Christmas ‘Surprises’

“Brock, are you absolutely positively sure that they sell dog bones in the cafes and restaurants at Whistler?”  Brock and Sox were making their last minute preparations before leaving for their Christmas skiing holiday in Whistler, Canada, and Sox was feeling very anxious about there being adequate food supplies for him so far from home, where Jules always made sure he had everything he needed.  Brock sought to put his mind at rest.

“Sox, I’m as sure about that as I am that there is an ample supply of honey there – and you can rest assured that I would no more go somewhere without honey than take you somewhere without bones.”

His mind now put at rest, Sox finished packing his case, happily daydreaming about all the exciting times to come when he and Brock left for Whistler the next day.  And with the assurance of a good supply of juicy bones whilst there, he was now a supremely happy Rottweiler indeed!

The next day, however, didn’t start too well.  Sox woke up feeling rather poorly, and traveling on the bus to Gatwick Airport proved to be the final straw – no sooner had he stepped off the bus upon their arrival at Gatwick than he was horribly sick!  Brock was in rather a panic at that point, as they had a 10 hour flight to Vancouver ahead of them; and, beyond that, there was another 2 hours travel by bus to their hotel in Whistler.  How would Sox cope, if he was feeling so ill?  Should they cancel their trip? That would be truly devastating, as they were both looking forward to it so much.

“Sox, do you feel so bad that you would prefer to go back home to Jules?” asked Brock.

“Well, I wish Jules was here to look after me right now – he always knows what to do to make me feel better.  But I don’t want to miss this trip. I’ll just have to take things easy, and try and sleep on the ‘plane.  Our seats are next to the toilet, in case I feel sick, which will be a big help.  Maybe you can help me with my case, though?  I don’t feel up to carrying it right now.”

“Sure, Sox.  You wait here whilst I go and get a luggage trolley for us.”

After an exhausting time of checking in their luggage, battling the crowds of Christmas holidaymakers, and dealing with the hassles of getting through security, the pair collapsed exhaustedly into some seats in the departure lounge.  Their flight with Zoom airlines was due for boarding in 30 minutes.  They could see their ‘plane outside the windows, busily being refueled and loaded with everyone’s luggage – and, despite his horrible feeling of sickness, Sox’s excitement grew.  He was going to Canada!  He dozed fitfully until the call came to board the flight – his head ached terribly, his stomach felt awful, and even the thought of a juicy bone made him feel sick once more.  He wished that Jules was there to give him a big hug and to make it all better.

Once on board, the pair soon found their seats on the ‘plane, and Brock stowed away their bags and ski coats in the overhead locker.  Soon, they were ‘zooming’ down the runway, and then airborne.

“Next stop Canada!” exclaimed Brock excitedly, turning to look at Sox.  Sox, however, was already asleep.  “Ah well, best thing for him, I guess.”

Brock made a mental note to call Jules from Vancouver airport to let him know that Sox was poorly.  Then he made himself comfortable and decided to listen to Zoom’s music channels.  (He did, however, feel a twinge of guilt that he felt secretly relieved at Sox’s feeling poorly and needing to sleep so much.  It was just that, normally, Sox was very talkative, and rarely gave Brock much time to do his own thing in peace when they travelled together!).

To his extreme annoyance, Brock discovered that his earphones weren’t working, and Jules had paid extra for him and Sox to travel in premium class, in order that they would have more space and comfort for themselves.  This simply wasn’t good enough, he decided, and he called to a flight attendant to explain the situation.  When she tried to fob him off with the idea that he would just have to do without music as they didn’t have any more headsets available, Brock decided that he would use his infamous Bear Growl ploy, and he managed to scare the flight attendant sufficiently to ensure that she bothered to look extra carefully for another set of earphones (he knew how lazy staff could be these days), and, lo and behold, within a couple of minutes she had returned with a pair for him, apologizing profusely all the while for the inconvenience.  “Huh”, thought Brock to himself, “you just can’t get the staff these days.”  A huge, beary satisfied grin then spread across his face, as he began to listen to all his favourite Christmas music on the Zoom Airlines Christmas Channel!

