Table of Contents
I have always loved German shepherds. My best friend had one when I was a little girl, and as soon as I was on my own, I adopted one from the shelter. We named him Canute, and he was the best dog ever.
Canute was a great pet, but I don't think he had the right personality to be a guide dog. Those are very special dogs who are raised in loving homes and trained by the experts.
When I was researching this book, I visited The Seeing Eye training facility in Morristown, New Jersey. I was allowed to walk with a guide dog with my eyes closed and watch the dogs work with their new companions. The experience gave me new respect for the challenges faced by visually impaired people, and the dogs who help them live full and independent lives.
Laurie Halse Anderson
THE VET VOLUNTEER BOOKS
Fight for Life
Thanks to Judith Tamas, D.V.M., Kim Michels, D.V.M., and Melissa
Campbell and the staff of The Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey.
Thanks also to James Hughes and Ronnie, of Long Island, and the
terrific people at Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia.
To Julie, with thanks for everything
Published by the Penguin Group
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First published in the United States of America by Pleasant Company Publications, 2000
Published by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2009
Copyright Â© Laurie Halse Anderson 2000, 2009
All rights reserved
eISBN : 978-1-101-15554-7
eISBN : 978-1-101-15554-7
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nybody want a water ice?“ I call through the screen door of Dr. Mac's Place.
“Water ice!” several voices shout from inside. Chairs scrape the floor, file drawers slam shut, and a stampede heads my way. Water iceâshaved ice drenched with flavored syrup and pieces of fruitâis a summer favorite around Philadelphia. Totally yummy.
David Hutchinson bolts out the door first, followed closely by Brenna Lake, Sunita Patel, and ...
“Where's Zoe?” I ask. My cousin loves water ice. I bought the mango just for her.
“She's shopping with your grandmother,” Sunita says as I hand her the cup of watermelon ice and a plastic spoon. “Thanks, Maggie!”
David grabs the chocolate water ice out of my bike basket. Brenna takes the grape, and I take the strawberry-kiwi. I lean my bike carefully against a tree, then join the others sitting on the steps of the clinic.
“I can't believe she's shopping again,” I say. Zoe's goal is to have a different outfit for every day of the year. Me, I'm happy in shorts and a T-shirt. And basketball sneaks, of course.
Brenna puts an enormous spoonful of ice in her mouth. “Cool pies,” she mumbles.
She swallows. “School supplies,” she repeats. “Dr. Mac took Zoe shopping for paper, pens, and notebooks. They were going to take you, but you got back too late.”
“I wasn't gone that long, was I?”
Sunita checks her watch. “Almost two hours. Where did you go?”
“All over the place,” I say as I unbuckle my bike helmet and toss it on the grass. “I rode around the park, I shot some hoops, then I wandered down Main Street. I wanted to look at everything one last time. Because of...”
I can't say it. The words stick in my mouth.
“School,” David finishes for me. “Because of school starting tomorrow.”
“Middle school,” I correct him.
“You aren't psyched to go back?” Brenna asks with a puzzled look on her face.
“You're kidding, right?” I reply. “I just got used to sixth grade! Now we have to start all over again. I wish it could be summer forever.”
Something scratches at the clinic door. David opens it, and my chubby basset hound, Sherlock Holmes, ambles out. He walks over to me, puts his heavy head in my lap, and sighs.
I laugh and pet his sleek fur. “You know how I feel, don't you, buddy? Too bad I can't take you to school with me.”
“Cheer up, Maggie. It'll be great,” Brenna says confidently. “We'll meet lots of new friends.”
“Friends aren't a problem,” I explain. “Teachers are. Last year I just had to deal with Ms. Griffith. Now I'll have a different teacher for every subject. What if they all give me homework on the same night? I don't want to go.”
To be honest, it's more than just teachers. I know I can't read as fast as other kids. Math is hard, too. What if I'm not good enough, not smart enough? What if I fail? It's only going to get harder from here on out.
Sherlock Holmes yawns loudly and stretches across my lap, his belly up. What a dog! He can always tell when I'm bummed.
“Thanks, buddy,” I tell him as I scratch his tummy.
“He's telling you to chill,” Brenna says. “Middle school is just like elementary school, only bigger.”
Sunita twirls her spoon in her cup. “Maggie's not the only one who is nervous.”
“You, too?” David exclaims as he turns to her. “Why? You're smarter than most of the teachers!”
“Well,” Sunita says slowly, “I'm worried about my locker.”
“Your locker?” Brenna asks.
Sunita nods. “What if I can't open it? What if I can't remember the combination to the lock? If you're late for class, you get a detention. And the halls are really crowded.”
Brenna licks her spoon with a purple tongue. “Don't worry. Your locker will work perfectly. And the halls are never crowded. My brother promised me.”
“And you believed him?” I ask. Brenna's older brother likes to play practical jokes on her.
She pauses. “Good point. He was acting a little weird when he told me thatâall friendly and nice. But I'm not going to worry about it. Today is the last day of summerâof the best summer ever. I'm going to enjoy it.”
She's right. This summer rocked. We worked at Dr. Mac's Place, taking care of animals big and small, rescuing pets from a hurricane, and walking all kinds of dogs. But best of all, we really got to know one another.
Brenna is the most like me in the groupâsort of bossy and very opinionated. She's crazy about wild animals. When we were in Florida, she jumped into a canal to save a baby manatee. I hope she's in some of my classes this semester. She would be a great project partner.
Sunita gets the vote for “most likely to be reading a book.” She's my main girl for homework help. Along with books, she loves cats. It's like she can understand what they're thinking. (I once saw her calm down a Siamese cat freaked out by a hurricane!) I love having her around the clinic.
I've known David forever. He lives across the street. I used to think he was a real goofball, but underneath that ridiculous haircut is a good guy. David proves that boys love animals just as much as girls do. He is especially nuts about horses. Thanks to him, we all had riding lessons this summer. We also shoveled a lot of manure.
Even Zoe had a good time this summer. That's good, because she's going to be here for a while. Her mom, my aunt Rose, is trying to get a part in a television show in Hollywood. She's too busy to take care of Zoe right now. Zoe talks a lot about being the daughter of a famous actress, but I think she likes being a normal kid better. She's finally trained her mutt, Sneakers, and she's the best phone answerer we've ever had at the clinic.
David wanders over to my bike and takes the mango water ice out of the basket. “It's starting to get slushy,” he says.
“You can eat it if you want,” I say. “Knowing Gran, they probably stopped to get some of their own. Gran loves the cappuccino cream flavor.”
David doesn't need any more encouragement. He tilts his head back and gulps down half of the ice at once. Then he staggers a step and clutches his head.
“Brain freeze!” he groans.
We bust out laughing. “Press your tongue against the roof of your mouth,” I say. “It sounds weird, but it works.”
“Won't help,” Brenna teases.
“His brain has been frozen for years,” Sunita adds.
David scowls at them, but he can't say anything. He's too busy thawing his brain.
Sherlock raises his head off my lap and lets out a deep “Woof!”
Gran is home.
As she's parking the van, Zoe sticks her head out the window. “We got the coolest stuff!” she shouts. “Purple notebooks, gel pens, book covers, index cards, calculators, staplers, and tape. We bought out the whole store! ”
There's only a little ice left in my cup. I tilt my head back and tap the bottom of the cup.
for tomorrow!” