“Hey, Foster! Guess what?”
I woke up to find Panda sitting next to me on the bed, wearing a crochet hat! “I’m not even going to ask where you got that,” I replied sleepily. Panda looked offended. “Don’t you like it? Mom made it for me!” “You need a hat like you need a hole in the head,” I responded. First fatigues, then overalls, now a hat! What next? “Well actually,” Panda continued. “Mom says I do have a little hole in my head where my stuffing comes out when we play too rough. She thought this might make it safer for both of us. Plus look at my new sweater!”“Okay…” I replied. “I just hope Mom doesn’t get the idea to make me one next.”“You’re fluffy enough,” Panda said. “You don’t need a sweater. But hey, now that I have warm clothes, I was thinking we should go to the snow. I was on Skype talking to Benji earlier and he said it’s snowing in Seattle. He really likes to play in the snow.”I thought for a minute. “Hey, Mom has some pictures from when it snowed at Grandma’s house a couple of months ago,” I ventured. “Maybe she’ll let us look at them on the computer.”Panda agreed. As we entered the front living room, he motioned toward a picture on the wall. “I know it doesn’t snow at Grandma’s very often. It snowed once when Mom was four years old and again when she was in high school and that’s it.” We climbed up to get a better view of mom with the snowman when suddenly…
I can’t say we were exactly spiraling, but somehow we were sliding down what seemed like a mountain of snow!We landed with a THUMP at the foot of the mountain. It took Panda a minute to get out of the snow, and then we decided to look around to see where we were. “Wow!” I exclaimed. “I think we’re in Switzerland!” Panda rolled over on his back to get a better view. “How can you tell?” he asked. “I think this is a Swiss chalet,” I replied. “I saw one this morning when Mom was getting pictures from Pixabay for the new blog post she’s writing. I think we’re in the Swiss Alps!” “Cool,” Panda replied. “In that case, let’s go skiing!”We asked directions at the chalet office and found the closest ski shop. “I didn’t know you could ski,” I said as we checked out the skis for rent. “I don’t know if I can or not,” Panda responded. “But it’s worth a try.” I can’t say I was convinced, but I went ahead and picked out some skis anyway.I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that this would involve a ski lift! How do I let Panda talk me into this stuff? After what seemed like forever, we made it to the top.I have to admit that skiing turned out to be pretty fun. We even made friends with some skiers who told us all about Switzerland and the fun things you can do in the Alps. Unbeknownst to us, you can even go paragliding off the mountains. Panda, of course, thought it would be really fun, but then he does have parachuting experience from when he went to Basic Training. I, on the other hand, opted to sit out of this one.Since almost no one can resist a panda, there was no shortage of people to give him paragliding lessons. It wasn’t long before he was ready to try it on his own!I do have to say I was proud of him. He wasn’t a bit scared, and he caught on like a pro.The next day we decided to go on a hike. The weather was great, even though there was snow everywhere. Eventually we came to a sign we had never seen before. It looked like it was warning people of the danger of falling into a crevasse! “Wow!” Panda exclaimed. “That looks scary!” I agreed. “We’ll have to be extra careful,” I said. We kept walking, but we slowed our pace considerably.After awhile we met up with a huge dog. Panda walked right up to him, but, being a cat, I decided to stay back. “Are you a St. Bernard?” Panda asked, not even trying to conceal the awe in his voice. “No,” replied our new acquaintance. “I’m a Bernese mountain dog. I’m trained to rescue people in the snow. Do you need rescuing?” “No,” Panda laughed, “but thanks for asking. You could say I’m here on vacation with my friend Foster. Let me introduce you.”I was a little hesitant because I had never seen a dog this big before, but he turned out to be really nice. He told us he was on his way to a rescue and asked if we would like to come along. We said we’d love to, and on the way we told him about our rescue experience when we trained as firefighters. “There’s a man down in this crevasse!” called one of the rescuers when we arrived at the scene. Panda immediately volunteered to help. I watched as the rescuers lowered him carefully into the great crack in the ice.After a little while Panda popped out of the crevasse. “I couldn’t find him,” he said, breathlessly, as our canine friend joined us. “I couldn’t find him either,” the latter reported. “Let’s try one more time!” Panda suggested, and our friend agreed. “Be careful guys,” I admonished. “You know there’s always an element of risk!”It wasn’t long before their efforts met with success! “We found him!” Panda called to the rescuers. Everyone cheered when the man was able to climb unharmed out of the crevasse. “Thanks a lot fellas,” the rescuers told us. “We couldn’t have done it without you!” We all had some hot cocoa to celebrate, and then it was time for us to be on our way back to our chalet.On our way back to the chalet we were surprised to see a group of penguins standing together by a rock. It looked like they were having a meeting of some sort. They didn’t seem to notice us, so we stopped and listened. “This is all your fault,” one of them was saying. “We’ll never get back to the North Pole now!” “Well you’re the one who lost the map,” replied another. Panda and I looked at each other and nodded. Panda approached the group cautiously.“Umm..excuse me, guys,” he ventured, tapping one of the penguins on the back. “I hate to interrupt, but penguins live at the South Pole, not the North.” The penguins stopped talking and stared at us. “Oh my word, you’re right!” one of them exclaimed. “We’re more lost than we thought!”We invited the penguins back to the chalet for coffee and a snack so we could talk over their dilemma. We asked the waiter if he had a map we could borrow.We studied the map until we figured out where we were in relation to the South Pole. It was a lot farther away than we had thought. “You won’t be able to walk from here,” Panda remarked. I agreed. “You’ll probably have to take a plane,” I said. “We have a flying carpet, but we didn’t bring it on this trip. If we had, we would give you a ride there ourselves.” “Hey, wait!” Panda cried, after we had studied the map for a few minutes. “I just remembered! There are some brochures in the lobby about the Basel Zoo! I read they have penguins there. Maybe they would let you guys stay there for awhile until you figure out a way back to the South Pole!”What followed next can only be described as a flurry of activity and excitement. Soon we were all on the train on our way to the Basel Zoo in northern Switzerland. When we got there, we said goodbye to our new friends and caught the return train back to our chalet.
We still had a couple of days for sightseeing before it was time to start for home. In all it was a fantastic trip, and we were glad we’d had the opportunity to add another country to our international repertoire.When we got home we immediately jumped up onto the bed, hoping Mom had been too busy writing her blog post to notice we’d been gone.