Authors: Ellen Miles
“Oh, no!” Lizzie felt her body go hot all over, then cold again.
“What is it?” Mom asked. “Lizzie? Honey?”
Lizzie could hardly get the words out. “It’s . . . it’s a puppy!”
“A puppy!” Mom took the binoculars and held them to her eyes. “Oh, my! I think you’re right!” She handed the binoculars to Dad. “Poor thing! He must have run out onto the frozen lake. Think how surprised he must have been when the ice broke underneath him!”
Dad took one look, gave the binoculars back to Mom, and pulled his cell phone out of his jacket pocket. “Uh-oh,” he said, looking at the screen. “Hardly any battery power left. I have
to find my charger.” He punched in some numbers. “Oh, good. It’s dialing. Hello, Bill?” he said. “Paul Peterson here. We need the cold-water rescue team
down at Loon Lake Park.” He listened for a moment. “No, it’s not a person,”
he said. “It’s a dog. A puppy, in big trouble.” After another second, he snapped his cell phone shut. “They’ll be here as soon as they can,” he told Lizzie and Mom.
Charles came running over with the Bean trotting after him. “What’s going on?”
“There’s a puppy out there.” Lizzie pointed toward the lake. “See that dark place? That’s open water. And there’s a little puppy swimming around and around in it. I saw him trying to claw his way out, but the ice on the edge of the circle just breaks. He can’t get out! He could drown!”
“But he won’t,” Mom said quickly. “Dad called down to the fire station and alerted the cold-water rescue team. They’ll be here any second.”
“Uppy?” asked the Bean, looking worried. He didn’t quite get what was going on, but he understood that there was a puppy involved and that people were upset.
“Yes, a puppy,” Lizzie said. She bent down to
hug the Bean. Buddy jumped up to lick the Bean’s cheek. “But the puppy will be okay.” To herself, Lizzie added,
The Bean was distracted by Buddy’s licking. He laughed his googly laugh and squeezed Buddy tight with both arms. Buddy gave a little
Charles wasn’t so easily distracted. “But
will they save him?” he asked. Mom had helped him focus the binoculars and now he was peering through them, across the frozen lake. “He’s so little! And I think he’s really scared! His mouth is open wide, like he’s panting for breath.”
Lizzie took the binoculars and looked again. The puppy seemed to be swimming more slowly now. Lizzie felt her stomach twist into a knot. The poor little guy! He must be terrified.
“Here they are!” Dad was waving his arms at a boxy red emergency truck that was bouncing down the muddy slope, picking its way between patches of snow. “This way! Over here!”
The truck stopped and four people piled out. Two of them were dressed from head to toe in thick red rubber suits with red rubber hoods. “Peterson!” one of them said. “What’s up?”
Dad pointed out toward the lake. “Out there,” he said. “We think it’s a puppy.”
The rescuers grabbed bundles of rope and other equipment from the back of their truck and ran for the shoreline.
“Dad.” Lizzie tugged at her father’s sleeve. “How are they going to save the puppy?”
“See Tyler and Emily, in the red suits?” Dad asked. “They probably pulled those outfits on while they were on their way here. They’re a special kind of wet suit, made for really cold water. If the rescuers fall in, the suits will protect them.”
As he talked, he and Lizzie and the rest of the family were trotting down to the shore, to be closer to the action.
“I don’t know if you noticed,” Dad went on, “but
there are hooks on each suit where they can attach a rope. See? They’re clipping in now.”
“So the other guys can use the rope to haul them out if the ice breaks and they fall in?” Charles asked.
“Exactly. This team practices all the time. They know what they’re doing,” Dad said. “But it’s still dangerous.”
Lizzie held her breath as Tyler, one of the red-suited rescuers, began to crawl out onto the ice. He was practically on his belly, like a snake. Would the ice break right away?
“And there goes the other one,” said Mom.
Sure enough, Emily had begun to crawl behind Tyler. So far, the ice was still holding them both. Their ropes trailed behind them, held by the men on shore.
Dad was watching through the binoculars. “That puppy sure does look tired,” he said. “I hope they get to him soon.”
