I wagged my tail.
“Shh!” Santa pressed a finger to his lips, glancing around. He pointed to a little girl in a chair, her little brother sprawled over her. ”Do you want to wake them?”
I didn’t want to wake them. I wanted to lick them. I wanted to sniff them. I wanted to climb on top of the chair and wiggle up and down their warm little bodies so every inch of them smelled like me. And then I wanted to lick them some more.
“No!” Santa grabbed the ribbon around my neck, yanking me back as I bounced towards them. ”Not yet! You have to wait until morning.”
I gnawed on the smooth tips of his gloves. Morning was forever away.
“Here.” He extracted a bone from his big velvet sack. Plopping me under the tree, he pointed. ”Stay.”
My tail swept over my new spot, flinging a bow to the side. As Santa nibbled on a cookie, I licked my lips. He looked at me, then at the cookie. ”This is chocolate,” he said.
It sounded delicious.
“You can’t eat chocolate.” He reached into his sack and pulled out a big brown bone. It had barely left his fingers before I gobbled it down, my rumbling tummy demanding more. He chortled, his giant belly shaking as he dropped several more bones on the floor. ”I’ll tell the elves you like their gingerbread dog treats. They’ll be delighted.”
As was I.
“Now, here’s what I need you to do.” Santa groaned and lowered himself on one knee. His sack trembled over his shoulder, ribbons of curious smells dangling from inside. ”See that boy and girl?”
I licked his fingers.
“They are your Christmas present,” Santa instructed me. ”I expect you to be a good boy. Don’t eat their shoes or chew up their books. Always sleep at their feet and protect them.”
I growled, as fierce as a wolf.
“Good boy.” Santa’s cheeks glowed with warmth as he chortled. ”But protect their hearts as well. For growing up is the hardest thing to do, and they must do it. You must help them.”
I barked, my tail knocking off another ribbon.
“Easy, easy!” Santa whispered. He pointed to the spot where I had once sat, right under the best and biggest branch of the tree. ”Now I want you to sit here and wait patiently until morning. Chew your bone, chew your paws, chew your tail–do what you must. Just don’t make noise!”
I whined. Noise was something I was terribly good at.
“No, none of that.” Santa whipped out another bone. ”And Rudolph?”" He ruffled my ears. ”Merry Christmas.”
This time, I stayed rooted to the carpet as he crawled back up the chimney. As I watched his boots vanish up the dark hole, two tiny sets of eyes blinked open. The girl sucked in her breath as the boy cried out. ”Puppy!” Sliding off his sister, he scrambled over and threw his arms around me. I licked the crumbs off his cheeks and he giggled. ”Look what Santa brought us!”
The girl hurried over, stroking my back as he stroked my ears. ”What shall we name him?”
I heard the crackle of magic, the whisper so faint no human lips could have uttered it. ”Rudolph!” the boy repeated.
“Rudolph!” the girl cried, kissing my nose. ”He does have a perfect pink nose! And such lush brown fur!” She shook my paw solemnly. ”Merry Christmas, Rudolph.”
I wagged my tail. Merry Christmas!
Stay tuned, Invisible Friends! A delightful holiday recipe mañana!
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