Friday, December 17, 2010

Bringing in the Reindeer

This story started with a business idea.  Our girls, Lara and Emma, both have pretty good sheep dogs – Mo and Ernie (respectively).  Over dinner this summer, Lara suggested that we could help other ranchers gather and move their livestock.

“Let’s put a sign up at the feed store, Dad,” she said.  “You could use Taff, too!”

“Yeah – we could make a little money for Christmas and get a chance to use our dogs,” Emma agreed.  “Let’s make a poster.”

The next week, we put up a handmade sign:

Need help corralling your wild sheep?
We can help!
Have sheep dogs – will travel!
Dan Macon and Daughters
Livestock Herding Services
Call us today!

We also posted the information on our website in hopes that we’d reach more folks who needed our assistance.

During the next several months, we took on a few jobs – nothing too difficult.  We helped a neighbor move his goats into a new pasture.  This fall, we helped gather a friend’s ewes before they were tagged for lambing.  The girls earned some spending money, and the dogs had great fun!

The week after Thanksgiving, I got a call on my cell phone from a number I didn’t recognize – I didn’t even recognize the area code.  I let the call roll over into my voice mail, and retrieved this message:

“Mr. Macon, this is Kris Kringle up north – you might know me better as Santa Claus.  I saw the information on your website and thought maybe you could give me a hand.  In early October, one of the elves forgot to latch the door to the grain room.  One of the reindeer – probably Donner – got the door open, and the reindeer got into my special grain.  The stuff that makes them fly.  They’ve been impossible to catch ever since.  After Thanksgiving, I usually start putting them in harness and getting them in shape, but they take off every time we try to catch them.  Give me a call – I’m sure your girls and their dogs can help!”

Well, as you can imagine, I called back immediately.  Kris picked up the call himself – who knew Santa had a cell phone!?

I said, “Santa, the girls and I would love to help, but I’m not sure Taff, Mo and Ernie are up to gathering flying livestock.  They are great dogs, but they’re not terribly aerodynamic.”
Mo waiting to get airborne!

Taff at rest - a typical pose.

Mo's little brother Ernie - doesn't he look like he could fly!?

“Just leave that to me,” laughed Santa, “I have a special supplement I add to the grain we feed the reindeer.  A scoop on their dog food ought to do the trick!”

I covered the phone and asked Lara and Emma what they thought.  “Let’s try it, Dad,” Emma said, “sounds like fun!”

“Yeah, Dad,” Lara agreed.  “I’d like to see the dogs fly!”

“We’ll give it a shot, Santa,” I spoke into the phone.  “How do we get up there?”

“Leave that to me,” he said.

A week later, we were at the North Pole.  Santa made us promise not to divulge our travel route or methods – we’ve since tried to find his place on Google Earth without success.

We put a scoop of reindeer dust on the dogs’ food.  Ernie and Taff gulped theirs down, but we had to add an egg to Mo’s food to get him to eat all of it.  Immediately, all three dogs began to levitate about five feet above the snowy ground.

“Looks like it worked,” Santa said.

Mo and Ernie were obviously thrilled to be flying, but Taff looked apprehensive.
Lara said, “Dad – I think you should keep Taff on the ground – he doesn’t even like to jump much.  Maybe he can put them in the corral once they’re down.  Let’s see if Mo and Ernie can gather the reindeer.”

Now those of you who’ve been around sheep dogs know that we have commands to go left and right – “come bye” and “away to me.”  However, I’d never given much thought to up and down!  While I was certain that there were obscure Scottish terms for up and down that made just as much sense as “come bye” and “away,” the girls convinced me that “higher” and “lower” would be easier to remember.   We walked out to the corrals and saw the reindeer circling high over head.

Lara called Mo to her side and said, “Come by – higher” in a sweet voice.  He climbed into the air and circled to his left around the reindeer.  Emma told Ernie, “Away – higher,” and he took off to the right.  Taff curled up under Santa’s sleigh – content to wait until the other dogs did the aerobatic work.

As the dogs came around behind the maverick reindeer, most of them bunched together.  One of them, however (“That’ll be Donner,” Santa told us), put his head up and decided to take on the dogs.

“Not a smart move,” Lara chuckled – “Get ‘im, Mo,” she called.  Mo crept towards Donner (you should see a dog creep when it’s airborne – it’s something else!).  Donner put his head down.  I covered my eyes – those antlers looked wicked.  Quick as a wink, Mo dashed in and nipped Donner on the nose!  Donner tucked his tail and joined the others.

“Walk on – lower,” Emma called.  Mo and Ernie wove back and forth just above and slightly behind their “flock.”  Down they came – and Taff was waiting for them.  As soon as the reindeer touched the ground, he made sure they went through the corral gate.  Santa’s elves slipped halters on them and took them into the barn.

“Thanks, girls – your dogs are amazing!  I’ll bet Mrs. Claus has hot chocolate and cookies waiting for us,” said Santa.  Emma and Lara thought that sounded great!  “And I’ve got something for Taff, Mo and Ernie,” Santa added, “Liver-flavored candy canes.”  Yum!

We made our way home this last week.  Santa told us to be sure to hang stockings for Taff, Mo and Ernie – the girls can’t wait to see what he brings the dogs!  We all want to try the candy canes!

Merry Christmas!


  1. I'd sure like to get some of that flying powder for Rusty and see what he could do! I love reading about your experience.

  2. What a great story, for what it says and all it implies about your delight in your family and your lives... always good to know an adult with an imagination! Merry Christmas!!
    Tracy Vega

  3. Dan: You've got the makings of a terrific children's picture book!

    Merry Christmas to you all, dogs included.

    Gretchen Woelfle