I’m out in the Dog Park behind our new house, enjoying a refreshing roll-around in the grass when I pick up the despicable smell of rodent. It can only be one thing—a squirrel!
Before I can react, Hattie flops down beside me. “Aw, Fenway,” she coos, squinting at me in the bright sun.
I shimmy up to her till we’re nose to nose. I give hers a sloppy lick. She tastes like the maple-y pancakes we shared this morning.
She giggles, stroking my fur the way she does at bedtime. What can I say? Hattie loves me more than anything in the whole world.
I go to snuggle her neck when that squirrel-y odor assaults my nose again. Stronger this time. That nasty rodent is way too close to my short human!
Don’t they ever learn? I spring up, my hackles on high alert. I scan the porch, the bushes, the giant tree . . . aha! Over by the back fence, a flicker of movement. A flouncy tail. A chippery, chattery squawk. It’s a nasty squirrel all right! I’m after him in a flash.
“Go away, Intruder!” I bark. “Can’t you see the fence?”
He’s not supposed to be here! Dog Parks are for dogs to play chase. And for Hattie to play ball with other short humans or Fetch Man. Even Food Lady’s been playing in the Dog Park lately, digging in the dirt and sprinkling water in the patch where vegetables started growing.
Clearly, the Dog Park is no place for squirrels!And this nasty squirrel is perched on a root of the giant tree, calmly swishing his tail like he’s not in any danger at all. Is he really not intimidated by a ferocious Jack Russell Terrier? Or have his eyes and ears stopped working?
I snarl my fiercest snarl. “This is your last chance!”
Just as I’m ready to lunge, he shoots off the tree root and into the rustling bushes.
Does he think he can hide?“I warned you! Now pay the consequences!” I plunge my snout in after him. That squirrel-y stench is almost unbearable.
I’m about to crawl under the bush when I hear swish, snap to my right.
His beady little head pops out of the next bush over. His body spurts out onto the grass, his fluffy tail whooshing behind him.
Panting wildly, I chase him through the grass. My sides are heaving, but I will not give up! I’m gaining on him! I’m about to grab his flouncy little tail—
But that nasty squirrel hurls himself onto the side fence. He scurries to the top and dives into the Dog Park next door.
“And don’t come back!” I thrust out my chest in vic-tory. Ridding the Dog Park of squirrels is a tough job. But luckily, I’m a professional.
I rush back to Hattie, who’s headed toward the porch. I jump on her legs. “Great news!” I bark. “The nasty squirrel is gone.”
She scoops me into her arms, showering me with kisses. She must be awfully grateful I saved her from the dangerous threat. Again.
“No big deal. Just doing my job,” I bark, snuggling into her shirt.
Hattie hurries up the porch steps, happily hopping over a tangled jump rope, stepping around a rumpled sweatshirt, and kicking aside some old sneakers. The porch is good and messy, just the way Hattie likes it. Good thing Food Lady’s not out here to ruin it.
“That squirrel put up a good fight, but he’s no match for me.” I nuzzle in for more kisses of appreciation.
But Hattie’s got something else on her mind. She sets me down and snatches the fat leathery glove off the table. She pulls out a white ball and tosses it high above her head. She spins around as it shoots way up, then falls way down and lands—thwap!—inside the glove.
I squirm wildly with an awesome realization: We’ve got a ball to play with! I chase Hattie off the porch and back onto the grass.
“Yippee! Time to play,” I bark, romping around her legs.
Hattie laughs and goes into her windup. I’m trotting out for a head start when we hear promising sounds from the Dog Park next door. F-f-f-f-t! A screen door sliding open . . . short human footsteps . . . and jingling dog tags!
“More great news, Hattie!” I bark, my tail thumping wildly. “Our best friends are coming!”
We head to the side fence and pause at our favorite spot—the new gate that appeared after Fetch Man and Tool Man spent a whole day banging and sawing. Now our Dog Park’s even more fun than the big one back in the city, because we can romp around with our friends anytime we want.
Hattie’s bouncing. I’m leaping and twirling. Because the Friend Gate is swinging open!
Out rushes a short human with a cap and a bushy tail of hair like Hattie’s. It’s our friend Angel!
“I’m so happy to see you,” I bark, jumping on her dirt-smeared legs.
“Fenway, off!” Hattie commands.