About an hour into the flight, the attendants began serving hot mince pies and hot chocolate as part of their special Christmas flight menu.  Brock’s mouth began to water in anticipation, and he checked to see if Sox was awake yet.  But no, he was still fast asleep.  Brock decided he would still order a mince pie for him, in case he fancied one when he eventually woke up – and, if he still didn’t feel like eating – well, Brock supposed he would just have to eat the extra one himself.  Such a hardship that would be!

Brock savoured his mince pie and hot chocolate, then decided to have a little doze himself to help pass the time until Christmas lunch was served.  Yummy!  Sox stirred fitfully in his sleep, and uttered a few quiet growls of discomfort now and again.  Apart from that, Brock was left to enjoy some peace and quiet, but he still felt rather guilty that he was secretly enjoying Sox’s illness and resultant silence.

Brock enjoyed his Christmas lunch of turkey, roast potatoes and all the usual trimmings, followed by some delicious chocolate log cake.   Poor Sox, he would be furious he had missed out on all that wonderful food!  “Ah well”, thought Brock, “we’ll have to make up for it by going out for a huge Christmas dinner in Whistler.”  And that would mean an extra treat for Brock!

Twice during the long flight Sox stirred enough to have to rush to the toilet in order to be sick, then promptly fell back to sleep again.  Poor Sox – he dreamt of Jules giving him big hugs though, which helped soothe his pain a little.

When they arrived at Vancouver Airport, the pair were stunned by the fabulous Christmas decorations everywhere.  There were huge Christmas trees gorgeously glittering with twinkling red and white lights, masses of shiny silver and gold tinsel winding across the ceiling, bells hanging from ribbons by windows, and so many other festive figures and colourful decorations it quite took their breath away.

Then, when they had passed through customs and passport control, a fabulous snowy winter waterfall scene greeted them.  On either side of the glittering, cascading water, there were moving figures of miniature skiers making their way up and down pristine white snow.  Brock and Sox were so excited – tomorrow that would be them out on the ski slopes!

Sox was feeling utterly exhausted after so much traveling, feeling ill and not having eaten.  Brock, very thoughtfully, omitted to inform him about all the delicious Christmas food he had missed on the ‘plane – (he had decided to eat the extra mince pie when it seemed that Sox wasn’t going to wake up – after all, it wouldn’t do to waste such good food,  now would it?!).  Whilst waiting for their transfer bus to Whistler, Brock put in a call to Jules to let him know about Sox’s illness.  What he completely forgot to take into account, was that it was now 3am in England!  After several rings, a very sleepy and disgruntled sounding Jules picked up the ‘phone.  Brock explained to him about Sox, wondering why Jules didn’t sound happy to hear from him – didn’t he love his Brock Bear any more??  When Jules finally explained about the time difference, Brock was horrified and very embarrassed! However, Jules put his mind at rest and told him that he had done the right thing in telling him about Sox, which made Brock glow all warmly inside again – he loved  Jules very much, and hated it when he was cross with him (which actually was hardly ever at all, as Jules loved Brock equally as much!).

Brock helped Sox get his case onto the transfer bus, and soon they were on their way to Whistler.  Despite his excitement at being in Canada for the first time, and wanting to stay awake to watch the scenery, Sox still felt very poorly, and before too long had fallen fast asleep once again.  Brock, equally excited about being back in his native homeland, was by now utterly exhausted himself, and though he too had planned on looking out of the window all the way to their hotel, was also soon snoring and growling happily in his sleep, dreaming of honey, the mountains, skiing – and Jules…..

