Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Family Pet (05/15/08)
TITLE: Happy Happy
By Kristen Hester
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Kate’s eight-year-old son, Tommy, had always been a poor sleeper. A recent conversation with Tommy’s teacher had motivated Kate to visit the shelter.
"I had a student last year who never slept more than an hour at a time until she got a dog,” Tommy’s teacher had told her. "Now she goes right to sleep–and stays asleep.”
"Really?" Kate had asked in disbelief. She was already exhausted with the new baby, so she was willing to try almost anything to help Tommy sleep.
Kate walked past the kennels. Each cage was filled with an orphaned animal begging with their eyes to be chosen. She remembered the day many years ago her family had visited a similar shelter and chosen her childhood pet, Sandy. She felt nostalgic at the memory of her faithful, loyal companion.
"May I help you?" The shelter volunteer interrupted Kate’s thoughts.
Kate cleared her throat. "I’m looking for a dog for my son. She needs to be medium-sized, short-haired, and very gentle."
The volunteer smiled. "I have just the dog for you."
A few days later Kate described the new dog to her mom. "Tommy named her Happy. The very first night she hopped onto the bed and curled up next to Tommy."
"She reminds me of Sandy. I almost got teary-eyed at the shelter thinking about what a good dog Sandy was."
"Well, we have different memories. I remember being the one who fed the dog, took her to the vet and listened to her bark when she was lonely for attention. By the end, I resented that dog."
Kate was surprised by her mom’s confession. "That won’t happen to us. The kids adore Happy and I’m thankful for her."
Six moths later as Kate drove into her garage, Happy jumped up on her van and scratched the paint--again. She barked obnoxiously, her booming voice piercing Kate’s ears and waking Bradley, the baby.
"Hush," Kate hissed at the disobedient dog. The dog was probably barking because she was desperate for attention that she wasn’t getting. Kate opened the door and Happy was instantly in her lap, licking her face.
"Get off me," Kate said as she shoved the hyper dog down. This was not what she’d envisioned when she brought Happy home six months ago. It was true, Tommy slept better, but not because of Happy. Tommy had banned her from his room after she chewed up his Nolan Ryan autographed baseball.
That night when she fed Happy, she remembered her mother’s words about Sandy. I don’t want to resent this sweet dog. Lord, soften my heart towards this animal.
The next day Kate’s sister, Debbie, came from out-of-town for a rare visit. Kate hugged her sister warmly. "I have water boiling on the stove. Bradley is sitting on the playroom floor. Go give your nephew a hug and I’ll be right there."
"Kate!" her sister screamed from the playroom only moments later.
Kate ran to her sister, "What is it?"
"Your dog won’t let me pick up the baby. Every time I go to him, the dog gets between me and Bradley. She even put her paw protectively on him. Watch." Debbie leaned over to demonstrate the dog’s interference.
Happy looked at Kate and wagged her tail, but didn’t move. Debbie picked up Bradley without incident and then gave an apologetic shrug. "Well, she wouldn’t let me when you weren’t in here."
"Wow," Kate said, mostly to herself. "She doesn’t know you, so she was protecting Bradley."
Suddenly, she looked at Happy a little differently. She thought about how Happy ate the food that Bradley spilled on the ground, saving her from constant sweeping. Kate also felt safer knowing Happy was in the yard when her kids were playing outside. Happy always alerted her when a solicitor was about to ring her doorbell, giving her time hide. And even though Happy didn’t sleep in Tommy’s room, Happy’s presence outside Tommy’s door helped him feel secure. Thank you, Lord, for showing me the value in this faithful, loyal companion.
"Yes, Happy is a great pet," she declared to her sister. “And after dinner, the entire family is taking her for a walk.”
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