Authors: Vivian Vande Velde
Tags: #Ages 8 and up
Magic Carpet Books
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Copyright © 1998 by Vande Velde, Vivian
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First Magic Carpet Books edition 2007
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Vande Velde, Vivian.
Smart dog/Vivian Vande Velde.
Summary: Fifth grader Amy finds her life growing complicated
when she meets and tries to hide an intelligent, talking dog,
who has escaped from a university lab.
[1. Dogs—Fiction. 2. Human-animal communication—Fiction.]
ISBN 978-0-15-206172-2 pb
Text set in Fairfield Medium
Designed by Lydia D'moch
C E G H F D B
Printed in the United States of America
who always wanted a smart dog
2 The Lab
9 More Plans
10 Convincing Mom
11 In the Front Yard
13 Being Watched
16 Special Day
17 Eggs and Lies
18 The Easter Egg Parade
20 Dr. Schieber
21 The Scene of the Crime
23 Some of the Truth
24 All of the Truth
Amy Prochenko had her walk to school timed perfectly.
If she was too slow, she'd arrive late and get detention—not to mention a lecture from her teacher, her principal, and her parents, in that order. If she was too quick, she'd get there before her friends. Complicating things was the fact that the two or three girls she usually hung around with all lived far enough away that they rode buses, which could be unpredictable.
Arriving ahead of her friends wouldn't have been so bad except that the very first person to get to school every morning was Kaitlyn Walker, whose mother dropped her off early on her way to work. Kaitlyn was the most popular girl in the fifth grade—looked up to, fussed over, and imitated by all the in crowd. Amy was so far removed from the in crowd that Kaitlyn wouldn't talk to her even if they were the only two people in the room.
Amy knew that for a fact because it had happened.
One by one, fifth-grade girls and boys alike would enter, and gather around Kaitlyn, and start making fun of Amy.
That had happened, too.
So Amy preferred to get to school between five and seven minutes before the eight o'clock bell: This gave her time to settle in, with enough other people there—people who were not from the in crowd—for Kaitlyn to have a full range of targets.
On this particular spring morning as Amy walked to school, she was well within her schedule when she saw a dog sitting on the sidewalk. It was a medium-sized dog with floppy ears and big brown eyes and long fur that was equal parts brown and white and black.
"Excuse me," the dog said just as Amy was about to step around him. 'I'm in trouble. Could you please help me?"
Amy stopped, panicked—not because she was afraid, for the dog wasn't scary—but because she had no idea how to react. She knew dogs didn't talk, but probably the last thing she would have expected a dog to say if it
talk was "Excuse me" and "Please." She wouldn't have guessed that a dog would be so polite. Her family had never had dogs, so maybe it wasn't fair for her to judge; but from what she had seen, dogs tended to eat out of garbage cans, bark all night, and poop where people were most likely to step. None of these struck her as indications of deep thinking. Yet here was this dog, speaking in a grumbly-barky but easy-to-understand voice, asking politely and intelligently for help.
She glanced around, although she already knew there was nobody else nearby and that, in any case, the voice had definitely come from the dog. Still she looked, for she knew that dogs don't normally speak—politely or not—and she hated to appear foolish, even if the dog was the only witness.
She saw she had been right: She and the dog were the only ones in sight.
So she stepped closer and asked, "What kind of trouble? Are you lost?"
The dog shook his head, making the metal tags on his collar jingle. "Just the opposite," he said. "I'm trying to get lost."
Amy checked the tags anyway because she didn't know where else to start. One was shiny red and had a date engraved: August 17 of last year. The other was unpainted, and it was engraved with the number F-32. "What are these?" she asked.
"The red one shows that my rabies shots are up to date," the dog said.
This was good news to Amy, who suddenly remembered that the police officer who had talked to her class about safety had warned never to approach an animal that was acting strangely. She would have to admit that a dog stopping her and asking for help was strange.
The dog continued, "And the other one is my name tag."
Amy flipped over the tag that said F-32. On the other side was a telephone number and the words:
State College of New York at Rochester
Rochester, New York 14619
She didn't think either side made a good name. "Your name is F-32?" she asked.
"Yes," the dog answered.
Definitely not a good name.
Amy said, "And you belong to someone at the college?"
Again F-32 shook his head, pulling the tag out from Amy's hand. He scratched himself—but discreetly, for a dog. "I belong to the college itself," he corrected.
To the Research Department,
Amy thought. And then suddenly everything was clear to her. "You're a science experiment," she guessed, which was the only explanation for why the dog was smart enough to talk. "And you're—"
F-32 nodded. "Running away," he finished. "Yes. Will you help me?"
"I ran away from home once when I was seven," Amy told F-32. "I was only gone for an hour, because when I was seven I wasn't allowed to cross the street, so I hid in Julie Duran's garage. But my parents got real worried and called the police and my mother was crying and everything. I felt terrible."
