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Authors: Ellen Miles

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“That’s what I’ve been wondering,” Mom said. She was standing next to Lizzie, holding the Bean in her arms. The Bean’s eyelids were drooping. He was ready for a snack and a nap. “I mean, this is just a tiny puppy! There must be someone out there who is very worried about him.”

“He looks fairly well fed and groomed, so I don’t think he’s been on his own for very long,” said Dr. Gibson. She frowned. “No collar, though. And I don’t see a tattoo or any signs of a microchip.”

“A microchip?” Dad asked.

“Some pet owners have a tiny electronic identification chip placed under their pet’s skin,” the vet explained. “It’s only the size of a grain of rice, but it holds information about the pet and its owners. If a dog with a chip is ever lost, we can
use a monitor to read the chip and find out who the dog belongs to.”

“Wow!” Dad looked impressed. “I never knew that.”

“Microchipping has been around for a while,” Lizzie told her dad. “We should think about it for Buddy. Or maybe we should just get him a tattoo.”

“Like a fire-breathing dragon or something?”

Charles asked. “Cool!”

Lizzie snorted. “It’s not like a human tattoo. It’s just a mark on his belly that identifies him as ours. You can use your phone number or address.”

“Doesn’t it hurt the dog?” Dad asked.

“Not really,” said Dr. Gibson. “At least, they never act like it does when I use my little tattoo pen on them. I think it just feels sort of buzzy and tickly. Anyway, what about our little friend here? No chip, no tattoo, no collar. He doesn’t look familiar to me at all, so I don’t think he’s
from around here.” She gave the puppy a scratch between the ears. “He looks like one of those new mixes, maybe a golden doodle.”

“That’s exactly what
I
said!” Lizzie burst out.

“Well, you sure do know your dog breeds,” Dr. Gibson told her. “These doodles often have some of the best qualities of both dogs in the mix. They’re smart and goofy, like poodles, and very loyal and great with kids, like golden retrievers. And both breeds are athletic and love to play. If I were getting a new puppy, I might pick a doodle.”

“Noodle!” the Bean said drowsily.

Everybody laughed. “No, it’s
doodle,”
Lizzie told her little brother.

“Noodle,” the Bean insisted.

Lizzie thought for a second. She looked at the tired little puppy. “You know, that’s not a bad name for this puppy! How about if we call him Noodle, since we don’t know his real name right now?”

“I like it,” said Dr. Gibson. “And now, I suggest you take this Noodle home and give him some puppy chow, some water, and a warm place to sleep. I predict that by tomorrow he’ll be feeling one hundred percent himself, and his little dunking in the lake will be nothing but a memory.”

On the way out of the vet’s office, Lizzie stopped to look at the bulletin board. She always checked the signs there. People whose dogs were missing often put up a notice. But there was nothing there about Noodle. Maybe his people didn’t even realize he was missing yet! Lizzie shuddered, imagining how upset she would be if Buddy disappeared someday.

“When we get home, maybe we should check with the police and Caring Paws,” Dad suggested as they drove away. “Just in case someone has called looking for their dog.” Caring Paws was the animal shelter where Lizzie volunteered every week. The people who worked there took care of lots of dogs and cats who needed homes. If
somebody found a lost dog, they often brought it to the shelter. It would be safe there until its owners came to find it.

“Great idea,” said Mom. “Maybe Lizzie can make some of her famous signs, too. Then we can put them up all around town and down at the lake.”

Lizzie was known for making excellent signs on her computer. She was already picturing how this one might look, with a picture of Noodle and the words
IS THIS YOUR PUPPY?
across the top. As soon as she got home, she would use Dad’s new digital camera to take some pictures.

She looked down at Noodle, who was nestled in her lap. He was dry and warm now, and his curly golden coat was soft and shiny, just the way Lizzie had pictured it. The poor puppy was absolutely exhausted from all the excitement. He had fallen asleep before Dad had even started the car!

“Don’t you worry, little Noodle,” Lizzie murmured as she stroked his silky ears. “We’ll make
sure you’re safe and sound while we look for your people. That’s a promise.” Noodle opened his eyes and gazed at Lizzie. Then he sighed and settled in more comfortably on her lap.

What a scary day I had! But now I’m dry and warm, and too sleepy to feel scared anymore. Anyway, I feel safe with this girl. And I’m sure I’ll be seeing my own people again soon.

