Authors: W. Bruce Cameron
But the man had hurt Jakob. That wasn't what should happen. Finding people was supposed to mean saving them. Now Jakob was the one who needed saving. I didn't know how, though. I was here, right beside him. But that wasn't enough. It wasn't what he needed.
The big policeman knelt next to Jakob. “They're on their way, bro. You just got to hang on, now.”
I felt the worry in his voice. Gingerly, he opened up Jakob's shirt to get a look inside. The shock of fear that went through him made me whimper.
Soon I could hear crashing and stumbling as several people ran toward us. They knelt by Jakob, pushing me aside, and began working on him. I smelled sharp chemicals, and I saw them pressing cloths where there was the most blood.
“How's Emily?” Jakob asked them faintly.
“The little girl,” the big policeman explained. “She's fine, Jakob. You found her. You saved her. Everything's okay.”
More people arrived, and they lifted Jakob onto a strange, flat bed and started to carry him up the canyon. I ran right beside him. Ahead of us, I heard the familiar sound of a helicopter motor stirring to life.
The policeman who'd been with us held on to my collar as the people put Jakob on the helicopter. The blades started spinning faster and faster, whipping dust and leaves through the air, and the helicopter rose slowly into the sky.
I wrenched myself free from the policeman's hand and ran after the helicopter, barking. It rose up and up and I circled beneath it, dancing on my hind legs, barking in frustration. I was a chopper dog! Why hadn't they let me get on? I needed to go with Jakob!
But the helicopter didn't come back. After a while Amy came to get me. She talked to the big policeman for a while and then clipped a leash on my collar and took me for a truck ride. The cage I was riding in was filled with Cammie's scent.
Amy took me back to the kennel at the police station, calling Cammie to her as I went in. Gypsy was nowhere to be seen.
Amy put the leash on Cammie and scratched behind my ears before she shut the door, leaving me in the kennel alone.
“Someone will check on you, and we'll figure out where you're going to live, Ellie. You be a good dog. You are a good dog,” Amy said.
I curled up on my bed in the kennel, my head whirling with fear and confusion. I did not feel like a good dog.
I'd done my Work. But now Jakob was gone and I was sleeping all night long at the kennel, instead of in my own bed next to Jakob's big one. It felt like I was being punished. But for what?
For biting the man with the gun? Biting people was not part of Finding them; I knew that. And now Jakob was hurt. The memory of his pain and the smell of his blood made me whimper as I lay there.
I remembered how I'd felt when I was a puppy and Jakob had left me in the apartment. I'd been worried, each time, but Jakob had always come back. The thought made me feel better. Jakob would come back. All I had to do was wait.
The next few days were even more confusing. I lived in the kennel. A few times a day one of the police officers would come and let me out into the yard, but they never had Work for me to do and they would put me back into the kennel quickly and hurry away.
Amy talked to me and played with me a little, but she and Cammie were gone a lot of the time. Sometimes Gypsy wanted to play I've Got the Ball and You Don't, but I did not feel like it. Mostly I sat at the gate, waiting.
Slowly Jakob's smell faded from the yard. Even when I concentrated, I could not locate him. If I was supposed to Find him, I would not be able to. The thought made me bark anxiously until Amy came to let me out and pet me and talk to me.
I couldn't understand her words, but I felt a little better. That day I played with Gypsy and got the ball away from her twice.
A few days later, Amy brought her lunch out to a table in the yard. Cammie and I were in the kennel together, but all he wanted to do was nap. He wasn't interested in playing, even when I showed him a rubber bone one of the police officers had given me.
I didn't understand what Cammie's job was. Why would anyone want to have a nap dog?
Cammie was interested in Amy's lunch, however. She let us both out, and he walked over to the table and sat down heavily at her feet. He sighed, as if he had many serious problems that could only be cured with a bite of her ham sandwich.
A woman came out and joined Amy, sitting down at the other side of the table.
“Hi, Maya,” said Amy.
Maya had dark hair and dark eyes and was tall for a woman. Her arms looked strong. Her pants smelled faintly of cats. She sat down and opened a little box, then took a fork out of it and began chomping on something spicy. “Hi, Amy,” she said. “Hello, Ellie.”
Maya didn't say hello to Cammie, I noticed. I liked that. I liked her. I liked Amy, too, but Amy belonged to Cammie. She wasn't my human, the way Jakob had been.
When would Jakob come back? He'd been gone such a long time. Maya, though, was right here. And she smelled good. So did her food. I moved closer to her. She petted me, smoothing down the fur on my head. I caught a whiff of soap and tangy tomatoes on her skin.
“Did you put in your paperwork?” Amy asked.
“Fingers crossed,” Maya replied.
I lay down and gnawed at my rubber bone. Maybe Maya would see how much fun I was having and decide to coax my attention back by offering me a bite of her lunch.
“Poor Ellie. She's got to be so confused,” Amy said.
I looked up.
“You sure you really want to do this?” Amy asked.
Maya sighed, and I could feel some tension coming off her. “I know it's hard work. But what isn't, you know? I'm just getting to that point; it's the same old thing every day. I'd like to try something new, do something different for a few years. Hey, you want a taco? My mom made them. They're really good.”
I sat up.
I wanted a taco!