When they had arrived at their hotel and unpacked, neither Brock nor Sox felt they could go to sleep again.  The ‘jet lag’ of time zone difference, and the fact that they had slept so much on the journey, meant that they no longer felt tired.  So, seeing that they could play computer games via the television set, they decided to amuse themselves for an hour that way.  Unfortunately, what they didn’t realize was that the games weren’t free, and it wouldn’t be until they checked out a week later that they discovered this fact when they were presented with a very large, and very unexpected, bill!

It was now 4am, and the pair had spent an enjoyable hour playing the games.  Brock was very strict about the amount of time they stared at a computer screen, and, as soon as the hour was up, he promptly shut off the television.  Sox grumbled rather a lot, but he knew it was no use arguing.  Making Brock an angry bear was not advisable – those sharp claws and teeth were not a pleasant sight!

As Sox was now feeling a little better, he thought he would make them a cup of tea.  However, he soon ran into difficulty when he discovered that Canadians and Americans were not big users of electric kettles like at home – they preferred to drink coffee, and therefore used coffee makers.  Brock, however, being Canadian himself, was wise to this, and ended up rolling around on the floor in fits of laughter whilst he watched Sox try to work out how to boil water in the hotel coffee maker – but, he decided to step in when he realized that Sox had ended up putting water in completely the wrong compartment of the machine, had then switched it on, and that the heat was likely going to shatter the glass jug when the water failed to trickle through into it!  So, he put Sox out of his misery and showed him how to use the machine properly.  Five minutes later, they were both enjoying a delicious cup of tea – and no shattered glass to be seen!

Afterwards, Sox’s stomach began to grumble, and this reminded him that he hadn’t eaten for a very long time.  It was still rather too early to go out and get breakfast though, and so he and Brock made themselves comfortable in the window seats and gazed out at the moon and stars shining above the snow-covered mountains.  They could also see, in the distance, the twinkling Christmas lights in the village centre of Whistler itself, and they could hardly wait for the morning when they could go there and see all the festive decorations close up.

“I wish Jules was here with us ,” said Sox sadly.  “I don’t know why he wouldn’t come.”

“Yeah, I know, Dude,” replied Brock. “But he must have had his own good reasons.”

Unbeknownst to the pair, Jules did indeed have ‘his own good reasons’ – he was, in fact, planning a very big Christmas surprise for them, and had secretly arranged to fly out to Whistler to be with them 2 days later, on Christmas Eve, with the intention of meeting up with them on Christmas Day!

Morning slowly dawned, and Brock and Sox showered and changed into their skiing outfits for the day ahead.

“Ok, Dude, let’s go find some yummy breakfast!” said Brock excitedly, and the pair set off in search of a café.  First, though, they had to take the lift down to the hotel’s entrance foyer.  The night before, a porter had gone up in the lift with them to help carry their luggage up to their room, and had, therefore, dealt with pressing the lift floor buttons.  This time, they were on their own – and soon discovered that their paws were just too big to press a single button.  They ended up pressing 3 at a time!  As a result, the next 20 minutes were spent going up and down between the three hotel floors, the lift doors being completely confused as 3 floor buttons had been pressed at the same time!  Sox was in a big panic, and paced around in the small space, wishing that Jules was there with him!  In the end, Brock used his Big Bear Growl to get the attention of a hotel worker.  The luggage porter heard the angry growls coming from the lift, saw the flashing lift floor numbers going crazily up and down, and realized what was happening.  He then used the external lift override button to get the pair safely down to ground floor level.  Brock and Sox emerged from the lift in a highly agitated state, and the porter sat them down in some comfy armchairs for a while until they calmed down.  He then suggested that, in future, he should go in the lift with them when they needed to use it, to which idea the pair agreed only too happily!

This big ‘adventure’ had made Sox even hungrier, and he hoped that there was some suitably delicious Rottweiler food available in the village cafes!  Upon entering the village, the pair chose a likely café, and sat down to look at the menu.

“Hmm,” said Sox worriedly. “They don’t have all the usual things which Jules provides for me at home, Brock.  What shall I eat?”