I drop down, and Angel gives me a quick pat. She smells very excited. She waves her fat leathery glove at Hattie. She must really want to play.
A Golden Retriever and a white dog with black patches burst through the gate. Hooray! Hooray! It’s Goldie and Patches!
We do the bum-sniffing circle dance. “’Sup, ladies?” I say, my tail swishing out of control.
“Something’s gotten into our Angel,” Goldie an-nounces, tough and gruff as usual. “She’s been buzzing around like a bee ever since breakfast.”
“Actually, it started last night when she opened that envelope,” Patches corrects in her lovely and gentle voice. “She practically exploded with glee.”
Goldie shoots Patches a grumpy look. “The point is she’s almost as energetic as Fenway. Just look at her.”
Beaming, Angel unzips her jacket and twirls around. It flaps in the warm breeze. Hattie looks on, impressed.
Wait a minute! Angel’s wearing a jacket? Hattie hasn’t worn a jacket in a Long, Long Time. She only wears jackets when it’s cold or raining, not when it’s hot and dry. Angel smooths the swishy jacket lovingly with her hands. She’s acting awfully proud of it, even though one whiff reveals it’s brand-new and hasn’t ever been worn before.
Her eyes full of excitement, Angel reaches into the pocket and whips out two stiff, papery strips. She waves them in front of Hattie like they’re a couple of bones. Or yummy hot dogs. Her face is glowing. I hear her exclaim two thrilling words that I know: “Fenway” and “park”!
My ears shoot up. Angel’s talking about me!
Hattie pumps her fist in the air. “Yes! Yes! Yes!” she squeals.
I romp over to Angel. “Wowee! Are we going to the park?” I bark, my tail going nuts.
But Angel ignores me. Hattie, too. They leap up and slap hands. Then they start tossing the white ball back and forth.
I cock my head. We’re not going anywhere. Didn’t Angel say we were going to the park?
I look over at the ladies. And not a moment too soon. Goldie’s found a stick. She waggles it a few times, then takes off.
Talk about an irresistible invitation!
Me and Patches bolt across the grass. The chase is on!
Angel and Hattie are running around, too. The ball flies from one short human to the other. Whizzzzz . . . thwap! Whizzzzz . . . thwap! “Yeah!” Angel cries. She pulls the ball out of her glove and sends it back to Hattie.
Goldie rounds the giant tree near the back fence. Me and Patches are right on her tail, our tongues lolling, our sides heaving. We’re so close to nabbing that stick!
“Careful, Fenway,” Patches calls, panting. Angel’s backpedaling right into our path. We weave around her in the nick of time.
That’s Patches, always looking out for me. “Thanks,” I cry.
“Fenway! Oh, Fenwaaaay!” Goldie’s stopped near the side fence. Her eyes smug and taunting, she hovers over the stick. Which is lying still in the grass. And up for grabs.
It’s too tempting to resist! Me and Patches tear af-ter it. “That stick is mine!” I shout. My jaws are ready to chomp!
But at the very last second, Goldie snatches it and takes off the other way.
“No fair!” I yell. We sprint after her. I sneak a glance at Patches, who starts gaining ground on Goldie. She’s going to beat me! There’s only one thing to do—change my strategy.
Up ahead, I see the Best Idea Ever. Instead of mak-ing a wide turn, I take a shortcut through the vegetable patch.
I bound into the lettuce leaves, ready to tear on through. But I’m barely halfway across when I stop still in my tracks. Eeeeew, what’s that horrible smell?
I take a look around. The soil isn’t level and smooth the way it usually is. It’s all dug up. The lettuces are toppled and torn. Uh-oh! Yesterday, they were full and leafy. Clearly, something is wrong.
Everywhere I look, there’s more damage. A curly squash vine is severed, and its blossoms are gone. What’s happened?
I sniff all around, my fur prickling with alarm. That scent is awfully mysterious! It’s not a squirrel. Or a chipmunk. Or a bird. But it’s a wild creature all right.
A sure sign of danger! I must discover who ruined the plants!
My nose follows the trail through fallen tomato stems and chewed pepper leaves to the most odorous spots. I plunge my snout into hole after hole, gathering news. Right away, I detect that the mysterious creature was here very recently. My fur prickles some more. What if he’s lurking nearby, about to strike?