The dog listened to her with his head cocked to one side and didn't interrupt.
Amy said, "The people at the college are probably worried about you." But then she remembered that the reason she had run away was because she'd been angry that her parents wouldn't let her go to the PG-13 movie she had wanted to see, and that wasn't a very likely reason for a dog to run away. She tried to think like a dog and asked, "Or were they mean to you?"
F-32 paused to consider. "No," he said slowly. "During the day we'd do all sorts of fun and interesting things, and the students always scratched my belly every time I rolled over." He wagged his tail, sweeping the sidewalk, at the thought. "I really like having my belly scratched," he added wistfully. "But at night they would go home, and they'd lock me in my cage in the lab and I'd be all alone, except for the night guard. And they told me not to talk to him because I was a secret experiment."
"Oh," Amy said, sad at the thought of being locked up.
"I didn't tell them that I'd figured out the cage latch back when I was still a puppy. That was
secret experiment. It wasn't the cage that bothered me so much. It was that when they weren't working, sometimes the people would go to parties together, or do things together and talk and laugh about it the next day, but I
had to stay in the lab."
"That's the worst thing, to feel left out," Amy agreed. She thought of Kaitlyn Walker.
" F-32 said. "Then last week I overheard Dr. Boden, who's in charge of the lab, talking into his tape recorder, where he dictates his notes. He was whispering when he thought I couldn't hear. That's what made me interested, so I listened." The dog lowered
voice, and Amy crouched down to hear better. "He said I'd gotten as smart as I was going to get, and now he wanted to see how my brain worked. I couldn't tell why he was making it into a secret, but then he said that before the end of the semester they were going to dissect my brain. Just then he looked up and saw me, and immediately he turned the recorder off and started doing something else. I didn't know what
meant, but he looked so worried I might have overheard, I remembered the word and looked it up on the lab computer that night. It means they're going to cut open my brain to examine it."
"That's terrible!" Amy cried. Then she asked, amazed, "You know how to use a computer?"
F-32 nodded. "I don't think I'm supposed to, because they never actually showed me how. But I watched the students play computer games when the professors weren't there; and I taught myself, at night, between the guard's rounds. I like games. And Mike knocking over that little garbage can that's in the corner of the screen, to go through and see what people have thrown out. I have to hold a pencil between my teeth and press the keys with the eraser end because my paws are too big."
smart," Amy said.
"Thank you." F-32 wagged his tail proudly. "But when I learned what the people were planning, I decided I better not act so smart. So when they explained their tests, I pretended I couldn't understand and made mistakes. And I started chasing my tail and bumping into things—like the outside dogs."
"Outside dogs?" Amy repeated.
"Dogs that don't belong to the college," F-32 explained. "There's a window in the lab, and sometimes I could see dogs and their people playing on the hill, fetching sticks or balls or Frisbees. It looked like fun, but Dr. Boden said
was a waste of time and it was just for stupid dogs." He cocked his head and looked at Amy quizzically.
"It's still fun," Amy said. "But anyway, acting not-so-smart sounds like a good plan, so they'd want to study you longer."
"Except that everybody got worried that something was going wrong, and Dr. Boden decided to check my brain out right away. I think he might have suspected that I had caught on, because that time he spelled it out on the recorder. Spelling is my worst subject. But I could make out 'd-i-s-s-e-c-t' and 't-o-m-o-r-r-o-w.'"
"That's awful," Amy said. She felt sorry for the dog, angry at the college researchers, and determined to do something. "Of course I'll help you get away from those terrible people."
"Thank you," F-32 said. "What should we do first?"
That was a disappointment because Amy had assumed he'd have a plan, since he was so smart. But he just waited for her, scratching under his collar, which made his tags jingle.
Amy wasn't used to people depending on her, expecting her to come up with plans. She preferred clearly explained rules and to be told what to do, like coloring within the lines in a coloring book rather than designing a drawing of her own. Now, for inspiration, she thought of TV shows she'd seen. On TV, police officers were always going undercover, so that was where she would start. "First," Amy said, "we'll get rid of your identification." She unbuckled his collar and stuffed it into her backpack. "What does F-32 mean, anyway?" She took a sudden breath. "Are there other animals in danger?" she asked. "Are there animals named A through F, and one to thirty-two?"
"No," F-32 said. "F is for Frank, which is Dr. Boden's other name. Thirty-two is the room number for the lab in the Science Building."
"Then it's an even worse name than I thought," Amy said, outraged that the dog should be named for his owner and location. "So, second is we have to give you a different name."
"You mean a word name," F-32 asked in a tone of wonder and delight, "instead of a number name?"
Amy had to smile at how such a little thing could please him so much.
But then he continued, "Like Dr. Boden and Karen and Tiffany and Denzel and—"
Amy interrupted. "You don't want to name yourself after people who would dissect someone just for being smart. You're the smartest dog that ever was, so you should be named after the smartest person there ever was."