“Well,” answered Brock thoughtfully, scratching his chin.  “You could try having a rather tasty combination of, um – coke and sausage roll.”

“Coke and sausage roll!” exclaimed Sox in a worried tone.  “I’ve never had that for breakfast before – would Jules mind me having that, do you think?”  I’m not sure it sounds very healthy.”

“Well,” mused Brock.  “You are on holiday.  And, you know – there’s such things as ‘food for the body’ and ‘food for the soul’.  Both have their place in their own way!”

“Hmm, well, I have to say it does sound very appealing to my soul! Ok, I”ll go for it – but promise not to tell Jules!”

“Bear’s honour I won’t,” laughed Brock in reply.  “After all, I’m going to have them too, and I wouldn’t want to get into trouble with Jules either!”

The pair hugely enjoyed their ‘unusual soul food’ breakfast.  In fact, they wished it could be a holiday everyday as a result!  Afterwards, they spent half an hour walking around the village, looking at the Christmas decorations.  Brock was highly amused by the Black Bears dressed up in Santa costumes outside some of the shops!

The rest of that day and the next was spent enjoying the mountains and lots of skiing.  Then came Christmas Eve, and the pair thought a lot about how much they were going to miss Jules on Christmas Day.  Brock was planning a surprise Christmas Day dinner for Sox, as he had missed out on the Zoom airline’s Christmas food delights on their flight over.  It wouldn’t be the same without Jules being there, though……

Jules, meanwhile, was secretly on his way to Whistler at that point, enjoying all the Christmas menu specials on the Zoom flight, just as Brock had done before him.  He had booked a surprise dog-sled ride for Brock and Sox as their Christmas present on Christmas Day – he just hoped that Sox would behave himself, and not decide to leap off the sled in order to race the huskies!

Christmas Eve night arrived, and Brock and Sox spent the evening at their favourite café, Brock sipping a mixture of hot chocolate and honey, and Sox alternating between sipping his hot chocolate and gnawing at a juicy bone.  Afterwards, they walked slowly back to their hotel room, passing groups of people singing Christmas carols, enjoying all the festive lights and decorations, and wishing everybody a “Happy Christmas”.  Back in their hotel room, as they turned off the light at bedtime, they both wished Jules a “Happy Christmas” too – and, unbeknownst to each other in the dark, both shed a silent tear because they were missing him so much…..what a wonderful Christmas present they were going to get the next day when Jules arrived!

The next morning, Christmas Day, the pair planned to go skiing as usual, but, to celebrate the special holiday, they had agreed that they would treat themselves to not 1, but 2 sausage rolls for breakfast!  Needless to say, the walked rather quickly from the hotel to the café that morning in anticipation of such a treat!  After their breakfast feast, they then made their way over to the ski lift as usual, when Brock suddenly stopped in his tracks and stared, open-mouthed, straight in front of him.  Sox looked at his friend in surprise, then followed his gaze ahead – and then his mouth, too, fell wide open, his tongue lolling out, followed shortly afterwards by a rapid, then frantic, wagging of his tail.  He would know that face ahead of them anywhere – it was Jules!  Both of them broke into a run, Jules standing with his arms outstretched ready to hug his pals, and they launched themselves, deliriously happy, into those same arms.  They simply couldn’t believe what was happening!

“Surprise!” laughed Jules, above the noise of the happy barking and growling from his pals.  “And Happy Christmas, Brock and Sox!”  The pair thought this was now their best Christmas ever – to be skiing in Whistler, and now to have their best friend there to share it with them!

After spending a couple of hours skiing together, Jules informed them that he now had yet another Christmas Surprise in store for them.  “Another surprise?” they both exclaimed together.  “Yippee!”  Jules led them to an adventure store where they had to wait outside for their lift.  He refused to tell them anything about the surprise – Sox’s tail had never wagged so happily before in his life!  Before too long, a Jeep arrived, and they all climbed in.  “I just adore surprises!” exclaimed Brock.  The journey to their destination found the pair alternately hugging and licking Jules, and staring excitedly out of the windows, both trying to guess what their surprise might be!