“Hey!” Hattie yells. Her arms flail as the white ball sails way over her head. She watches the ball land—plop!—right next to me, her eyes widening in horror. She’s obviously alarmed by the terrible danger, too.
Like there’s not a professional already on the case! “Don’t worry, Hattie!” I bark, rummaging through the raggedy leaves. “I’ve got this!”
But as I’m crawling over a zucchini flower, my hind leg snags on a vine. The back door flies open and Food Lady races out.Chapter Two
“Hattie!” Food Lady sounds upset. She sprints across the porch, nearly tripping over Hattie’s tangled jump rope.
“FEN-way!” Hattie cries, her voice high with alarm. She charges at me, right toward the danger!
I free my hind leg and dart around the ripped zuc-chini leaves. That nasty creature could still be at large. Anything could happen! “Nobody panic. I’ll find the troublemaker!” I get back to sniffing like crazy.
Food Lady speeds through the grass. “FEN-way!” she snaps. Her arms wave. Her eyes bulge. She’s clearly even more upset by the danger than Hattie is.
Hattie circles the vegetable patch, her arms reaching for me. “Fenway! Come!” she cries.
I scoot through the uneven soil, carefully avoiding the holes. It’s obvious Hattie and Food Lady want to help. But this job is way too dangerous for my humans. Especially when they’re totally freaked out.
I must concentrate! I’m pawing around a tangle of squash vines where the mysterious stench is unmis-takable when I see Food Lady’s reaching fingers. She’s always taking care of the vegetable patch. Nobody loves it as much as she does. Though she has to realize there’s a professional right here, already hard at work.
I zoom deeper into the plants, my nose sniffing away. I must find the culprit and save the day!
Food Lady gasps and inspects the torn lettuce leaves. They look like they’ve been shredded. Or nibbled. It al-most could be a clue. But who would destroy plants that smell like boring vegetables?
“I can hardly stand to watch,” I hear Patches’s lovely voice say.
“When will the guy ever learn?” Goldie murmurs.
It’s nice to know the ladies appreciate the danger I’m in, but I think I can handle myself. Plus, I can’t be distracted by my friends. Or a couple of fallen squash blossoms. The real evidence is right here in the dirt. And I’m going to find it. If I can just get to the right place to sniff . . .
I follow the scent to some stinky pellets. Aha! The evil creature’s droppings? They sure smell suspicious.
And dropping-ish. Talk about promising! This could be the Greatest Discovery Yet. I must get a better sniff—hey!
Hattie clutches my collar and hoists me up. “FEN-way,” she scolds. She avoids Food Lady’s scowl.
I squirm. I kick. I must get loose! “Not now, Hattie! I have a job to do!”
Hattie doesn’t seem to understand the danger we’re in. Or how close I am to nabbing the culprit. She clutches me tighter.
Food Lady rises and shakes her head, her face frown-ing. She points at the torn plants, the ripped-up soil, then at us. She speaks with lots of words I don’t know. “Wah-chim,” she says. Her voice sounds accusing. Is she mad that Hattie interrupted my work? It’s almost as if she’s blaming us for the damage to the vegetables. Talk about a mix-up!
Hattie nods, her shoulders slumping. She winces at Food Lady but somehow manages to look hopeful at the same time. She glances at Angel, who reaches into her jacket and shows Food Lady the stiff, papery strips.
Hattie begs at Food Lady for a Long, Long Time. She says the same two thrilling words that Angel did: “Fenway” and “park.” She tilts her head. “Please? Please? Please?”
My tail thumps. Hattie wants to take me to the park!
But Food Lady is not so sure. She crosses her arms and lets out a whooshy breath. She goes back to talk-ing in that exasperated tone. She points at the porch littered with Hattie’s things. She points at the raggedy plants. She points at me, kicking wildly in Hattie’s arms.
Hattie’s eyes are still pleading. Her words come out quickly, and her voice sounds desperate. She smells impatient. And determined.
Food Lady raises an eyebrow.
Hattie sucks in a breath. She exchanges a question-ing glance with Angel. The short humans clearly want to get back to playing ball instead of listening to Food Lady being angry.
I know how they feel. I wiggle harder. If only I could convince Hattie to put me down. I have to get back to that vegetable patch and keep investigating. The clues are in there!
