Authors: Ellen Miles
For my best pal Django
Dear Mrs. Peabody,
Knock, knock! (Now you say, “Who's there?”)
(You say, “Isabel who?”)
Isabel necessary on a bicycle?
Charles laughed. He showed his letter to his best friend, Sammy. Sammy sat next to him in Mr. Mason's class. Sammy laughed when he read Charles's letter. But he also raised his eyebrows and looked over at Mr. Mason. Charles guessed what Sammy meant. He crumpled up the piece of paper and started over. It probably wasn't good to start a letter with a knock-knock joke, especially to a person he didn't even know.
Mr. Mason was a good teacher, but he was pretty serious. He had been teaching about the right ways and wrong ways to write a letter since Thanksgiving. Now it was almost Christmas, and everybody in Room 2B had heard it over and over again. “Say why you are writing the letter at the very beginning,” Mr. Mason said. “And make sure to let the reader know who you are.”
They had been writing letters for weeks, and Charles felt like he had already written a thousand letters.
Well, maybe ten.
At least five.
There was the one to the President. Charles asked him about how he had named his dog. There was the one to Holly James, his favorite writer. Charles asked her where she got her ideas, and if she had a dog. And there was the one to his parents. This letter explained all the reasons why Charles deserved a really, really good Christmas present this year. Like a dog.
Charles really loved dogs.
Now he was supposed to be writing to Mrs. Peabody, who was going to become his Grandbuddy. Every kid at Littleton Elementary was getting a Grandbuddy soon. Each class was going to be visiting The Meadows, which was a place where older people lived. Not sick old people, like in a hospital. These old people lived in their own apartments and took care of themselves, with a little help. But they might get a little lonely sometimes, and maybe their real grandchildren lived far away. That's where Grandbuddies came in.
Mr. Mason had given the kids in 2B a little bit of information about their Grandbuddies. Sammy's was named Mr. Munsell. Mr. Munsell had once been a pitcher in the minor leagues. Charles's information sheet said that Mrs. Peabody had been a librarian. That was okay, but not as exciting as a baseball player.
Charles decided to start his letter over, trying
to keep Mr. Mason's directions in mind. “Tell your Grandbuddy a little bit about yourself,” Mr. Mason had said. “Your family, your likes and dislikes, your favorite food. And don't forget to ask your Grandbuddy about himself or herself, too. Have fun with it!”
Maybe Charles had been trying too hard with the “fun” part. Maybe Mrs. Peabody didn't even like knock-knock jokes.
Dear Mrs. Peabody,
Hi! I am going to be your Grandbuddy. My name is Charles Peterson. I am in second grade. I have one older sister named Lizzie. She is in fourth grade. I also have one younger brother named Adam, but we call him the Bean. He's little. We adopted him when he was a baby. The Bean thinks he is a dog and he likes to bark and drink from a bowl on the floor. My dad is a fireman, and my mom is a reporter.
Charles stopped writing and thought for a moment. What else could he tell Mrs. Peabody about himself? Mr. Mason said that sharing likes and dislikes was a good way to get to know someone.
My likes and dislikes are: I like dogs. I mean, I love them. A little while ago my family got to be a foster family for a golden retriever puppy named Goldie. A foster family takes care of a puppy for a little while. And they help find a really good forever home for the puppy, too. Mom says our family isn't ready for a full-time dog, but she liked having Goldie even though she chewed some stuff up. (Goldie, not Mom.) Anyway, it was the most fun ever, except when we had to give her away. (Goldie, not Mom.) The coolest thing is, the home we found for Goldie is with my best friend, Sammy. He lives right next door, so I get to see her all the time.
Charles thought for a minute.
I also like knock-knock jokes. I'll tell you one when I meet you. Hint: It's about a dog.
My dislikes: not having a dog of my own. And mushrooms.
My favorite food is: spaghetti, but I don't like meatballs. If I had a dog I could give him my meatballs.
Charles put down his pencil and shook out his hand. He had been writing a lot! The letter was almost done. Except, he had forgotten to ask Mrs. Peabody about herself. He picked up his pencil.
What about you? Do you have a dog?
Charles looked down at his paper. He had written much more than he had planned to, and a lot of it seemed to be about dogs. Oh, well. The bell
had just rung. It was time to hand in his letter, tidy up his desk, and line up by the door.
“When do you get to meet your Grandbuddies?” Lizzie asked Charles and Sammy on their way home from school. It was snowing, and Charles was trying to catch a snowflake on his tongue.
“On Monday,” Sammy said. “I'm going to bring Mr. Munsell a picture of Goldie and Rufus.”
Rufus was Sammy's other dog. Rufus was an older golden retriever, and he
having Goldie around. They were always chasing each other and stealing each other's toys. Hearing about the picture made Charles feel a little jealous. Why didn't
have a dog he could bring a picture of?
“Charles! Lizzie! Hop in!” It was their dad, pulling up next to them in the Petersons' red pickup truck. He looked excited.
“Where are we going?” Charles asked.
“Down to Olson's gas station,” Dad answered. “There's a puppy there. A puppy that needs a good foster home.”
“Another puppy?” Lizzie asked. “What kind?”
“How old is it? Is it a girl or a boy? Can we keep it this time?” Charles was so excited he could hardly think straight.
Dad just laughed. “The sooner we get there the sooner we'll know more about this pup,” he said. “Let's go!”
“You guys are so lucky,” Sammy said. “I wish I could come, but I have to go home and take care of Goldie and Rufus. Call me as soon as you get home. I want to meet the new puppy!”
Charles and Lizzie climbed into the truck and fastened their seat belts.
“Okay, Dad, tell us everything you know,” Lizzie demanded as they headed downtown.
“Also, does Mom know about the puppy? Is it okay with her?”
Charles was wondering the same thing. Mom was not exactly a dog person. She thought they were a lot of trouble and mess. She had promised Charles and Lizzie that they could get a dog someday â but that someday never seemed to come. Charles and Lizzie had felt really lucky that Mom had agreed to let them foster Goldie, the golden retriever puppy. Of course, they had hoped she would let them keep Goldie forever, but that had not happened. Maybe this time it would!
Dad laughed again at Lizzie's questions. “Yup, Mom knows. She's excited. So is the Bean. He's been running around yelling, âUppy! Uppy!' ever since he heard us talking about a puppy.” Then Dad got serious. “Mom did say to remind you that we're just fostering this pup until we can find it a good home. So that answers
of your questions, buddy,” he said, looking at Charles in the
rearview mirror. “As for the others, all I know is that somebody left the pup in a box at Olson's gas station. I guess they thought he'd know what to do with a dog, since everybody knows Gunnar.”
Gunnar was a Dalmatian and the fire department's mascot. He belonged to Bruce Olson, who was on the fire squad with Mr. Peterson. Gunnar was so smart and brave. Once he had saved a little boy by pulling him out of a burning house! Charles thought Gunnar was a real hero.
“But what breed is the puppy?” Lizzie asked.
Dad shook his head. “Bruce Olson said it was some sort of terrier.”
Lizzie groaned. “Oh, no, a little dog?” she asked. Lizzie loved dogs as much as Charles did, but not
dogs. She mostly liked big dogs, like golden retrievers and Labradors and Great Danes. She always said they were “real dogs.” They were dogs you could play with and throw sticks to and hug around the neck. Lizzie said that little dogs didn't count.
Dad felt the same way. “No such luck,” he said as he pulled up at Littleton's main stoplight. “I think Bruce said the dog was white and kind of fluffy.”
Lizzie rolled her eyes.
“White and fluffy sounds great!” Charles said. “It's probably really cute!”
“Right, and yappy, too,” said Lizzie. “Oh, well. It's still a puppy. This'll be great. Do we have enough food at home? What about a crate for it to sleep in? Where are the toys we got for Goldie?”
“Mom's taking care of all of that,” Dad said. “She's getting everything ready.” He paused for a second. “But we're not going straight home with the puppy. First we're going to the vet. I already called and made an appointment. Mr. Olson said the puppy looked like it needed some attention.” He pulled the truck into Olson's gas station, turned off the engine, and looked at Charles and Lizzie. “This puppy will probably need some extra care. Are you two ready for that responsibility?”
Charles nodded hard.
So did Lizzie.
Dad smiled. “I know you two can work hard when it comes to taking care of a puppy. You showed that when we had Goldie. Mom and I were proud of you. That's part of why we decided to foster another puppy.”
Charles couldn't stand waiting another minute to see the new puppy. “Can we see it now? Please?”
“Sure,” Dad said. “Mr. Olson told me he'd be waiting for us in the garage.”
Charles opened the door, jumped out of the truck, and headed straight for the garage.
“Hey there, Charles!” called a tall man in blue coveralls. “Bet you're here to buy some new snow tires!” Mr. Olson was always joking around.
Charles shook his head.
“Where's the puppy?” Charles demanded. Usually, Charles loved to joke with Mr. Olson. But today he was on a mission. A puppy mission.
Mr. Olson smiled. “Right over here,” he said, leading Charles to a quiet corner.
Charles looked into the big, dented cardboard box and saw two round black eyes looking back up at him. “Ohh,” he said softly. The puppy was white and fluffy, all right. But its coat was dirty and matted in places. It had triangular ears â one that stood up and one that flopped over â and short little legs and a short little tail, and the cutest little face Charles had ever seen.
“He's a good boy,” Mr. Olson said. “Hasn't even been crying.”
“It's a boy!” Charles told Lizzie, who had just joined him at the box.
Lizzie peered down at the puppy. “It's a Westie!” she pronounced after a moment.
?” Dad asked, looking into the box.
Lizzie knew all her dog breeds by heart. She had a poster in her room that showed every kind of dog there was and told all about their personalities. “A West Highland white terrier,” Lizzie
said. “I was just reading about them. They're very smart and very energetic.”
Dad looked doubtful. “This one doesn't seem too peppy,” he said.
It was true. The puppy was sitting up, but it didn't seem excited to see new people. Its black eyes weren't shiny, and Charles could see that the inside of one of its ears was all red. It looked like it must hurt. The puppy gazed back up at them and lifted one paw, as if to say, “Help me.”
The puppy felt so tired and hungry. Did these people have food? He couldn't remember the last time he had eaten.
Charles felt his heart go thump. In one second, he fell completely in love with the puppy. “We have to get this little guy to the vet,” he said. “I think he's sick.”
Mr. Olson helped Dad load the box into the
backseat of the truck. “Good luck,” he said, “and let me know how things turn out.”
Charles spent the whole drive to the vet staring at the quiet little puppy. He was dying to hold him, but he knew it was better not to take him out of the box until they got to the vet. “Do you think he's going to be all right?” Charles asked Dad.
“We'll know in a few minutes,” Dad said. “I'm sure Dr. Gibson will know just what to do.” He pulled into a parking spot near a big old house with a barn.
DR. KATE GIBSON, VETERINARIAN,
read a sign on the backdoor of the house. There were colorful Christmas lights strung along the porch.
As soon as they wrestled the box out of the truck, a tall woman with a long blond braid came out of the door. “I'm Katie Gibson,” she said. “You must be the Petersons. Let me give you a hand with that pup.”
Charles was glad to see the vet. He was so worried about the sick puppy! He hoped the vet could help.