YULETIDE STORY FOR YOUNG READERS
Niko and Flash go missing at Noche Buena
Niko was no fun anymore. He didn’t want to play tug or fetch or even chase after the cat. All he wanted to do was sleep and have his tummy scratched once in a while. He was a lazy, old dog—so lazy he couldn’t even be bothered to lift his head when Dad brought home a new puppy and the twins nearly burst everyone’s eardrums with their shrieks.
“Look at Niko,” they said as the puppy dashed about the yard in a frenzy of yips. “He’s so lazy he doesn’t even care that he has a new playmate!”
Niko lifted an eyelid at the excited ball of fur chasing its own tail in front of him, yawned, and settled into an even deeper sleep. He just couldn’t be bothered!
The twins couldn’t get enough of their new pet. They called him Flash because he was so fast! Flash loved to play tug and fetch. He didn’t just chase the cat, he also went after bicycles, toy cars, Tony the delivery boy, and pretty much anything that moved. He had so much energy that even the boys, who were notorious for not being able to sit still, would get exhausted!
No matter how noisy and rambunctious it would get, however, Niko would just snooze through it all. When the twins’ aunts and uncles and cousins started coming over for Christmas, he’d get up and sniff around once or twice—but, when he saw that no one would give him any of the ham they brought, he’d pad back to his corner and slide back into a boneless heap.
“That,” the aunts and uncles and cousins would say, “is the laziest dog we’ve ever seen!” Then, they’d turn their attention to Flash, who was always ready to play and meet new people.
Even he didn’t get much attention the night before Christmas, though. The children were asleep, and the grownups were too busy cooking and wrapping presents. Flash had so much energy, and he was so bored—and you know what happens when puppies get bored!
“Where’s Flash?,” the twins asked in the middle of Noche Buena dinner. “Can we please, please give him a little ham, because it’s Christmas?”
“Fine, why not?” the grownups said, and they called his name and whistled, but he didn’t come.
Eventually, everyone got so worried that they all stood up and started hunting around the house, looking under beds and tables, even checking the toilets. Outside, they only found Niko, fast asleep as usual. Then, an aunt noticed that the gate was ajar.
“Flash must’ve gotten out,” she said—and, at that, the twins and their cousins burst into tears! “He’s so little he’ll get lost!” the twins cried. “He’s so fast he’ll be far, far away,” said one cousin. “It’s so dark out, he might get run over!,” squealed another. And on it went!
Clearly, Flash had to be found—and, while some of the bigger-bellied uncles may have grumbled a bit, they all went out, armed with flashlights, to look for him.
After what seemed like hours and hours, they all came back empty-handed. The kids burst into tears again. “Oh no!,” said one. “Now, even Niko is missing, too!”—And, when they went and looked, he was indeed nowhere to be found.
While everyone was still trying to come to grips with the fact that their lazy, old dog had actually gone more than a few steps away from his favorite spot, they heard something that no one had heard in a long time. It was a big, bass “Woof!”
“That’s Niko’s bark!,” Dad said. “He hasn’t bothered to bark in years!”
They all ran to the gate—and, there was Niko with Flash fast asleep at his feet! The children were so happy they started crying again, and some of the grownups got teary eyed, too.
“Woof!,” Niko barked, and if they spoke dog, they would have heard him say, “What’s with all the leaky faces? I’ve found the puppy, now please let me pass, so I can go back to my nap!”
But, they didn’t speak dog, so it was a very long time before he was able to go back to his spot. First, he had to suffer many more watery hugs, then he had to be cheered and toasted and have his picture taken many more times—and, finally, he had to eat a big slab of ham. —That part he didn’t mind so much!
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