating their noses, but they had no idea what very real trouble they were about to get into!
As they finished exploring the new hole and prepared to leave, Snow Puff and Bolo saw the small animal they had been chasing first, running from the other side of the toolshed to a pile of rocks nearby. The two dogs ran to catch it, but it had a safe head start and was inside a hole in the rock pile before they could catch it.
As they started to circle the rock pile, they met the skunk returning from a lunch of grubs and voles. (North Pole has no mice, or those would have been the skunk's other favorite food, for skunks are hunters and diggers just as dogs are.) The skunk was in a good mood, its black and white fur was shiny and clean. But, even a skunk with a full stomach and shiny and clean, can get anxious at the sight of two dogs coming suddenly around a large rock pile.
Snow Puff and Bolo associated the fresh smell of the skunk with the smell of the hole entrance at the tool-shed and knew they were between the skunk and the skunk's home, so they were determined to have some fun with this black and white stranger.
Snow Puff barked. As she did, the skunk stamped its front feet, laid its tail flat to its back, and threw its back legs up in the air and forward, not even trying to run away! Bolo barked next, and Snow Puff and Bolo jumped forward to give chase---only the skunk was not running, and Bolo and Snow Puff saw a mist of spray coming toward them and covering them and stinging their eyes.
The mist from the skunk stung so badly that Snow puff and Bolo had no desire to make a second attempt at chasing the skunk, nor any desire for a second shot of spray from the skunk. The smell in the mist from the skunk was overwhelming, and now Bolo and Snow Puff themselves smelled many times worse than the hole entrance that led under the shed!
This was the first time Snow Puff had seen Bolo cry, and it was the first time Bolo had seen and heard Snow Puff cry---and they cried until they were close enough to home to attract attention. By then the skunk smell they brought with themselves explained their problem for them.
It took a good deal of rolling in the dirt and a quick bath with some canned tomato juice to neutralize some of the smell. Snow Puff and Bolo could smell some of the skunk smell long enough to remember one thing to avoid whenever they went hunting again!
* * * * * * *
With the arrival of winter, the daytime grew shorter and the nighttime grew long, and the weather grew colder. Bolo was given a bed in a warm corner of the new warehouse. Snow Puff slept in a large padded basket some of Santa's helpers had made for her and placed near the fireplace in Santa's and Mrs. Santa's home.
While the new warehouse was large and some distance from Snow Puff's bed, she had good ears and could hear Bolo, if Bolo barked during the night; so the two dogs usually barked once to each other at the end of each day as Snow Puff was going inside for the last time of the day.
Santa's plans and preparations for Christmas were going very well. All the toys and presents were almost ready. As the new warehouse began to fill with Christmas things, Santa paid a visit to make sure Bolo was warm and had plenty of fresh water to drink for the night.
"Hello, Bolo!", he said. "You look comfortable and happy. Now you have a big job to do, too. You are the watchdog to watch these Christmas toys and presents, while we finish the last of the gifts for this Christmas and fill the old warehouse. Do your best and I'm sure everything will be fine."
* * * * * * *
Santa and his helpers had two big jobs besides the preparation of all the Christmas things. One was to decide which gifts would be given to which children. The children often help with those decisions by writing to Santa at North Pole, and Santa's helpers in North Pole help Santa answer many of the letters that need answers, as well as help choose the right gifts.
The other big job was the job of sorting the toys and presents so Santa could leave the right gift at each home on Christmas Eve. It wouldn't be good for Santa to lose time looking through the new sleigh trying to find a gift that was not easy to find. So the presents were sorted like the North Pole mailman sorts the North Pole mail; each gift ready to be placed in Santa's sleigh where Santa could find and deliver it on Christmas Eve.
To do this, the new sleigh was finally loaded first at the old warehouse and then moved inside the new warehouse to finish being filled for Christmas Eve.
Bolo was now responsible for watching all the Christmas presents and the new sleigh, too. He was also anxious about his own Christmas Eve ride in the new sleigh. He would be the last dog to go to a new home, so he would ride the whole ride with Santa---except the ride back to North Pole.
