It was Christmas Eve. The staff was closing down the computer. The receipts were tallied for the day and the doctor had seen his last patient.
The boarding kennels at this clinic were full to the ceiling with dogs and cats whose owners were entrusting this animal hospital to look after their safekeeping while they spent the holidays with relatives and friends.
Bartholomew Bassethound was sulking over the corner, knowing full well he wouldn't have a merry Christmas this year. No Christmas either for Mortimer Mastiff, Randy Rat Terrier, Chelsea Chesapeake, Ray Retriever, Lori Lab Retriever, Pamela Papillon or Pauline Poodle. They all laid dejected at the backs of their cubicles, sullen and left alone, abandoned as it may. They could never understand.
It all started with that, "Hey, pooch, want to go for a ride?" their masters would convincingly encourage. But when they rounded that corner and saw the all too familiar snake wrapped around that staff and the "V" in the middle, they knew they had been had again.
"If only God would have handed out more brain cells to us rather than our masters. Oh well, we're here. We'll make the best of it. The food's great and the office girls are cute and kind."
Even the cats, who had their own room, were trapped as it were, with no place to go but to the litter box, the food dish and back.
Martin Manx and Simon Siamese were so disgusted, they ceased purring. Abby Abbsynia and Doty Domestic Shorthair were cooing at each other, starting the small talk of kittens who had grown up all too soon after their spays the year before.
The other felines had settled in for the long winter night as the doors to the shop were locked for the last time.
The staff would be heard wishing each other a merry Christmas, ironically rubbing in a depressed salutation to the boarders within the confines of the back rooms. The lights went out and that was it for the night. Or so they thought ...
Near midnight, a faint jingling of bells could be heard over the roof of the clinic building. As if in unison, ears popped up to attention and eyes suddenly opened.
A loud "ho, ho, ho" could be heard, muffled through the roof. The stomping of hooves could also be heard down through the bowels of the kennel.
The bells rang almost non-stop now as a chorus to the entry of one rotund gentleman dressed in red and white finery encircled by a large black belt.
As if by magic, this figure slipped down the flue and popped out within sight of all the confined furry ones. Most did not know whether to bark or growl, but within an instant, the familiar sight of Santa Claus calmed all as he emerged from the back room.
"Thought I'd forget about you on such a special night as this?" Santa said. "Why, Rudolph made sure to remind me to stop by and visit all of you. Hope it lifts your spirits. Besides, I have lots of great stuff to pass around before I leave."
One by one, Santa opened the cage doors and let out each dog or cat to their delight. There was immediate pandemonium, but ol' Santa had his way with the boarders as he pulled out his big toy bag.
All the beasts came to attention as Santa handed out various chew toys, balls, Frisbees, fancy winter coats and stockings stuffed to the brim with delightful treats.
Bartholomew Bassett tried on his new winter coat -- a perfect fit. Pauline Poodle was sporting a furry turtleneck sweater that made her pleasing to all.
Lori Lab Retriever was delighted with her new bumper toys she would be able to retrieve out of the water the next time she went to the lake with her master. Randy Rat Terrier was tearing into his bag of goodies already, hoping he could not get too sick after all these rich morsels.
It was truly an occasion to remember, made momentous by one very plump animal lover, in Santa himself.
Santa sat back and roared with laughter as his belly shook like a bowl full of jelly.
As Mort Mastiff and Chelsey Chesapeake sat side by side, taking in this rare celebration, they spoke candidly about their stay at the vet's kennel.
"Mortimer, my friend, we've really got it good, you know. Even though out masters are off to wherever they went, they did make sure we were well taken care of this Christmas," Chelsey growled approvingly.
"You're right, Chels." Mortimer sighed and responded through his droopy jowls. "I think I did hear my master asking for the 'Christmas package." at the front desk when he dropped me off."
The festive celebration of yuletide went on until the wee hours of the morning. Fortunately, Santa had made all his runs to the good girls and boys and had some extra time to spend with this group of select canines and felines.
When all had their fill of cheer and chew, Santa tucked them back into their kennels.
The reindeer were becoming a bit impatient on the rooftop but came alive at the sound of that jolly old fellow, "Now Dasher, now Dancer, now Donner, now Cupid ... up to the top of the roof and off you go. Light the way, Rudolph! Mrs. Claus will be waiting breakfast on us, you know."
Santa couldn't help himself. The warm feeling inside of another Christmas gone by for man and his best friend(s).