“Can I see?” Lizzie took the binoculars and
peered through them. What she saw made her heart flip over. The little dog was barely keeping his head above water. But, as she watched, she saw his ears perk up and his eyes brighten. She moved the binoculars to see what he was looking at. The two figures — bright red against the gray ice — were crawling closer to the open water. “I think the puppy sees them coming!” she said.
Lizzie handed the binoculars back to her dad. She squinched her eyes shut, crossed her fingers, and wished
that the rescuers would get there in time.
Lizzie’s eyes popped open and her hand flew to her mouth. “Oh, no!” she said as she watched a long black line drawing itself across the gray surface of the lake. Then she saw another line, and another.
Crack! Crack! Crack!
Tyler and Emily were only a few feet away from the open water where the puppy was trapped — and now the ice was breaking, right underneath them!
Then, without another sound, the ice near the two rescuers seemed to disappear, leaving nothing but dark, cold water around the two red suits. And as Lizzie watched, the water swallowed those red suits right up.
The two red-hooded figures bobbed back up a second later. They hooted and waved at the men on shore to show that they were all right.
“Too risky! We’re gonna haul you in!” yelled one of the men on shore. “Ready?” He started to pull on the rope.
But Emily was facing the other way — toward the puppy. “Hold on!” she shouted. “I think I can get him!” Sure enough, the ice had broken all the way over to the circle of open water. The puppy was only a few yards away from Emily. She started to splash her way toward the puppy, swimming awkwardly in her big red suit.
Lizzie held her breath. She could hardly even
stand to watch. “Is Emily going to make it?” She looked up at her dad, who was frowning as he peered through the binoculars. Then, suddenly, he smiled.
“Yeah!” he yelled, pumping his fist. He was still looking through the binoculars. “Got him!”
Lizzie looked back out at the lake. Sure enough, Emily was splashing back in their direction — with the puppy tucked under one red rubber arm. Lizzie felt tears prickling her eyes.
Dad handed her the binoculars. “Stay here for a second so you’re out of the way. I’m going to go help pull Emily in,” he said. He dashed down to the shore and grabbed the rescuer’s rope, falling into place behind the other men. They all leaned back with their feet planted on the ground, like they were playing tug-of-war.
Lizzie peered through the binoculars. Now she could see the puppy clearly. He looked wet and cold and miserable — but surprisingly, not too
scared! He wasn’t struggling at all. Emily had stopped trying to swim and was just holding the puppy tight as the guys on shore reeled her in like a giant red fish. Now that she could see him better, Lizzie thought the puppy looked about four months old. He was a little smaller than Buddy.
Soon Tyler was on shore, and then the whole team was hauling on the rope, pulling Emily in. It wasn’t long before the rescuer and her precious cargo were standing on shore, dripping wet.
Mom had been rummaging in the baskets. “Let’s go warm that puppy up!” she said. “Lizzie, Charles, take these blankets. The Bean and I will go start our van and get the heater going.” She tossed an armload of blankets to Lizzie. Lizzie and Charles took them and ran as fast as they could toward the puppy.
Down at the shoreline, Tyler and Emily looked exhausted — but happy. The guys who had hauled them in were slapping them on the back, congratulating them. When Emily saw Lizzie and the
blankets, she strode right over. “Good idea!” she said. “This little guy sure does have the shivers.”
Emily handed the puppy to Lizzie. For the first time, she got a good look at him. Even though he was soaking wet, he was adorable. His long, curly fur was frozen into dark spiky points at the moment, but Lizzie thought she’d see soft golden curls when it was dry. He also had long, floppy ears, the cutest little black nose, and a soft, pink, puppy belly.
Lizzie looked down into the puppy’s dark brown eyes and something happened.
Lizzie fell in love.
Oh, sure, Lizzie fell in love with
puppy she met. But this was different. There was something about this puppy that made Lizzie’s heart just melt. What was it?
There was no time to wonder about that now. This little pup was shivering all over. He needed to warm up fast.
Quickly, Lizzie wrapped the puppy in a
blanket, and then another one, so that only his darling nose showed. She held him tight against her chest.
“That was awesome!” Charles was saying to Tyler. “I want to join your team someday.”
“We can always use new members!” Tyler stopped coiling rope for a moment to talk to Charles. “You’re welcome to come watch one of our training sessions. Your dad can tell you when and where.”
