It was Christmas Eve and Gary and Morris were milling around the shelter, sniffing decorations and rubbing their faces on them.
“It’s that time of year,” said Morris.
“You are right,” said Gary. “My favourite time of year!”
“It’s Christmas!” they both exclaimed.
The two cats began jumping around and one of them knocked over a box of Christmas bows. There were bows scattered all over the floor, and never missing a chance to have fun, they jumped into the bows to roll around and play.
“What are you two doing?” said Marjorie, the founder of Hervey Cats.
Gary and Morris both looked up, buried under a sea of giant red bows.
“You are too funny,” she said. “We can’t leave these bows here though!”
Marjorie grabbed a handful of bows and put them back in their box. Both cats then jumped into the box when they heard the phone ring.
“You two enjoy those bows. I have to answer the phone!” said Marjorie, as she ran to the office.
Morris jumped out of the box and felt something on his fur. It was a bow! The static electricity had stuck it to his back.
“It’s stuck on me!” he yelled.
“RUN!” shouted Gary.
Morris took off running, as fast as possible, until the bow slid off his back. He then began licking the spot where the bow was.
“That was close,” said Morris.
“Let’s get some fresh air,” said Gary.
The cats went outside and sniffed the beautiful country air. It was cool and crisp, and while standing there, they heard some commotion out in the woodlands.
Without saying a word, they looked at each other and took off in the direction of the trees.
When they got there, they saw some of their woodland friends hauling a Christmas tree to a clearing, and an audience of their peers standing around shouting directions at them.
“Hey everybody!” said Gary.
The creatures turned around and waved at the two cats.
“You guys are just in time! We need your help,” said Joey the squirrel.
The cats sauntered over to the group of animals pulling the tree.
“Lovely tree, Joey!” said Morris.
“It is, but we are struggling to stand it up. The geese flew South for the Winter and the deer haven’t been around for a week since they left to find supplies.”
“So, what’s the problem? You need some muscle?” said Gary.
“That would certainly help, but you two are clever and we figured you might be able to help us figure something out,” said Joey.
The cats took a walk around the tree, and all the squirrels, mice, rabbits and groundhogs sat around the tree.
“I think the problem is their height,” said Morris.
“Hey! I heard that!” said one of the mice.
“We have the same problem too. The tree is too big for us to pull properly,” said Morris.
“What are you thinking?” said Gary.
“If we can get some rope from the shelter, we can tie one end to the tree, throw the rope over a branch of another tree, then pull on it to lift it into place!” said Morris.
Joey and the other animals were excited by the idea. As soon as they got everyone’s approval, the two cats headed back up to the shelter to grab some rope from the shed.
“I hope this works,” said Morris.
“We just need to make sure we have enough of us pulling on the rope at the same time and everything will work out,” said Gary.
At the shelter, the cats quickly went into action hunting down some rope. Once they found what they needed, they ran it back to the woodlands.
Upon arrival, a pair of racoons helped tie the rope to the top of the Christmas tree using their opposable thumbs, then ran it up another tree and threw it over one of the branches.
“Alright, here is the plan,” said Morris. “We are going to grab one end of that rope and pull as hard as we can!”
All the creatures lined up, with the smallest ones in the back and the biggest in the front. From mice to rabbits to raccoons, they pulled with all their might…
…but nothing happened.
“The tree won’t budge,” said Joey.
The other woodland animals let out a big sigh.
“We aren’t strong enough,” said one of the rabbits.
Gary and Morris sat down next to the tree and looked at each other.
“What can we do?” said Morris.
“I honestly don’t know,” said Gary.
The animals were sad. It was looking like they wouldn’t be able to get their tree up.
“How will Santa find us?” said one of the baby racoons.
Gary and Morris went over to him and said, “Don’t worry little buddy. Santa is coming. You wait and see.”
All of a sudden they heard a big crack, like branches snapping in the distance. Suddenly they saw a tall birch tree fall about 50 feet away. They also heard a low-sounding long whimper.
“What is that?” said Joey.
The woodland animals sought shelter as quickly as possible while Gary and Morris stood their ground next to Joey.
“That might just be our miracle. Follow me,” said Gary.
The two cats and the squirrel ran into the forest towards the noise, with the cats leaping over fallen logs and jumping through bushes while Joey climbed a tree and jumped from branch to branch. Suddenly they came upon the origin of the great noise.
It was a moose. A very sad moose. He was sitting there sniffling.
“What’s wrong?” said Joey to the Moose.
“I don’t have anyone to spend Christmas with. I got lost and all my friends are gone.”
“Oh no. We are sorry to hear that,” said Morris.
“I am so lonely,” said the Moose.
“What’s your name?” said Joey.
“I’m Bullwinkle,” he said.
The two cats and Joey walked over to Bullwinkle and sat next to him.
“You seem like a nice guy, Bullwinkle,” said Gary. “Would you like to join us and our friends for Christmas?”
“You mean it?” said Bullwinkle.
“Of course!” said Gary. “Christmas is all about being with people. It’s about kindness and showing others you care about them, even if they are new friends or old.”
“I would love that,” said Bullwinkle.
“We do need your help with one thing though…,” said Morris.
“Hop on my back,” said Bullwinkle. “I’ll give you guys a ride.”
Joey and the cats hopped on Bullwinkle’s back and the four animals made their way back to the site where the tree was laying on the ground.
Gary and Morris quickly explained the situation to Bullwinkle and he knew immediately what he needed to do.
The racoons tied a rope around his big moose belly and, after a quick safety check, he jumped into action.
“Wow Bullwinkle, you are so strong,” yelled all the creatures.