While Hattie and Food Lady talk some more, An-gel quietly takes the glove off her hand. She trudges toward the Friend Gate, gesturing for Goldie and Patches to follow. Before shutting the gate, Angel sneaks a glance back at Hattie. Her eyes are hopeful, her thumbs up.
“See you later, Fenway,” Patches mutters.
When everybody’s gone, Food Lady points again at the dug-up soil, the ripped-up vegetables, the porch where Hattie’s clothes and sneakers and toys are strewn all over. She crosses her arms.
Hattie gets back to begging. “Please-please-please,” she says.
Food Lady’s face softens. She must be starting to cave because she lets out a sigh and says, “Weul-see.”
“Yes!” Claiming victory, Hattie sets me down. She kneels beside a toppled tomato stem and begins heaping dirt around it.
Finally, I can get back to work! I immediately crawl through the dug-up soil, sniffing and pawing for clues. That creature cannot have gone far!
“Fenway!” Food Lady shrieks, rushing at me.
Before I can even pick up the trail, Hattie’s hands close around me. Hey, I barely got started!
Food Lady frowns at the vegetable patch. She frowns at us. She points back at the house.
Her shoulders sunk, Hattie carries me up the porch steps to the sliding door. When we get inside, she tosses the ball and glove on a chair and grabs my leash.
On cue, my tail comes to life, but then quickly droops. The leash means we’re going for a walk. But how can we walk at a time like this? There’s terrible danger happening in the Dog Park. I have to save my family from evil! This is a disaster!
The instant Hattie puts me down, I hustle to the back door. “We can’t leave the Dog Park,” I bark. “There’s too much at stake!
”Obviously, she doesn’t get it. She drags me through the house and out the front door. Despite my very clear protests, she’s evidently decided to go for a walk no matter what.
Or maybe not? Hattie flops down in the middle of the lawn. With apparently no intention of moving. Or doing anything at all.
What—are we supposed to just sit here and do nothing?
Or could her laziness mean opportunity? I try to tug her toward the driveway. How easy would it be to go around the garage and through the side gate? “Come on, Hattie,” I bark. “We need to get back to the Dog Park.”
“Fenway, stay,” she commands, yanking on my leash.
I plop next to her, studying her stubborn face. There’s some mysterious reason she won’t let me go. But what is it?
And she seems angry at me, too. Hey, it’s not my fault I couldn’t do my job. It’s the very definition of frustrating. I’m supposed to be tracking down a mon-ster, probably a violent criminal, and I’m stuck here in the front yard.
I’m sinking back down in the grass when I realize maybe there is something I can do. I drop my nose to the ground and sniff. Clues could be anywhere!
I scout around, picking up only boring weeds and pesky chipmunks and the same random birds I always smell. I lift my head and listen. But all I hear is a motor buzzing in the distance. There are no signs of trouble. My tail sags with the horrible realization.
There isn’t anything I can do.
Hattie’s sagging, too. Her chin sinks into her hands. Maybe she’s mad that we couldn’t keep playing in the Dog Park. We were all having so much fun until that nasty creature ruined everything! And he’s probably ready to strike again!
I gaze up at Hattie’s frowning face. I remember my other important job.
“Cheer up, Hattie,” I bark, nuzzling her leg. “Your best buddy is here.”
She gives me a quick pat. But she still smells angry.
Clearly, she needs more convincing. I hop onto her lap and lick her cheek. “Even though bad things are happening, we’ve got each other,” I bark. “That’s all that matters.”
Hattie cups her hand behind my head. Staring into my eyes, she speaks in a low and serious voice. “Bee-have,” she says over and over.
When she’s done speaking, I snuggle against her neck. I smell her bad feelings start to fade away. Whoopee! I knew I could cheer her up.
As Hattie scratches my ears, she glances over at Angel’s house next door. She looks back at me and whispers, “Fenway, park,” clearly filling me in on a plan. Or a secret. Even though she’s whispering, she sounds forceful, sure. As if her mind is made up and it’s not going to change.
Hooray! Hooray! We’re going to the park! I spring up, pulling her toward the driveway again. But she doesn’t budge. Maybe we’re going to the park later?
I curl up in Hattie’s lap for a while, watching a fluttery butterfly. The occasional car zooming down the street. A boy short human riding a bicycle.