CHAPTER FIVE

“Would you look at that guy
eat?”
Dad laughed and shook his head. The Petersons were all in the kitchen, watching Noodle gobble up the last bites from a dish of puppy food that Mom had put down just seconds ago. “Maybe we should have called him Hoover. He’s like a vacuum cleaner!”

Lizzie giggled. It was true. She had never seen a puppy — or even a grown dog — eat so much, so fast. “He’s a real chowhound, that’s for sure. Or maybe he’s just extra hungry from his adventures today.”

“Sure, he must have worked up an appetite with all that swimming,” said Mom.

Next to Noodle, Buddy was still picking away at his own bowl of puppy chow. Now that the
Petersons’ puppy was a little more grown up, he was a very neat eater. “Remember when Buddy was little and he used to wade right into the food dish?” Charles asked. “Now look at him. He eats like a big boy.”

The whole family turned to look fondly at Buddy. The Bean ran over to give him a hug. “Big boy!” he said. The sleeve of his Fur trailed into Buddy’s dish.

“Don’t bother Buddy while he’s eating,” Mom reminded the Bean, scooping him up and plopping him onto her lap. “Dogs don’t like that.”

“I think Noodle wants seconds,” Lizzie said. Sure enough, the little curly-haired pup was sitting back on his bottom, gazing hopefully at Dad.

“Coming right up,” Dad said, bending down to pick up Noodle’s bowl. “I’ll give him a little bit more. Dr. Gibson said not to feed him too much at once. If he hasn’t eaten for a while, he could get sick if he eats too much too fast.” He shook some
puppy chow into Noodle’s dish and took it to the sink to add warm water. “There you go, pup,” he said, putting it down.

It was gone in a flash. Noodle sat back and looked up hopefully. Would there be thirds?

Dad shook his head. “That’s all for now, pal,” he said. “How about some water?” He pushed Noodle’s water bowl closer and Noodle stood up to lap at it for a few moments. Then the puppy sat back on his bottom again and looked around the room.

I’m still a little hungry, but I don’t see any more food coming. I guess I can wait. And my people aren’t here yet. Well, I guess I might as well check out this new place!

Noodle jumped up and zoomed out of the kitchen. “Hey!” Lizzie said, watching him zip past her. She laughed. “Look at him go. I guess he’s feeling better.”

“Wait for me!” the Bean yelled as he galloped after Noodle.

Buddy scrambled out from under the kitchen table, where he had been lying patiently under Charles’s feet ever since he’d finished his dinner. He let out a bark and dashed after the Bean.

Lizzie and Charles looked at each other, shrugged, and followed Buddy.

Noodle had run into the living room, and now he was investigating. He trotted from the couch to the rocking chair to the bookshelves to the fireplace, sniff-sniff-sniffing everything. When he sniffed under Mom’s blue easy chair, he started to sneeze so hard that he fell over — but he just rolled around for a second and then jumped to his feet, still sneezing.

What a silly puppy! The Bean clapped his hands and laughed his googly laugh. Lizzie and Charles were cracking up, too. Noodle ran around faster and sniffed harder and sneezed again and again. He seemed to enjoy the
attention he was getting. This puppy was a real clown!

Ha-ha-ha! They like me. I love to make people laugh. Maybe if I do a somersault they’ll laugh even harder! My people always liked that trick.

Suddenly, Noodle tripped on the rug and took a tumble, head over heels. For a second, Lizzie held her breath. Was the puppy okay? Then he jumped to his feet and shook his head so that his big floppy ears flipped and flapped. Lizzie started to laugh again. “You little silly!” she cried, running over to give Noodle a hug.

“He’s funny,” Charles said. “I wish we could keep him.”

“Me, too!” said Lizzie.

“Lizzie, you not two,” the Bean cried, holding up two fingers.

“I wasn’t talking about how
old
I am,” Lizzie said, scooping her little brother up into her arms,
along with Noodle. “You’re a little silly, just like Noodle!”

The Bean giggled, then started squirming. “Let me go!”

Noodle started squirming, too. Lizzie kissed the top of the puppy’s head. She kissed the Bean’s ear, trying to hold her breath near his smelly Fur. Then she let them both go.