Bolo was happy to go and sad to leave!
Going would mean he would live with a child of his own! Going would also mean he would leave his best friend Snow Puff behind. He expected his child would be nice to him, but Snow Puff was nice to him, too, and he might never see her again. He hoped Santa would tell him about Snow Puff each Christmas.
Nights around Christmas were long and cold, and there was snow on the ground and there were icicles hanging from the edge of the roofs in North Pole.
It was good to be inside and warm. Each building had a good supply of firewood stacked up in the firewood box near the stove which provided heat, so that it wasn't necessary to go outside during the night. Usually the wood-burning stoves were allowed to go out during the night in the warehouses because no people lived in them.
Right now though, there were candies and jellies, and chocolates, as well as other presents that could freeze, stored in the new warehouse. That meant that the reindeer keeper would stop by several times during the night to add wood to the stove, so such gifts would keep from freezing.
After midnight the day before Christmas Eve, Bolo was resting but awake when the reindeer keeper entered the warehouse, checked the stove, and added more wood from the firewood box. The fire in the stove crackled again with renewing warmth and the reindeer keeper closed the stove top, checked the holes on the side of the stove which let air go in to burn the wood, patted Bolo, went out, and locked Bolo in. Then the reindeer keeper went back to his room in the barn and went back to sleep.
As the fire burned and reheated the stove, Bolo heard a stick of the burning firewood pop, and a small spark of the wood bounced through one of the air holes and up into the firewood box.
Bolo jumped to his feet and put his front paws on the top of the firewood box. As he looked inside the box, he could see the hot spark still glowing at the bottom of the firewood box. Very small pieces and chips of firewood had settled to the bottom of the wood-box. The hot spark had started to burn another very small piece of wood, and now another.
Soon Bolo could see a small whiff of smoke coming up, and what was once a small spark was now a small flame at the bottom of the pile of wood in the box. Bolo knew how dangerous fire can be, for he had once been burned by a small spark that had popped out of the fireplace at Santa's house.
He thought what he might do to put out the fire, but it was under all the firewood in the wood-box. The reindeer keeper had locked the door, and the small windows of the new warehouse were high above the floor and locked.
Bolo barked and continued barking the alarm, but the reindeer keeper was very tired and sleeping soundly. All the other people were too far away to hear his barking.
* * * * * * *
Snow Puff had gone to sleep tired and sad to think that Bolo would leave North Pole with Santa tomorrow. She was sleeping lightly because she would be sad to say goodbye. In her sleep she heard Bolo calling to her, but instead of his "Good night!" bark, the bark was different, and he didn't bark once, but many, many times. The dream bothered Snow Puff's light sleep and she woke up, but the barking continued!
Snow Puff ran to the window and looked across the snow to the new warehouse. As she looked at the dark windows of the warehouse, she thought she saw a light inside, but she could see the door to the warehouse had a lock on the outside of the door.
She looked again at the window and realized the light was not a light at all. It flickered like the flames of a fireplace. She knew the warehouse had no fireplace! The light was flickering brighter and brighter. There must be a fire in the new warehouse, and she could still hear Bolo barking loudly. She had to do something to save Bolo, and the presents, and the new sleigh.
Snow Puff ran upstairs and into Santa's bedroom where Santa and Mrs. Santa were sleeping. Snow Puff barked loudly several times and then took hold of Santa's quilt blanket and pulled twice. Then she barked loudly again until she heard Santa and Mrs. Santa wake up and speak to her."I thought I told you not to bark or howl inside the house!?, said Mrs. Santa, gently scolding Snow Puff.
"Maybe she needs to go outside?", suggested Santa, thinking Snow Puff might need to go to the bathroom.
Snow Puff ran to the window and barked loudly again, and Santa said, "That's it! She just needs to go outdoors."
Santa started to put on his boots, but Snow Puff pulled at his socks, then ran to the window again, and barked loudly again.
"Maybe one of the reindeer is loose. Something is definitely wrong.", said Mrs. Santa.
"Let me see what's out there.", said Santa.
