Authors: Catherine Hapka
For all the shelter workers who help people find their pets and pets find their people.
The Best Birthday Ever!
“Happy birthday, Janey!” Lolli Simpson exclaimed.
Janey Whitfield set down her lunch tray at her usual spot across from Lolli. “It's not my birthday yet,” she told her best friend with a smile. “Not until tomorrow, remember?”
“I know.” Lolli pushed a lock of curly black hair out of her eyes. “But tomorrow is Saturday. I wanted you to be able to celebrate here at school with all your friends.”
Lolli waved a hand at the other people sitting at the table. Their friend Adam Santos was next to Janey. Several kids from their fourth grade class were a little farther down, talking about that morning's spelling test.
“Come on, everybody!” Lolli called out. “Let's sing!”
She led the whole table in a round of “Happy Birthday to You.” A few kids at nearby tables joined in. Janey loved every second of it. It was great having everyone sing to her!
“Thanks, everybody!” she called out when the song was finished. She waved, and some of the other kids waved back. Soon they all went back to their own conversations. “Thanks, Lolli,” Janey told her friend. “That was
fab.” Janey loved to use interesting words whenever she could. Her favorite right then was “fab.” It was short for fabulous.
“Waitâthere's more.” Lolli reached into her insulated lunch bag and pulled out a small reusable container. Lolli's parents liked to call themselves back-to-the-land hippies. They lived on a small farm outside of town and grew their own organic food. They bought most of their clothes at thrift stores and recycled everything. Lolli never brought brown paper bags or plastic baggies for her lunch like most of the other kids. She had a whole set of reusable bags and containers that she used instead.
“What is it?” Janey opened the container and peered at the grayish-brown lump inside.
“It's a cupcake.” Lolli grinned. “Dad helped me make it just for you.”
“Oh. Thanks.” Janey smiled. “Um, it looksâ¦interesting.”
“That's a cupcake?” a new voice exclaimed loudly in Janey's ear.
Janey looked up. Zach Goldman had just stopped by their table. Zach was friends with Adam, but Janey didn't like him very much. He was rowdy, loud, and kind of obnoxious. Once when Janey had received the highest grade in the class on a math test, Zach had called her “Brainy Janey” for almost a month.
Zach leaned over for a better look at the cupcake. He was holding his skateboard under his arm, and the end of it poked Janey in the back.
“Ow,” she said, pushing him away. “What are you doing?”
Zach grinned. “That doesn't look like a cupcake,” he said. “It looks like something one of my mom's patients barfed up.”
“Gross!” Janey made a face. Zach's mom
was a veterinarian. She treated most of the cats and dogs in town.
“It's a special recipe my dad made up,” Lolli told Zach. “With zucchini, kale, and oatmeal. The cupcakes are actually really healthy, and totally organic, too.”
“Zucchini and kale?” Zach said. “Do me a favor, Lolli. Don't make me a cupcake on my birthday.”
With a grin, he hurried away.
Lolli looked worried. “Does it really look that bad?” she asked Janey. “I ate one of the cupcakes for breakfast, and I thought it was good.”
Janey didn't like zucchini. But lots of the food at Lolli's house tasted better than it looked or sounded. So she forced herself
to take a tiny bite of her birthday cupcake. She thought it would taste like mud, but it actually wasn't that bad.
“It's great,” she said. “I love it. Thanks, Lolli, you're the best friend ever!”
Lolli looked relieved. “No, you are,” she said. “So what are you going to do to celebrate your birthday tomorrow?”
That made Janey's smile get even bigger. “I can't wait until tomorrow,” she said. “I'm pretty sure Mom and Dad are getting me something really special this year.”
“Really? What?” Lolli was digging into her lunch bag again. While she wasn't looking, Janey nudged Adam. Then she broke off more than half of her cupcake and slipped it to him. She put a finger to her lips,
and he nodded.
Adam popped the cupcake into his mouth in one big bite. He chewed and swallowed quickly. Then he gave Janey a thumbs-up.
Janey smiled gratefully. Adam was pretty skinny, but he ate a lot. And he liked almost everything, including the cafeteria's baked beans. Even Lolli's dog, Roscoe, wouldn't touch those!
Thinking about Roscoe reminded Janey of her big news. She turned back to Lolli. “I think my parents are finally getting me a dog,” she said.
Lolli's head snapped up in surprise. “Huh?” she said. “But your dad is so allergic to animals.”
Janey's father's allergies were the reason Janey had never had a pet, even though she was crazy about animals of all shapes and sizes. Whenever Mr. Whitfield was around any creature with fur or feathers, he started wheezing and sneezing. His eyes turned red, and his nose turned redder. He sniffled nonstop. It even happened when he was around Janey's aunt's poodle. Janey had read that poodles weren't supposed to bother people with allergies as much
since they didn't shed. But her parents had explained that it didn't really work that way.
“I know. But I figured out a way to compromise,” Janey told Lolli. “See, I did some research on the Internet. I found out there are allergy shots for people with animal allergies! Isn't that great?”
“Allergy shots?” Lolli looked uncertain. “You want your dad to get shots so you can have a dog?”
“Uh huh. I printed out some articles about the allergy shots.” Janey broke off a tiny piece of cupcake and ate it. “I started leaving them lying around the house about a month ago. I figured that would give Dad plenty of time to talk to his doctor about getting the shots. I also left some pictures and information about
my favorite dog breeds.”
“Really?” Adam looked up from his lunch. “What breeds did you pick?”
Adam was very interested in dogs. Even though he was only nine, he'd been running his own successful pet-sitting business for over a year. He fed and walked people's dogs for them after school and any other time they needed him. He also helped people train their dogs sometimes. He'd taught Roscoe how to shake hands and balance a dog treat on his nose.
“I was thinking about a Maltese or a papillon,” Janey told him. “They both seem really cute and fun. And I thought maybe a small dog like that would mean Dad needs to get the shots less often.”
Adam nodded. “I walked a Maltese once.
I liked her.”
Lolli laughed. “You like every dog you walk, Adam,” she said. Then she turned to Janey. “Maybe you don't need a fancy breed. What's wrong with a nice all-American mutt like Roscoe?”
“That would be fine, too. Roscoe is totally fab,” Janey said. She meant it, too. Roscoe was a big, lovable goof who had come from the local animal shelter as a puppy. He was part rottweiler, part Labrador retriever, and part who-knew-what. Janey had spent many happy hours at Lolli's place playing fetch with Roscoe, swimming with him in the pond, or just lying in the grass rubbing his belly.
“I bet you could find a dog just as great as Roscoe at the Third Street Animal Shelter,”
Lolli said. “The dogs and cats there all really need homes. My parents and I go there sometimes to volunteer. Actually, Mom said we might go tomorrow to drop off some homemade dog and cat toys we made last weekend. I could help you look at dogs then if you want.”
“That would be awesome,” Janey said. “I'll mention it to my parents if they haven't gotten my dog yet. Come to think of it, they might be thinking the same thing. They donate money to the shelter every year.” She sighed happily. “Anyway, I don't really care what kind of dog I get. I just can't wait to have one of my very own!”
She'd been dreaming about this day ever since she could remember. Janey had always loved animalsâall animals. She read books
about dogs, hung cute pictures of cats on her walls, and doodled horses and elephants and rabbits all over the margins of her school notebooks. She loved spending time with Roscoe, Adam's dog-sitting clients, and any other animal that came along. But nothing would compare to having a pet of her very own, to cuddle and snuggle with any time she wanted.
It was going to be so great! She shivered with excitement, wondering how she was ever going to wait until tomorrow.