Maya wrapped up the rest of her lunch, as if I weren't even there. “You people in K-9 are all in such good shape. Losing weight is so hard for meÂ â¦ you think I can hack it?”
“What? No, you're fine! Didn't you pass the physical?”
“Sure,” Maya said.
“Well, there you go.” Amy stuffed her trash into a little paper sack. “I mean, if you want to run with me, I usually go to the track after work. But I'm sure you'll be great.”
I felt Maya calm down, just a little, as if Amy's words had been what she needed to hear. “I sure hope so,” she said. “I'd hate to let Ellie down.”
I decided that, no matter how often they said my name, this conversation wasn't going to involve anything to eat. I sprawled out in the sunshine with a sigh, wondering how much longer it would be before Jakob came back and we could go to Work again.
Maya came and ate lunch in the yard a few times after that. Then one day she came into the yard without any food. She was happy and excited; the feelings were floating off her, and she was smiling. She clipped on my leash and took me for a car ride.
“We're going to work together, Ellie. Isn't that great? You won't have to sleep in the kennel anymore. I bought a bed for you; you can sleep in my room.”
There were some words in there that I knew: “Ellie,” “kennel,” “bed.” And, of course, “Work.” But none of what she had said made any real sense. We weren't going to Work; I could tell just from Maya's voice and the lack of tension in her body. So why was she talking about it?
I didn't mind that much, though. I was happy to go somewhere, anyway, after so many days in the same place. Plus, Maya let me ride in the backseat of her car. I stuck my nose out the window, blissfully drinking in the smells of everything that was not the kennel.
Maya parked in the driveway of a small house. As soon as she took me in the door, I knew it was hers. Her smell was painted everywhere. Alongside it was the odor of cats. That was a disappointment.
I carefully inspected every corner of the house. There was an orange cat sitting on a chair at the table. She watched me warily with cold eyes. When I came closer, tail wagging, she opened her mouth wide to show me her teeth and gave an almost silent hiss.
“Stella, be nice. That's Stella. Stella, this is Ellie; she lives here now.”
Stella yawned and turned her head to lick the fur on her back, as if I weren't even worthy of being noticed. I would have taught her a lesson or two, but a flash of gray-and-white movement out of the corner of my eye drew my attention.
“Tinker? That's Tinkerbell; she's shy.”
I followed Maya into the bedroom. There a third cat, a heavy brown-and-black male, sauntered out from under the bed and sniffed at me. I could smell his fish breath.
“And that's Emmet,” Maya told me.
Stella, Tinkerbell, and Emmet. Why on earth would one woman want three cats?
Tinkerbell stayed under the bed for the rest of that evening, thinking I couldn't smell her there. When Maya poured some food for me into a bowl, Emmet came into the kitchen and stuck his nose into my dinner. Then he lifted his head and walked away, as if he didn't even care that I was eating and he wasn't. I made sure to lick the bowl clean. No cats were getting any of my food. Stella stayed on the chair and watched me without blinking.
After dinner Maya let me out into her tiny yard. “Good girl, Ellie!” she said after I'd done what I was supposed to do. Some humans seem to get excited when they notice dogs peeing in the yard; I guessed that Maya was one of them.
Maya made her own dinner, which smelled pretty good. Stella seemed to think so, too, because she jumped right up on the table and waltzed around, like a bad cat! I couldn't believe her lack of manners. Maya didn't even scold her. I suppose Maya thought cats weren't even worth training. After spending the afternoon with these three, I pretty much agreed with her.
After dinner we went for a walk on the leash. There were a lot of people out in their yards, adults and children of all ages. All the different smells made me restless. I hadn't done any Work in a long time, and I was getting impatient. I wanted to run, to Find, to save people. Without meaning to, I began to pull against the leash that Maya held.
Maya seemed to understand. “Want to run a little, girl?” she asked, and she began to trot alongside me.
I sped up, sticking right by Maya's side, as Jakob had taught me. Before long she was breathing hard and I could smell sweat breaking out from her pores. Inside the houses we passed, dogs starting barking, jealous that we were running and they were not.
But all of a sudden Maya stopped. “Whew!” she panted. “Okay, we're going to need to spend more time on the treadmill, that's for sure.”
I was disappointed. No more running? But I turned obediently when Maya tugged on the leash, and we headed back home.
It seemed that Maya's house really was home now.
I began to understand it, that night. I stretched out on the living room rug while Maya took a bath and changed into different, softer clothing. Then she called me into her bedroom. “Okay, lie down here, Ellie. Good girl,” she said, patting a dog bed.
I knew about dog beds. I curled up in it at once, and Maya praised me before she lay down in the big bed above me. But I was confused.
Would I be staying here for a while? I remembered how I had once lived in the basement with Mother and my littermates and then I had lived with Jakob. Had things changed again? Did I live here now?
But what about Jakob? Wasn't he going to come back this time? I had waited patiently. He'd always come back before. But this timeâwas it going to be different?
And what about my Work? How could I do Work without Jakob?
The next morning I found out.
Maya took me in her car, and we went back to the park where I had gone so often with Jakob. Wally was there, and he greeted me like an old friend. Belinda had come, too. She smiled and scratched my ears in just the right way. Then she waved and walked off into the woods while Wally stayed to talk to Maya.