Bullwinkle was filled with pride as he pulled the tree into position.
Being the project manager he was born to be, Joey was chattering orders to the other animals scrambling all over the base of the tree. Together with the strength of Bullwinkle and the other small animals guiding it into place, the tree was secured in the ground.
“Look solid!” he shouted.
The racoons undid the rope on Bullwinkle as well as the tree, and all the creatures began crawling around it to decorate.
The rabbits were hopping up and down around the base, filling the ground with leaves and pine needles. The squirrels, rats, mice and voles were running up and down the tree with nuts and other little handmade pieces to dress it up.
One of the raccoons had been saving a bunch of old Christmas lights, and a battery pack, they had found in an open garage last summer and strung them around the tree.
“These thumbs come in useful,” said the raccoon.
“They certainly do,” said Gary.
Out of the corner of his eye, Morris noticed some deer coming through the trees.
“We are back!” said the biggest one of the group. “And we have food for everyone!”
The deer placed a bunch of different foods down on the ground for all the animals.
“We are so happy to see you again! You were gone for so long!” said Joey.
“We had to go extra far,” said the deer. “Supplies are running low nearby and this won’t be enough for the Winter. Granted, we can always lean on Morris and Gary’s food stand, but this gives us some variety.”
By the time the tree decorating was finished, night was starting to fall. The animals grouped up to keep warm on the bed of leaves and pine needles made by the rabbits. Bullwinkle and the deer wrapped all the smaller animals into their embrace and they all started sharing their favourite stories from the last year.
Suddenly, the tree started to glow.
“What’s going on?” said Bullwinkle.
“I’m not sure,” said Joey.
Then a tiny little mouse yelled, “It’s Santa!”
They looked up in the sky, mouths dropped open in awe, as they heard the jingling of sleigh bells.
“It really is Santa,” said Morris.
“I can’t believe it!” said Gary.
The sleigh flew past an opening in the trees then gently touched down about 10 metres from the group of animals.
The reindeer were sleek and beautiful creatures, like the professionals of the animal world. They had ornate harnesses and were very strong. And one of them had a nose giving off a bright red glow.
The deer stood up. “Is that Rudolph? I’ve only heard stories. That can’t actually be him.”
They couldn’t stop talking.
“It is me! I am Rudolph!” said Rudolph. “It’s nice to meet all of you!”
The deer went over to Rudolph and his coworkers, and they all began to chat.
Then the big man, Saint Nick, Babbo Natale, Santa Claus himself, hopped off the sleigh.
“Hello, all you wonderful little creatures!”
All the animals stopped what they were doing to listen.
“You are all good animals, with good hearts. You deserve to have a wonderful Christmas like everyone else. I haven’t forgotten about any of you, and I brought some gifts!” said Santa.
“First off, I have treats for everyone. And enough food to get you all through the Winter. I know things can be hard when it gets cold and there is a bunch of different delights for every creature here.”
The animals cheered.
“Secondly, I brought some gifts from the human world. I have heating pads, toys, flashlights and more!”
Gary and Morris were so happy for their friends. Not only did they receive the gift of not having to worry about food through the Winter, but they could also improve their lives and stay safe with some of the other gifts.
“This couldn’t have been a better Christmas,” said Gary.
“You are right about that,” said Morris.
“But what about you two boys?” said Santa. “What about Gary and Morris? The two shelter cats who help out their friends and community?”
He reached into his bag and pulled out some treats for the cats.
“I have one more thing for each of you though,” said Santa. “For Morris, the cat from 9 Lives, the city boy, the actor. I have something to remind you to slow down and enjoy the things you have. A snowglobe with the Herveycats shelter inside it.”
“Thank you, Santa,” said Morris.
“And for Gary. The boy with a big heart, an inquisitive nature, and a busy mind. For you, I have a beautiful comfy new bed. After a long day of work, you deserve an extra comfortable place to retire to.”
“Thanks, Santa!” said Gary.
“And for all of you creatures, I am also going to leave some walkie-talkie radios for you to be able to communicate with the shelter, or each other, at any time you like. They are solar-powered so all you need to do is leave them in the sun and they will work forever.”
The animals rejoiced and were smitten with Santa and his reindeer.
“Thank you for everything Santa,” said Joey. “This has been the best Christmas ever.”
“Yeah, thanks Santa!” yelled all the woodland animals.
Bullwinkle was holding back tears of joy as he snacked on one of the treats Santa brought but managed to get a few words out.
“Best… Christmas… Ever.”
Santa walked back to his sleigh, wished everyone a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year, then called on his reindeer. In a matter of seconds, they were back in the sky and off to their next destination.
“Ho! Ho! Ho!” they all heard as Santa flew off into the distance.
The spirits around the Christmas tree were at an all-time high. Everyone was happy, their bellies were full, and they were excited to try out their new gifts.
Gary and Morris lay down next to Bullwinkle and the other animals, while the deer sandwiched everyone in to keep warm.
“I am so happy to have found you all,” said Bullwinkle.
“We are happy to have found you,” said Joey.
“Christmas is all about friends,” said one of the baby mice.
The animals all fell asleep.
The next morning, Gary and Morris bid their adieu to the other animals and made their way back to the shelter.
“That was one awesome Christmas,” said Gary.
“I’d call it amazing. We got to meet Santa! And Rudolph! Wow!” said Morris.
“What are we going to do for New Year’s Eve?” said Gary.
“I’m not sure yet, but if we want to top Christmas, we have some serious planning to do,” said Morris.
“Haha. Yes. That is putting it lightly,” said Gary.