Snow Puff changed her bark as Santa approached the window, but continued barking, for now the flames were even brighter and were reflected outside the new warehouse window onto the snow.
As soon as Santa reached the window beside Snow Puff, Santa knew the reason Snow Puff was still barking. "There's a fire burning inside the new warehouse!", said Santa. "Sound the alarm! We will need everyone there, if we are to put out the fire!"
Mrs. Santa had already put on her winter night robe and heavy winter slippers. Taking a quick glance at the fire, she hurried down to the kitchen, opened the door, and started ringing a big bell, as Snow Puff and Santa ran past.
Santa ran over to the barn and got there just as the sleepy reindeer keeper heard the ringing bell and came out of the barn.
"We need to open the new warehouse!", Santa said.
Both could hear Bolo and Snow Puff barking at the locked door to the warehouse. Smoke was starting to come out from the top of the locked door.
When the reindeer keeper and Santa reached the door, other helpers were running to join them as Mrs. Santa continued to ring the big bell.
The reindeer keeper tried to put the key in the lock to unlock it, but the lock itself was hot and burned his fingers.
Santa made a snowball of some snow by the door, pressed the snowball against the lock, and steam rose from the hot lock. Then Santa said: "Now try it again!"
The door lock opened and Santa and the reindeer keeper jumped back, for as they opened the door hot flames, gases, and heat came from inside the warehouse doorway.
As the initial cloud of smoke cleared, Santa and a helper could see the fire had started in the firewood box. "Make large snowballs everyone! Throw them into the woodbox by the stove. Quickly!", said Santa.
As soon as the door had opened and the initial heat had escaped, Snow Puff ran inside the warehouse as Bolo ran out. Snow Puff turned and ran back outside. Everyone was throwing snow into the firewood box, and it was only minutes until the fire was put out and it was dark inside and outside the new warehouse.
"Take a good, careful look around inside.", said Santa, "But watch your step and look for any other places the fire might have burned. Someone bring some lights so we can see just what damage the fire has done."
Mrs. Santa had joined everyone and had a worried expression on her face, too.
"Was anyone hurt?", she asked.
"Only the reindeer keeper's fingers, as he tried to unlock the hot padlock, the first time, but he put them in the snow and the snow quickly cooled them down. I doubt they will bother him in the morning.", said Santa.
"What has happened to the presents?", asked Mrs. Santa.
"We will know, in a minute, My Heart, but I'd guess, because we could put out the fire so quickly, that some presents may smell a little smokey, but there will still be presents for all the children."
This brought a cheer and relieved smiles to the faces of all those present, and some delighted wagging to the tails of Snow Puff and Bolo.
"We thank God for all His blessings, and we can thank Snow Puff and Bolo that the fire didn't burn down the new warehouse, the new sleigh, and all these gifts!", said Santa.
"And Bolo has Snow Puff to thank that he is still alive!", said Mrs. Santa. "Snow Puff, you may have saved me and saved the children from the startled bear; now you have saved your good friend Bolo!"
At breakfast the next morning, Santa told Mrs. Santa: "If we had only had one dog last night, we might never have saved the Christmas toys and presents. Perhaps we should keep Bolo as a guard for the new warehouse!"
"You need Bolo for the next-to-the-last child on your list, and you know how we have promised ourselves to never disappoint a child when it is possible grant their wish."
'I guess you are right, My Heart, but these two dogs seem to love each other so much, I wonder if we should really separate them? They've become a real team."
Mrs. Santa thought for a moment and replied: "Perhaps there is a way to reward them, and still not disappoint the child who hopes for a dog such as Bolo for her Christmas present. Why don't you let Snow Puff ride with you this year, too, and she can see the little girl who will be Bolo's child, and also see where Bolo will live? You said that her house is a good place for a good dog, and perhaps Snow Puff won't be so sad when she knows Bolo will have a nice new home to live in, and a fine young girl to care for him."
"That's a good idea, My Heart, and I will be happy for Snow Puff's company again on the ride home. They do deserve a special reward for what they did last night, and we definitely don't want to disappoint Bolo's child, so that's what we will do tonight," said Santa.