Noodle dashed off, with the Bean toddling after him. Then Buddy joined the parade. Noodle was like the Pied Piper — everybody wanted to follow him! Noodle ran around the couch three times, then over to the rocking chair, then did a loop around Mom’s easy chair — almost knocking over her reading lamp — and galloped back toward the couch. At the last second, he scrunched down and slid right
under
the couch! Buddy dove right after him, but try as he might, the Bean could not squeeze in. He sat back on his butt and started to cry. His Fur was covered with dust balls.

Lizzie shook her head. “It’s okay,” she told
her little brother. “Don’t cry. The puppies will come out.”

Buddy popped out a few seconds later and jumped onto the Bean’s lap, licking the little boy’s face the way he always did when the Bean cried. Then Noodle popped out and danced around Buddy and the Bean, barking and wagging his tail.

“Well,” Dad said a few minutes later, as they watched Noodle start another game of Follow the Leader. “Dr. Gibson was right. He sure did get his energy back.”

Noodle kept the Petersons laughing all the way until bedtime. He was so much fun! Lizzie was so distracted that it wasn’t until she was almost asleep that night, cozy in her purple dog pajamas with her blankets pulled up to her chin, that she remembered. They had forgotten to call the police and Caring Paws! And now it was too late. Lizzie yawned and turned over. She would just have to remember to do it first thing in the morning.

CHAPTER SIX

Lizzie did remember, too. But it didn’t do much good. When she called the Littleton police first thing on Sunday morning, the sergeant who answered told her that as far as he knew, nobody had called about a puppy. He said sergeant Martin handled “missing pets and stuff like that,” but he’d been out on vacation and would be back at work on Monday.

Next Lizzie called Caring Paws, the animal shelter. The director, Ms. Dobbins, said she hadn’t gotten any calls, either — although she admitted that her desk was even more of a mess than usual and that there might be a note somewhere that she hadn’t seen. She promised to look. And she told Lizzie that if the Petersons couldn’t handle a
foster puppy right then, she actually had room at the shelter for once and could take Noodle. “He sounds awfully cute,” she said.

“Oh, we’re happy to have him,” Lizzie said quickly.

Noodle
was
awfully cute. When Lizzie finished her phone calls, she plopped right down on the kitchen floor and let Noodle climb all over her and lick her face and chew on her chin with his sharp little puppy teeth. “Ow! Ow! You little rascal!” Lizzie giggled. “Cut it out, now! You have to learn to be nice!”

I like to kiss and play and jump around. What’s wrong with that? My people
love
it when I chew them. Hey, what’s that over there?

Suddenly, Noodle jumped off Lizzie’s lap and galumphed over to the far corner of the kitchen. He stuck his head under a cabinet and sniffed once, twice, three times. He sat back and barked.
Finally he stuck his head underneath the cabinet again and pulled with his whole body, growling little puppy growls as he dragged out an old toy of Buddy’s — a duck that had once been fluffy and yellow but was now sort of dusty and matted.

“Well, look what you found! Who’s a little smarty?” Dad had just come into the kitchen to start breakfast. “Looks like somebody deserves a blueberry pancake of his very own.” Dad knew that dogs were not really supposed to eat people food, but he always made Buddy one little pancake on Sunday mornings, as a special treat.

“He
is
a smarty,” Lizzie said. She felt proud of Noodle, as if he were her very own dog. Oh, if only he were!

Lizzie had not felt this way in a very long time. Usually, she understood perfectly that her family was only a foster family, and that the puppies they cared for did not belong to them and
would
not belong to them. But there was something about Noodle. Something really special.
How could it be that his people had not even called the police?

Maybe Noodle had been abandoned. Maybe his people did not love him or did not want him — although Lizzie couldn’t imagine why
not.

Maybe the way he had come into the Petersons’ lives was proof that Noodle was
meant
to be part of their family.

Just then, Charles and the Bean came running into the kitchen, with Buddy on their heels. “Beat you!” the Bean cried happily.

“You sure did,” Charles told his little brother. Then Charles winked at Lizzie, which meant, “only because I
let
him beat me.”

Buddy ran right over to greet his new friend. He and Noodle bowed to each other, front legs splayed out in front and tails waving in the air behind. Then they took off running around the kitchen table, their toenails scrabbling on the floor as they dashed in circles. Lizzie loved seeing
Buddy play like that. He looked so happy! Maybe he was tired of being an “only dog.” Maybe he needed a friend.

“Lizzie?” Dad was waving his hand in front of Lizzie’s face. “Did you hear a word I just said to you?”

BOOK: Noodle
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