At last, when it seems like nothing interesting will happen, a car slows and turns into the driveway across the street. When the doors open, my ears perk.
A tall human gets out of one side of the car and heads toward the mailbox. A lady human takes her time getting out of the other side.
Hattie’s eyes widen. She jolts up. She smells excited, like she’s gotten an idea. She leads me to the edge of the yard, her head swiveling from one end of the street to the other.
Are we finally going for a walk?
Apparently not. We race toward the tall humans, Hattie shouting friendly greetings.
The man smiles and tucks a rolled-up newspaper under his arm. The lady turns, one arm waving, the other behind her back.
As we approach, I get busy sizing up the tall humans. The man is wearing glasses and has dark whiskers on his jaw. The lady has a belly so big and round, she wobbles a little like she might topple over. They look just like our neighbors, Whisker Face and Round Lady. But smelling is believing.
I zoom in on their shoes, my nose going wild. Sniff, sniff . . . the lady smells like pickles and vanilla ice cream. The man smells like paint and new carpeting. And a mysterious animal scent that’s very familiar.
Yippee! It really is Whisker Face and Round Lady. I jump on their legs. “I’m so glad to see you!” I bark.
Whisker Face rubs my head. “Aw, Fenway,” he says. Round Lady tries to stoop down, too, but groans like the effort is too much.
“Are we here for a barbecue again?” I paw Whisker Face’s leg. “I love barbecues!” I sniff more of his friendly aroma. There’s always been something mysterious about it that I can’t quite identify. Sort of furry. And unpleasant . . .
“Fenway, off!” Hattie commands.
I plop onto my bum.
“Good boy,” Hattie says, beaming with pride.
The neighbors exchange looks, obviously impressed.
Hattie asks them questions. Her voice is excited. Round Lady smiles and pats her big belly. “Sooooon,” she croons.
Whisker Face pets my head again. I sniff his legs some more. That mysterious animal scent reminds me of something . . . hey! It’s like that stench from the vegetable patch.
My fur bristles. This is it! The clue I’ve been after!Chapter Three
My nose goes into overdrive. I sniff Whisker Face’s sneakers, his ankles, every hair on his legs. The scent is a lot like that evil creature who caused all the trouble in the vegetable patch. But not exactly the same. Another evil creature? His brother? Cousin? There’s definitely a connection. And it’s full of mystery!
One thing’s for sure—there’s more than one of those creatures lurking around. Some sort of evil gang! I knew there was danger. Good thing I’m on the case!
I move on to Round Lady’s feet. Sure enough, she’s covered with the exact same mysterious scent as Whisker Face. I’m definitely on to something! My nose more sure than ever, I jump wildly, sniffing Round Lady’s calves all the way up to the hem of her dress.
“Fenway!” Hattie scoops me into her arms. She strokes my back, clearly encouraging my efforts.
“Thanks!” I bark, and I didn’t even ask for help. Now that I’m up higher, I thrust my snout into Round Lady’s chest.
Hattie pulls me away from the target. She makes a sorry face at the neighbors, but they just exchange glances and smile.
“I thought you were trying to help, Hattie,” I bark. “I can’t do my job from a distance!” I point my snout at Round Lady and inhale as hard as I can. Even from here, that odor is unmistakable.
As usual, Hattie is completely unaware of the prob-lem. She continues chatting with Whisker Face and Round Lady like nothing is wrong. Actually, she sounds like everything is suddenly right. Hattie speaks with a very excited voice. A grin spreads across her face. “Thum-per?” she asks, then points to herself. “Wah-chim?”
Round Lady raises her eyebrows in surprise. She gazes expectantly at Whisker Face and pats her belly again.
I poke my nose out as far as I can, sniffing with all my might. But it’s no use. I’m too far away to crack that unpleasant animal-ish smell. When there are two evil creatures, there are always more! Obviously, with a new gang roaming around the neighborhood, it’s only a matter of time before they cause more trouble. Or worse, take over! They must be stopped.
But first, they must be found. I wiggle furiously in Hattie’s arms. I’m desperate to get loose, but she only grabs me tighter. “FEN-way,” she scolds.
“Hattie, you don’t understand,” I bark. “This is an emergency!” I twist. I turn. I thrust my snout at Whis-ker Face and Round Lady.
Hattie tightens her grip even more. “Look!” she says to the neighbors. Her voice sounds like she’s reassuring them about something. Then she turns to me. “Fenway, leave it!” she commands.
My head snaps back to her. I stop twisting and sniffing. Why’d she pick a time like this to play the leave-it game?
Whisker Face and Round Lady look impressed. They share a questioning glance, then shrug.
“Okay,” Whisker Face says to Hattie.
“Yes!” she cries, pumping her fist. She and the neighbors chatter for a while longer. Hattie nods her head so much, I’m wondering if she’ll ever stop.
Eventually, the neighbors turn to go. They head up their walkway and disappear inside the front door, taking their scents with them!
I crawl up Hattie’s shoulder, watching them go. She strokes my neck, all calm and soothing. Clearly, I’m going to have to work a lot harder to uncover the evil gang’s plot.
As we hurry across the street to our house, I catch sight of a short human rushing toward us. Silky black hair hangs over one shoulder, and her white skirt puffs out behind her. A grin sweeps over her face. She’s clutching a box that rattles with every step. “Hattie!” she calls.
“Zahra!” Hattie cries.
The instant Zahra reaches us, she leans in and smothers me with kisses. “Awww, Fenway,” she coos, giggling.
Yippee! I love Zahra! I lick her chin. She smells like glitter and glue. Just like the sparkly bracelets up and down her arm.
Hattie gazes at the bracelets. “Oooooh,” she says, her voice filled with admiration.
Zahra pats the rattly box, her cheeks smiling even harder than before.
Hattie claps her hands, and we all race up to the front door. When we get inside, Hattie finally sets me down. At last, I can get back to work!
I speed through the hall to the back door. Maybe I missed my chance to sniff out the clues on the neigh-bors, but I can always get back to the original source of the trouble—the vegetable patch.
“Somebody let me out!” I bark, scratching the screen.
“FEN-way!” Hattie shouts. She snatches me up and looks nervously out into the Dog Park.
Food Lady pops up from behind the leafy lettuce plants. She wipes her brow. Her face is scowling.
“Uh-oh.” Hattie glances at Zahra, her shoulders slumping. She smells worried. She must realize it’s not safe to go back into the Dog Park.
“It’s dangerous all right,” I bark, licking her cheek. “But I can protect you.
”Instead of being reassured, Hattie turns away.
I squirm wildly. “I have to get out there and track that evil creature,” I bark. But it’s no use. We bound up the stairs, Hattie hugging me tight. It’s clear she’s not getting the message. But as we dash into her room, I get a new idea.
I shoot out of Hattie’s arms and up onto the bed. My paws rest on the window ledge. I peer through the screen, scanning the Dog Park for clues.
Food Lady is squatting next to the vegetables, her hands busy in the dirt. She looks serious. Focused. And unsuspecting.
My hackles shoot up. Could she be the evil creature’s next target?
I redouble my efforts, examining the whole area. If he’s lurking around somewhere, I’ll spot him.
My gaze wanders to the Dog Park next door. There’s no sign of the villain over there, either. Angel is tossing a white ball up in the air and catching it in her glove. Goldie is snoozing on the porch. Patches is sprawled out in the grass, halfheartedly gnawing on a bone. They’re all together, but each one looks bored and lonely. And even worse, the Friend Gate is shut.
This is not how it’s supposed to be. We were all out-side having fun before that evil creature ruined the vegetable patch and got Food Lady all upset. I drop onto the bed in disgust.
Zahra plops down beside me and opens her box. Out spill rattly beads, floppy bands, and shiny clasps. Hattie’s eyes get wide. She smells excited.
Zahra starts stringing beads and looping bands. Pretty soon, she’s got a glimmer-y rope that looks like half a bracelet. She shows it to Hattie, who claps her hands.
As Zahra gets back to work, Hattie lifts me onto her lap and rubs my neck.
Ah, right there. That’s the spot. I roll onto my back so the belly scratching can begin. My hind leg kicks with delight.
Now Zahra’s holding up a sparkly bracelet just like the ones on her arm. Her face is triumphant. She wraps the new bracelet around Hattie’s wrist.
Hattie’s eyes widen. “Oooooh,” she says, her voice full of gratitude.