"You know dear, we have tried ever year to never disappoint a child," said Mrs. Santa. "There have been a few times when we did disappoint one. We have always prayed that we might be forgiven when that happened. We have tried to correct our mistake the next year, but you and I know that we still remember every one of those mistakes and still regret them. It is something we want to do everything we can to avoid. Let's not disappoint any child this year, no matter what sacrifice we have to make. In Bolo's case, I still think every good child who can have one needs a good dog, and every good dog needs a good child."
Santa thought about that for a moment, and he almost asked Mrs. Santa what she thought about Snow Puff needing a good child, but he said nothing about his thought. He knew Mrs. Santa loved Snow Puff, and every dog needs that kind of love and care, too.
The goodbyes to Santa, Snow Puff, Bolo, and the reindeer, were happy ones despite the cold winter air. Santa in his traditional red and white suit and heavy black boots with a big comforter across his lap, and with Snow Puff and Bolo at his side, was soon up and away from North Pole.
It was a beautiful night, and the thousands and thousands of stars twinkled brightly. What moon there was shined brightly on them, too. They had not traveled far when one of nature's most beautiful phenomenons lit the sky in a dazzling dance of colored energy as the Northern Lights were seen in all their dancing and vibrant brilliance of colors. They dimmed and blazed, with the colors changing and blending from one color into another, with a variety of colors often appearing at the same time. There were greens and blues, shades of red and purple, and light greens almost yellow, dancing like great sheets or curtains startled by sudden winds in the sky.
Santa wished that Mrs. Santa could be with him and see what he was seeing, one of God's greatest displays of beauty, and he thanked God in awe as the beauty of the Northern Lights finally faded away.
"You know, Snow Puff and Bolo, I have seen many beautiful things in my life, but the Northern Lights are one of nature's most beautiful. The beauty always thrills my soul, as if their splendor speaks of some greater, heavenly splendor to come after this life."
"I'm always tempted to watch the children on Christmas morning when they first see their presents. In my mind I can see their happy faces. I wish somehow I could help children to be that happy all their lives."
"Oh yes, this is a beautiful world we share with each other, but it has its surprises from skunks, too! That skunk you two met is the only skunk in North Pole. Our weather is too cold for them there, but one year we had a special request for a pet skunk for Christmas. That skunk was just a baby skunk then and we brought it to North Pole to take along with the other presents that Christmas Eve. Before we knew it, the skunk was gone, disappeared, and I had to take a toy skunk instead. If it wasn't for the warmth of the tool-shed, the skunk couldn't have survived to surprise you two!"
"Well, we carry no real skunks this year, but we do need to get you to your new home Bolo. Yours is the next-to-the-last stop, so there is a lot of work to be done first, and quickly.
The sleigh was nearly empty as Santa, the reindeer, Snow Puff and Bolo descended to a pleasant home in the countryside. Next door was another pleasant home. Both were decorated simply but had a nice Christmas tree visible through their living room windows.
"Now, no barking here either, not even to say goodbye, you two. We come and go on children's dreams, so don't disturb their sleep!"
Snow Puff was almost as excited as Bolo, but, if dogs could shed tears, there might also have been a tear or two.
All night, as busy as Santa was, he had tried to explain why Bolo and Snow Puff would need to say goodbye, and perhaps not see each other again. He loved the two dogs, just as Mrs. Santa did, but he knew the special love that children and their dogs can have for each other.
Not every choice in life is an easy one.
Descending to the roof of the first home, Santa took his nearly empty sack and the two dogs followed him.
"Into my sack you two!", said Santa, and Snow Puff and Bolo obeyed. When the sack opened again, they were inside the home. The fragrant smell of the lovely Christmas tree reminded them of North Pole. As Santa went to work filling the stockings, Bolo and Snow Puff looked at each other, as if to say goodbye.
When they looked up at Santa, he motioned them to follow him. Outside one of the bedrooms he reached down and picked up the two dogs and they peeked around the corner. Inside, sleeping with the moonlight on her face was a young girl named Rita. Bolo was to be her dog, and she was to be Bolo's child.
