Zoe's Night Before Christmas
One bright Christmas Eve, Santa Claus awoke looking forward to taking to the night sky on his sleigh. He got out of bed, pulled on his hat and big red coat, and opened the outside door to go and visit his trusty reindeer. It was snowing and very cold. As Santa approached the stables, he smiled at the thought that he would soon see Rudolph's red nose shining through the blizzard. But, oh no, wait a minute; as he turned the corner, Santa saw not one but nine shiny red noses! Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph were all looking miserable.
"Oh dear," said Santa, "what's wrong with all my reindeer?”
Comet, the reindeer union rep, stepped forward. "I'm very sorry, but none of my reindeer will be able to do a full night's present delivery shift," said Comet, looking sad. "This is the first time we've ever let you down, but we're all feeling lousy this year Santa and, well, we feel you'd be better off with some other helpers just this once."
"Comet, this is disastrous news!" Santa held his head in his hands. "I'm not sure I can get all the presents out to all the little boys and girls without help from my reindeer."
At this, Blitzen stepped forward. "To be honest Santa, we had always worried something like this might happen, with the horrible flu epidemics. Some years ago Prancer decided to approach another group of magical creatures with special powers who might be able to stand in during an emergency."
"Well, Prancer, do tell me. What is your idea? Which other creatures of the world have magical powers that can match those of my nine wonderful reindeer, of whom so many songs are sung and tales are told?"
"Why . . . Guide Dogs, of course!" smiled the reindeer. He turned towards the snowy white plains of Greenland, tapped the ground three times with his hoof, bowed his head and antlers, then majestically reared up, making a very loud calling sound that echoed round the four corners of the planet.
Within the space of thirty seconds, a shadow appeared far on the horizon. As it got bigger, Santa could just make out glowing Labradors, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers. They stood out in the arctic moonlight as they flew towards him.
"This year," continued Prancer, "your helpers will be: Angie, Karra, Mylo, Ice, Lava, Frosty, Lucy, Lester, and Zoe." Santa and his deer stood and stared up at the approaching dogs, whom they could now hear barking. When the dogs landed, they became silent; the only noise was the north wind howling. Santa, awed by the sight, was about to speak when the leading dog—Ice—led a single note chorus of howls as a salute to the reindeer whom they would replace this year. Happy, all the reindeers saluted back and in unison returned to their stables to get rest.
"Greetings to you, Father Christmas," said Ice. "Instead of being with our partners this year, we want to bring smiles to the faces of all the world's children. We're ready when you are."
Santa smiled and beckoned the creatures. He led them to his workshop. Parked outside was a huge sleigh, loaded with presents of all shapes and sizes. A small green-clad elf was just putting the last present on the top; when it was balanced correctly, he slid down and pushed himself off the side and scampered back into the warmth.
Ice, Lava, Frosty, Lucy, And Lester had already positioned themselves at the front of the sleigh and barked at the other dogs to join them. As they lifted the sleigh's harness, Santa said: "Aren't you going to take your guide dogs harnesses off first?"
"Oh no," spoke Zoe, the smallest but most charismatic of the dogs, "these are our identity. Guiding is what we do and, tonight, Santa, we will guide you!"
With the dogs all in place, Santa climbed onto the front of the sleigh, took the reins in his hands, and boomed merrily at the top of his voice: "Forward Angie . . . go Karra . . . forward Mylo!" The dogs pulled and the sleigh took off into the now clear dark blue sky. "Go Ice, forward Lava, go Frosty, up Lucy, forward Lester, and AWAY Zoe!"
Zoe turned and winked at Ice. They knew Their guide dog training had prepared them for this important task! They were usually tucked in bed keeping their handler’s feet warm at this time of night and they hoped to be back before they awoke. They chuckled at what their handlers would think if they knew they were flying around the world helping to deliver presents.
Santa caught them. "Zoe, Ice noses forward!" Santa's voice startled them into action. "Angie, stop trying to eat the falling snow," he continued, before breaking into a very loud and satisfied: "Ho ho ho! Keep flying, my little guides.”
As the sleigh, the jolly old man, and the nine magical guiding dogs reached the horizon and flew towards the first of several billion houses on the list, Santa knew that the guide dogs had saved Christmas and everything would be all right. The guide dogs even helped Santa leave accessible notes for their handlers and all the blind and visually impaired children around the world! "Merry Christmas, to all and to all a good night!"