“As the Lodge Turns” Episode 26: A Not-So-Secret Santa!

 On this episode of “As the Lodge Turns”…

It’s my first Christmas season at the Lodge, and I can really feel the excitement in the air! All the dogs romp with extra enthusiasm, Christmas tree needles clinging to their fur and stray strands of tinsel stuck to their paws. As the decorations magically appear and the humans run around with packages in hand, we know that Santa will soon pay us a visit…

And some of us are a little more excited than others!

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“Attention, everyone! Attention!”

Scarlett’s elegant bark fails to attract any notice from the other dogs.

“ATTENTION!!!”

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Thankfully, Cocoa Bean and her “Super Sonic Bark” are more than willing to help a damsel in distress.

As we gather by the fence, I sit next to Lucy. She beams down at me, her dark eyes brimming with excitement. The smell of fir trees is thick on everyone’s coats, so that when we’re huddled together it’s almost like being in a forest.

“Some of you may be woefully unaware, but every Christmas we engage in a gift exchange. Settle down, now,” Scarlett commands, eyeing a pocket of younger dogs who would rather play than sit still.

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“Could it be? Princess Scarlett spreading holiday cheer? It’s a Christmas miracle!” Max exclaims in mock-astonishment.

Lucy shakes her head and I hear a few sighs from behind me. When he baits the trap, we all know what comes next…

“Why…yes. Holiday cheer is what we should all aspire to at this time of year,” she answers in a steady bark, though her brows are furrowed in the tiniest of glares.

Even Scarlett is trying to be kind at Christmas! Max looks disappointed…

“As I was saying, each year we hold an organized gift exchange. You shall each be assigned another dog at the Lodge, and then you must bring a present for them tomorrow. They shall bring a present for you as well. Now, listen carefully as I announce partnerships.”

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“Ha! Guess this is a ‘Not-So-Secret Santa!’” Max announces with a smug grin.

Scarlett uses super-canine strength to ignore him as she runs through the partners. I wonder who I’ll get…

I sneak a glance at Lucy, who seems to be holding her breath. Is there a dog she’s hoping to be paired with? The thought of her wanting to be someone else’s partner makes me feel strange…

“Daisy, your partner is Biscuit!”

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I see Daisy’s horrified expression from across the yard.

“NO WAY! He always tries to stop me from having fun!”

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“Your safety is of the utmost importance,” Biscuit says drily, his tail swishing in irritated swipes across the turf.

“This is the time of year when we must set aside our petty differences. Why not use this opportunity as a chance to learn more about your opposing perspectives?” Scarlett suggests pleasantly, her snout tilting higher in the air.

Some of these matches seem like a terrible idea!

“Now, as for you, Lucy…your partner is…”

My heartbeat is so loud I can feel it pulsing in my ears. Even though I feel jealous, I hope that Lucy ends up with the dog she wants…please…

“…Bing!”

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For a moment I think I’ve imagined it. Me? I’m Lucy’s partner for the gift exchange?! When I see Scarlett’s sly little smile, I know that she had a paw in this. Her expression says, ‘You foolish beagle, I order you to appreciate my Christmas gift to you!’

As I turn to speak with Lucy I’m startled by what I see. Her head hangs lower, and her eyes have a far-away, empty look to them. It’s like she’s just received a piece of terrible news. Fear rises in my throat, but I can’t swallow it away.

Did I do this to her?

“Now, Cocoa Bean, you must tell me who my partner shall be,” Scarlett says, closing her eyes and shivering a little with an uncharacteristic excitement.

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“It’s Max, of course!” Cocoa Bean announces with a bright smile.

The yard suddenly goes quiet, like the sound of air rushing from a deflating balloon.

“WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU DO SUCH A THING TO ME?!” Scarlett cries, her holiday cheer escaping into the air with the cold smoke of her breath.

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“Well…you did say this would be an opportunity…to put aside petty differences,” Cocoa Bean says, taking a few tiny steps back.

“There is nothing ‘petty’ between Max and myself! Nobility and crudeness are not meant to understand each other!!”

It seems that Lucy isn’t the only dog who’s disappointed with their partner assignment.

What can I give her to make up for this…?

…to be continued…