As Snow Puff looked at Rita and then at Bolo, she was happy for Bolo. Santa had explained how much this home's child wanted Bolo, and how much a dog really needed a child and how much a child needed a dog.
Snow Puff loved Santa and Mrs. Santa, but she loved Bolo, too, and now she wondered once again, if just perhaps she didn't need a child, too.
Going back into the living room, Santa examined the note Rita had left on the shelf above the fireplace. The note said: "Dear Santa, If you couldn't bring my dog this year, will you bring one next year, please? If you did bring my dog, please use this bowl for some milk from the refrigerator, so he won't be hungry until I can feed him. Love, Rita"
"Well", Santa whispered, "it looks as if you are loved already, Bolo. Let's find the milk and maybe you will share some with Snow Puff."
* * * * * * *
The two dogs lapped up the last of the milk, and Snow Puff went slowly over to Santa's sack and crawled inside. She didn't look back at Bolo. She was afraid she would want to stay with him.
Before she knew it, she and Santa were in the sleigh and then inside the last home. Snow Puff had remained in the sack gut now she sat beside it watching as Santa filled the stockings and emptied the sack.
Above this fireplace there was also a note in a young child's handwriting. Santa read it, and then reread it. For a moment he looked sad.
Snow Puff wanted to whimper sadly, to let Santa know that anything which made him sad, made her sad, too.
Whispering to Snow Puff, Santa said: "We have a very special problem, Snow Puff; I hope you can understand this note, for it will make a big difference in your life and Mrs. Santa's." Then Santa, in a whisper, read the note for Snow Puff to hear.
"Dear Santa, I know that Rita next door asked for a dog for Christmas. We are best friends and always play together. I know that Rita will love the dog you bring. I know it is too late to bring me one, too, but I wish you could have. I worry that Rita will love her new dog so much, and play with it so much, that I will be left out. If I had a dog, too, we could still play together, and our dogs could, too. Love, Hank"
Still whispering, Santa said: "Snow Puff, last Christmas I gave you to Mrs. Santa, and she loves you dearly. We both know how much you love Bolo, and I saw how sad you were when you climbed back in my sack at Bolo's new home. "
"Mrs. Santa told me that Bolo needed to have a child to play with. She also told me to make any sacrifice not to disappoint any child this Christmas. Maybe you need a child, too, and maybe Bolo still needs you. Mrs. Santa told me: 'You need Bolo for the child who is the nest-to-the-last child on your list.' I hope she will forgive me and understand that now we need you for the last child on my list."
"I will miss you on my ride home, and I will have some explaining to do, but Mrs. Santa will understand. We live our lives to make children happy. You and Bolo are like children to us, and we both want you and Bolo to be happy."
"You've had some milk. Now I will do something I think I have never done before. I will leave my sack for you to lie down on by the tree. Perhaps when you see the sack from time to time you will remember how much Mrs. Santa and I love you and Bolo, and how thankful we are that you protected Mrs. Santa and the children, and saved the sleigh and Christmas presents."
And then, with a happy wink that chased a tear from the corner of his eye, Santa added: And you chewed my boot! Hank is a very good boy. You will love him, too, and he will love and care for you as well as Mrs. Santa and I have. You are a wonderful dog, Snow Puff. We couldn't leave him a finer present. May God bless you always. Take good care of Hank and Bolo for us."
* * * * * * *
Santa was on the roof and Snow Puff ran to the window to see the sleigh, reindeer, and Santa leave.
Santa waved to Snow Puff and then waved again, but this time not to Snow Puff, but to Bolo who watched sadly from a window at Rita's house.
It was not until Santa's sleigh was gone from sight, that Bolo saw something move in a window at Hank's house.
It was Snow Puff!
Looking across the yards and fence, Bolo could see through the window and there was Snow Puff jumping up and down. When she saw Bolo could see her, too, she sat down, but her tail was wagging---and Bolo's was too.
© 1997, 2015 Demas W. Jasper. All rights reserved.