Dad shook hands with all the rescuers. “Great job,” he said.
“What about the puppy?” asked Emily. “What will you do with him now?”
Lizzie looked at her dad. “He’s not wearing a collar, and I don’t see anybody searching for him. He must be lost.”
“I didn’t notice any tracks out there on the ice,” said Tyler. “That part of the lake is probably still frozen too hard for footprints. Hard to say
he came from.”
Lizzie hugged the bundled puppy even closer. The poor little thing. He must be so scared and lonely. “Can we take him?” she asked. “Just until we find out where he belongs?” Her heart was thumping. What if Dad said no?
But Dad nodded. “Of course. I’m sure Mom will agree. We’d better stop to see the vet on the way home and get him checked out. He seems fine, but I’d like to make sure.”
Lizzie and Charles grinned at each other. All right! A new foster puppy! How exciting. This was turning out to be the best winter picnic ever, even though they were leaving before the picnic part even happened.
Mom was waiting for them in the nice warm van. She had packed all their stuff, and the Bean was already buckled into his car seat. Buddy was in the way back, safe inside his travel crate. “We’re all ready to go,” Mom said. “Here’s what I think: I think we should take this puppy home, just until we find out where he belongs. But we’d
better stop at the vet’s first, just to make sure he’s all right.”
Lizzie, Dad, and Charles started to laugh. “That is
what we were just saying,” Dad said. “Great minds think alike!”
“Great minds?” Charles looked bewildered.
“It’s just an expression,” Lizzie told him. “Here, hold the puppy while I get in.” She handed over her bundle, then climbed into the van. As soon as she had her seat belt buckled, she held out her arms and Charles reluctantly gave the puppy back. Lizzie snuggled her chin down into the blankets and gave the puppy’s nose a kiss. “You’re safe now,” she told him. The puppy had already stopped shivering. He looked back at Lizzie with big, shiny eyes. She felt her heart melt again.
“I wonder what breed this puppy is,” she said. “With this curly fur, he looks kind of like that poodle named Fiona who goes to Aunt Amanda’s doggy day care.”
“He also reminds me of Goldie,” Charles said. “Like how she looks after a bath.” Goldie was a golden retriever, the first puppy the Petersons had ever fostered. Now she lived next door, with Charles’s best friend, Sammy.
Lizzie thought about that, then nodded. “You’re right, I guess he does have that retriever nose and ears. I wonder if he’s a golden doodle!”
Dad asked from up front.
“It’s a cross between a golden retriever and a poodle,” Lizzie explained. “They’re very popular lately. Some people also have Labradoodles.”
“I can guess what
are a cross between,” Mom said. “How do you
all this stuff, Lizzie?”
Lizzie just shrugged and smiled. She loved knowing all about dogs and dog breeds and dog training. She couldn’t think of anything more interesting and fun.
Unless, she thought, looking down at the bundle on her lap, it was a new foster puppy!
“Oh, my goodness,” said Dr. Gibson, when she unwrapped the blankets. “Would you look at this little peanut? What a cutie-pie!”
Lizzie smiled at the vet. “I know,” she said. “He’s a sweetheart. He seems to trust us already.”
“That’s because you helped to rescue him,” Dr. Gibson said.
Lizzie nodded. Maybe that was part of the reason she had fallen in love so fast. She knew she would never forget the way this pup had come into her life. What if she had never seen him swimming out there in the middle of the icy lake? Lizzie pushed the thought aside as she watched Dr. Gibson start her exam.
The vet sat the puppy on her examination table and put her stethoscope to his chest. She listened through the earpiece, cocking her head to one side. “His heart sounds good!” she said. She draped the stethoscope back around her neck and picked up another instrument. She looked into the puppy’s ears and mouth, then shone a small flashlight into his eyes.
The puppy blinked.
Ooh, that’s bright! But it’s nice and warm in here, and this lady is gentle. Maybe soon my people will be here, and then we can all go home and have something to eat!
“I think he’s going to be just fine,” said Dr. Gibson, when she had finished her examination. “He’s just all worn out from his adventures, and he’s probably missed a meal or two. He’ll get his energy back as soon as you feed him.” She crossed her arms and leaned against the table. “But
the question is, what was a puppy doing out there on the ice, all by himself? Where are his people?”