At last, the Jeep turned off the main road and headed off down a steep, bumpy track for about a mile.  As they drew close to their destination, Sox’s ears began to twitch – he could hear the sound of dogs barking!  The jeep came to a halt, the doors were opened for them all to jump out into the snow, and there before them lay the answer to their curiosity – they were going on a dog-sled ride!

“Whoa woof!” exclaimed Sox in a high fever of excitement, adding to the crescendo of noise by beginning to bark frantically along with the numerous huskies all around them!  “Do you think they’ll let me help to pull a sled too, Jules?” he asked hopefully.

“No, Sox, you are here to enjoy the ride, not for racing!” replied Jules, hoping in the back of his mind that Sox would manage to behave himself on the ride and not let his excitement boil over too much.

They were shown to their sled, and introduced to their team of Husky dogs.  Sox still thought that he could do a good job of helping with the pulling.  Jules, however, firmly instructed him to get inside the sled next to Brock, then climbed aboard himself.  The Huskies’ barking grew ever louder as they sensed that at any moment they would be set free to run and pull their load, whilst their ‘musher’ explained their route. Then, the long anticipated moment came – they were off!  “Whee”, shouted Brock, as he felt the exhilarating rush of speed and power of the Huskies, “this is supremely awesome, Dudes!”  Sox, meanwhile, had a worrying glint in his eyes……

Everything went well for the first 10 minutes of the ride.  Then, as the Huskies crested a hill and there appeared before them a long, downhill and inevitably fast stretch of track, Sox could contain himself no longer.  Jules’ worst fears were realized.  Sox leaped out of the sled, and, as the Huskies sped off down the hill, he broke into his fastest sprint in order to race them.  However, what Jules knew, which Sox didn’t, was that the Huskies were much faster than Rottweilers, and soon, despite his best efforts, Sox began to fall behind the other dogs and the sled.  By the time they reached the bottom of the hill, all Brock and Jules could see behind them was a dark dot in the distance, slowly growing larger as the Huskies were pulled to a stop by their musher.  Five minutes later, an exhausted and extremely embarrassed Sox panted alongside the sled.  Jules helped his naughty Rottweiler back into his seat, but, rather than scolding him, felt so sorry for his exhaustion and embarrassment that he merely stroked his head and back in order to comfort him.  Sox had, after all, already learnt a harsh lesson!

Back at base, Sox was somewhat consoled by the hot chocolate and cookies served to the guests before they left.  Brock, meanwhile, had a very big grin on his face – not just because of the scrumptious food and drink he was enjoying – but because his friend never stopped being his best source of amusement!  On the way back to their hotel, Brock informed Jules about his plans for a surprise Christmas Dinner for Sox that night.  Obviously, Jules was now invited to join them!  At their hotel, whilst Brock and Sox brushed their fur and washed their paws (Sox’s being particularly mucky due to his impromptu dog race earlier), Jules made a trip to the telephone in the hotel’s reception area.  Little did his pals know that he had yet one more surprise of his own up his sleeve…

The three set off for Brock’s ‘surprise’ half an hour later, Sox feeling fully recovered from his earlier embarrassment now that there was yet another exciting event to take his mind off of it!  Brock led them to a restaurant with 2 ‘Father Christmas’ Black Bears standing guard outside, and soon they were seated at their table, which was wonderfully decorated with Christmas crackers, red glowing candles, and gleaming silver bells set all along the middle of the table.  When they had finished placing their order for food and some wine (the wine being a special treat for Christmas Day), Jules excused himself for a few moments in order to make yet another ‘phone call.

“I wonder who Jules can be calling so much this evening?” said Brock, curiously.