I pop up and give it a sniff. It smells like plastic. I curl up tighter in Hattie’s cozy lap while she starts stringing and looping like Zahra did. Next thing I know, a bumpy new collar winds around my neck. Hattie gazes into my eyes and pats my head.
Awww. . .she's the best short human ever.
Later, my whole family—Fetch Man, Food Lady, and Hattie—gathers around the table in the Eating Place like they do every night. I’m perched next to Hattie’s chair, ready for delicious drips or tasty morsels to fall. The Eating Place smells like wonderful spaghetti and meatballs. My tummy is grumbling. My tongue is drooling.
The humans are chattering as always. But tonight, everyone’s attention is focused on Fetch Man. Hattie says two words, “Fenway” and “park,” over and over, her voice full of enthusiasm. She’s obviously telling him about the secret plan.
“Wow! Whoa!” Fetch Man cries. He is clearly just as enthusiastic as she is.
I pant with anticipation. It’s a pretty exciting plan! I can hardly wait to go to the park! It’s probably the Best Park Ever, with loads of cool friends and lots of grass to chase them around in. And maybe even hot dogs!
But nobody is getting up and grabbing the leash. They just keep sitting there. Hattie is so busy chatter-ing and Fetch Man is so busy listening that they don’t even acknowledge me. Hattie must be talking about Angel next because she says her name a bunch of times, her legs jiggling, her arms gesturing. Finally, she takes a deep breath. “Can-I-can-I . . . ?” she begs.
Fetch Man turns to Food Lady, who’s speaking to him in an exasperated voice. She says my name a bunch of times. She does not say “park.” But she does say “rect” and “gar-din.”
When Food Lady stops talking, Fetch Man turns to Hattie and shrugs. His face is pained. “Bee-riss-pon-si-bull?” he asks.
That must mean something really exciting, because Hattie almost bounces out of her seat. “I will! I will!” she cries.
Food Lady looks skeptical. “Wah-chim,” she says. Then, “Weul-see.”
Hattie shifts in her seat. She smells disappointed, like she’s losing a battle over a bone. But her body language says she’s not ready to give up. There’s still some fight left in her. She crosses her fingers under the table. I give them a lick. They taste like garlic.
Hattie sits up tall. “Thum-per,” she says. She keeps on chattering, her voice sounding strong. Like she’s boasting. She taps her chest and adds, “Wah-chim.”
Fetch Man looks skeptical. Food Lady glances down at me, then back at Hattie. “Wah-chim-too?” she asks.
Hattie nods vigorously. “I-can-I-can,” she says, full of determination. And then, “Fenway, park?”
My tail swishes hopefully. Is it time to go?
Fetch Man and Food Lady exchange questioning eyebrows. “Weul-see,” Food Lady says again. Hattie reaches down and gives me a pat of encouragement. I think she is telling me to be patient about the park.
After supper, Hattie rushes from the table, leaving Food Lady alone with sudsy dishes in the sink. I get busy chomping delicious kibble, vaguely aware of Fetch Man quietly ducking into the garage.
Upstairs, I cuddle in Hattie’s bed. She kisses my brown paw, then the white one. She nuzzles her nose in my fur. “Best buddies, best buddies,” she sings, running the brush through my coat. Her voice is low and quiet.
The light goes out and I close my eyes . . .I’m all alone out in the Dog Park, walking through the vegetable patch. One moment the plants are strong and leafy, then poof! They’re toppled and broken and ripped to shreds. Obviously, the work of monsters! They must be stopped.I find tracks in the mud. A clue!I’m hot on the trail, panting and eager. I spot something I hadn’t noticed before.Evil Creatures. Everywhere I turn! Under the bushes. In the grass. On the fence.I’m completely surrounded. And I can’t take my eyes off them.They look like squirrels, only fatter and uglier.And gigantic.Their fangs are dripping with viciousness. Their claws are jagged and ready to strike! "G-g-go away, you n-n-nasty creatures.” I sink under a floppy leaf, my whole body trembling. “Or else.”Then, out of nowhere, Hattie appears! She’s climbing down the giant tree trunk—from her little house up in the branches.“No! Hattie!” I bark. “It’s not safe!”The Evil Creatures roar with laughter. Before I can move, they close in. And seize her.
Copyright © 2017 by Victoria J. Coe. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.