by Tina Burton
It was two months before Christmas, and Santa Claus sat in his workshop holding a list. He scratched his head and sighed.
Rudolph, the chief reindeer, walked over and nuzzled his master's hand.
'We're in a bit of a predicament this year, Rudolph, old boy,' Santa Claus told him. 'There are so many children in the world now, and you reindeer are old and slow. You've worked so hard for me over the years, I'd like to retire you all.'
Rudolph snorted. 'I'd love to rest, Sir, and I think the others would too, wouldn't you, boys?'
The eight other reindeer nodded their heads and snorted in agreement.
'Oh, the thought of a lovely warm barn, and as much hay as we can eat. No more months of training or zooming around the world on Christmas Eve. It would be bliss,' said Prancer, tossing his head.
'We've loved working for you though, Sir,' said Blitzen. 'You've been a kind and fair master.'
Santa looked fondly around at his faithful reindeer, and a tear escaped his eye.
'And I've been pleased with your work. You've been excellent reindeer. You always got me around the world on time. You've earned your retirement. I'll tell the elves to build you an extra big barn and to make sure they put warm cosy beds in it for each of you. Don't worry, boys, you'll live out the rest of your lives happily with me. But I still have a problem. How am I going to get around the world this year? Even if I get a new set of reindeer, I'm not sure they'd be fast enough.'
'Not even with the speed up magic dust?' asked Rudolph.
'Not even with that. I need an animal faster than reindeer.'
'How about a cheetah? That's the fastest land animal,' said Dancer.
Rudolph snorted in disgust. 'It's also a wild animal, you dunce.'
'Now now, boys, no arguing.' Santa patted Dancer's head fondly. He wasn't the brightest of reindeer, but he'd been a loyal and hard worker.
'It was a good idea, Dancer, a cheetah is certainly fast, but we need a gentle animal as well as a fast one.'
Santa got up, put down his list and headed for the door. 'I'll have a think. I'll see if the elves have any ideas, and if any of you come up with something, let me know.'
Suddenly, Rudolph's nose shone like a beacon, something it always did when he got excited.
'Mr Claus, Sir, I've just had the most wonderful idea.'
Santa stopped, his hand on the door handle, and turned back. He sat down and stroked Rudolph's ears.
'I think we can dispense with the Mr Claus, and Sir. You've known me long enough now. Santa will do.'
'Thank you, Sir, I mean, Santa. What about greyhounds? They are such gentle, kind creatures, and they're very fast.' Rudolph looked up at his master, hoping his idea would please him.
Santa slapped his thigh. 'By Jove, Rudolph, old boy, I think you've solved it.'
Santa jumped up in excitement, and started pacing around the room. 'Okay, we need nine greyhounds, the fastest and most gentle. And they've got to be happy to do some training and work for me.'
'I'm sure they'd love to work for you, and many greyhounds are used to training aren't they, because they race,' Prancer said.
'That's true. Right. I need to get moving on this quickly. We need to get those greyhounds here and training as soon as possible. I'll send the elves out into the world, and tell them to choose me the best nine greyhounds they can find.'
Santa stood up and rushed out of his workshop to find his elves, with a big grin on his jolly round face.
A week later, Santa stood in front of his new recruits. The elves had searched far and wide to find greyhounds with the kindest of hearts, and lightness of feet. They'd chosen retired dogs, who were excited and delighted to be working with Santa Claus. There were eight elegant black dogs, with sleek shiny fur, and one beautiful fawn coloured, who would lead the pack.
They're currently doing their training, and have shown a real aptitude. They weren't even scared when Santa rubbed the speed up dust on their paws.
They caused a bit of commotion when they did zoomies through the clouds, and Santa had to laugh when he heard that several people had reported seeing unidentified flying objects.
So, if you're up late on Christmas Eve and you hear sleigh bells, have a look out, and you might just see Santa with nine glorious greyhounds galloping across the sky.