When Jules returned, the 3 chatted happily about their Christmas Day adventures so far, Brock beginning to giggle rather hysterically as the red wine began to take effect on his empty stomach!  In the midst of one of his giggling fits, he happened to glance up towards the restaurant entrance, and what he saw caused him to knock over his, fortunately, now empty wine glass in his amazement and surprise.  He couldn’t believe his eyes – maybe the wine had gone completely to his head and made him senseless – but there, now making their way towards them, were some very familiar faces.

But, it most certainly wasn’t the wine.  It really was those familiar faces coming towards them, as part of their friends, Ryan and Flossy’s, own ‘Christmas Surprise’ present to their pals!  Ryan’s Tiger came first, ‘interestingly’ dressed in a black rock-star style leather jacket, leather trousers, silver studded belt and a pair of flashy sunglasses perched on his nose; (as it was quite dark in the restaurant he kept bumping into chairs and tables because of wearing sunglasses – but, he was determined to look cool by keeping them on!)  Next came Ryan, wearing a similar cool outfit (but without the sunglasses….), closely following his posing Tiger.  Behind them came Holly the Labrador and Dotty the Dalmation, who seemed familiar and yet, there was something very different about them too.  Upon closer inspection, Brock realized what it was – they now had multi-coloured highlights in their fur, and ribbons and shiny clips for extra adornment!  They were closely followed behind by Flossy, looking very elegant in a white fluffy jacket and sparkling black and silver trousers, with similarly shiny clips in her hair.  But, who were these extra characters following behind her?  As they drew closer, Brock realized who they were – it was their new friends Silverlight the dragon and Harmony the Black Labrador!

The party arrived at the table, coming up behind Sox’s chair and shouting in unison “Christmas Surprise!”  Sox almost fell off his chair in surprise when he turned and saw who it was!  What an incredibly exciting, wonderful Christmas this was turning out to be!  Being in Whistler; skiing every day; sausage rolls and cokes for breakfast; a surprise dog-sled ride; a surprise Christmas Dinner; and now, the biggest and best surprise of all – the arrival of all of his best friends in the world to share Christmas night with him.  Sox was the happiest Rottweiler in the world at that moment!

As they all enjoyed the Christmas Dinner together, with another long, similarly decorated table having been joined onto Brock’s, Tiger related to everyone how he had been given tickets to an awesome rock concert for Christmas by Ryan.  It was to see ‘Bullet for my Valentine’ and ‘I am Ghost’, who were performing a joint concert especially for Christmas.  Ryan had also bought him his new outfit he was now wearing especially for the occasion – but he had allowed him to wear it tonight also, so that he could show it off to his friends!  Holly and Dotty chattered excitedly to everyone about their own early Christmas present, which had been a visit to the Dog Grooming Parlour, where they had spent an exciting day getting multi-coloured highlights put in their fur.  Flossy had also bought them their new ribbons and sparkly hair clips which they were wearing tonight. Silverlight and Harmony were still very shy in the company of their new friends, and were happy to just sit and listen to all the excited chatter going on around them.

By the end of this ‘Christmas Surprise’ dinner, Brock had had rather too much red wine.  Tiger had now consumed just as much as him too, and his rock-star sunglasses were now sitting at a very lop-sided angle on his nose, which made Silverlight and Harmony giggle helplessly behind their paws!  As this was Brock’s Christmas present to Sox, he obviously had to organize paying the waiter.  This proved to be a highly amusing experience to the other members of the Christmas party, as he was now so drunk that, instead of handing the waiter a 50 dollar bill, he mistakenly gave him a 100 dollar one instead.  Then, when the waiter honestly pointed this out to him, Brock merely hiccoughed and slurred, “S’alright, Dude, I’ve had a werry Merry Chrisssssmas – you deserve one too.  So (hiccough), you just hang on (hiccough) to the change for (hiccough) yourself.”  The waiter, needless to say, did indeed now feel he was having a ‘werry Merry Chrisssssmas’!

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