“Rufus the Barking Reindeer”

Rufus was a dog.

He looked like a dog.

He licked like a dog.

He barked like a dog.

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Rufus had been a dog all his life. 

For all five years of his life.

Rufus was not sure he liked being a dog.

Yes, he was well fed.

Yes, he was well walked.

Yes, he was well stroked.

But Rufus had a rare condition. 

Rufus had reindeer envy.

More than that, Rufus had Rudolph envy.

Rufus had seen the picture his owner had taken at the local grotto and could think of nothing else.

How good Rudolph looked in the snow. How big and strong and noble.

What a great nose he had. What great antlers he had.

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Rufus had a nose that was neat and cute and black.

But he wanted a nose that was big and bright and red.

Rufus had a small round head – a round hairy head.

But he wanted a big antler to pop out of the top of his head. In fact he wanted two of them.

Rufus had paws. He had soft pads on his paws.

But he wanted a hard hoof. In fact he wanted four of them.

Rufus could jump on the couch – he could even leap quite high for treats.

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But Rufus wanted to jump higher. In fact he wanted to fly.

Yes, Rufus had reindeer envy.

More than that he had Rudolph envy.

Rufus had owners that loved him very much.

They bought him as a puppy because they wanted a dog.

They did not want a reindeer. 

But when Christmas came Rufus stole Mr. Owner’s antlers – the funny ones he wore for a joke at work. 

And Rufus poked his nose in a red plastic bauble – the one Mrs. Owner had put on the tree.

Rufus took a cracker from the box. He felt sure that’s what reindeer must do.

Rufus felt the cracker completed the look. It made him happy. It made him feel like Rudolph. 

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Father Christmas heard about Rufus. After all, Father Christmas hears about everything.

One dark and starry night, Father Christmas sent out his best elves with one aim – to bring back Rufus.

The dog was asleep under the tree when the elves arrived.

He was dreaming of flying. His legs were twitching this way and that. Oh how he soared and swooped. 

Suddenly Rufus woke. He really was flying. 

All he could see below him was the deep blue sea and the moon shining off the waves.

All he could see above him were two elves.

Rufus really was soaring and swooping. His belly felt funny. He felt sick.

Rufus did not like flying.

Rufus barked and Rufus yelped. But still Rufus flew.

Rufus closed his eyes until his flight was over.

The elves dropped him with a gentle thud to the North Pole snow.

Rufus felt wobbly. 

Rufus was certain – he did not like flying.

He looked up. His eyes took a few seconds to get used to the brightness of the white snow. 

Before him was the big face of Father Christmas.

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“Now little one,” said Father Christmas, “I hear you want to be a reindeer. I like to make wishes come true – if I can. So here you are…my new reindeer.”

Rufus looked puzzled.

Father Christmas continued: “You will eat with my reindeer, you will sleep with my reindeer, you will fly with my reindeer.”

Rufus looked worried.

“Come little one,” said Father Christmas. He scooped up Rufus and carried him to the stables. 

“This is where you will eat and sleep. You will eat oats and you will sleep on hay.

“Then on Christmas Eve you will fly my sleigh around the world as I deliver presents to all the good boys and girls. It is very, very, very hard work – but most rewarding.”

Rufus frowned. 

“Don’t worry – you will recover in about six months’ time…maybe seven. Then we will start preparing you for the next Christmas flight.”

Rufus frowned some more. This is not what he had in mind at all.

Rufus did not like oats.

Rufus did not like hay.

Rufus did not like flying. 

And tiny Rufus did not like the idea of pulling a big sleigh.

Rufus was sure he did not like being a reindeer.

Rufus thought of his soft bed under the tree. 

Rufus thought of his meaty treats. 

Rufus barked an unhappy bark.

Rufus thought of his gentle walks…his hugs from Mr. and Mrs. Owner…his bowl with his name on it…his Christmas presents…his special place in the garden to bury bones…his trips to the grooming shop…his love of chasing cats…his tickles on the belly from that woman next door.

Rufus liked being a dog.

Rufus barked another unhappy bark. 

Father Christmas placed Rufus on the hay. Eight big reindeer towered over him.

Rufus could not spot one with a red nose.

Rufus buried his head in the hay and wished he could be back at home.

The next morning Father Christmas arrived with two elves by his side.

“Good morning Rufus, “ said Father Christmas. “It is time for you to fly.”

Rufus barked an unhappy bark. 

He did not like heights as much as he thought he would – and he was too small to pull the sleigh. He would be no use at all. He was far better at chasing cats and licking faces. 

“Come little one – you have nothing to fear,” said Father Christmas. “You are to be flown home by my trusty elves. I think it has to be a dog’s life for you.” 

Father Christmas winked a knowing wink at his reindeer.

Rufus smiled a doggy smile and barked a happy bark.

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“Be a dog and do it well,” suggested Father Christmas, hands on hips. He then reached out to kindly stroke the suddenly relieved dog.

Rufus was dropped in his bed under the tree before Mr. and Mrs. Owner awoke.

Rufus had just enough time to put Mr. Owner’s antlers back in his workbag and Mrs. Owner’s red bauble back on the tree.

His Rudolph reindeer envy was cured. 

Rufus saw a big bone-shaped present wrapped up under the tree.

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Rufus barked a happy bark.

Rufus liked being a dog.

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Copyright: Phil Jones 2014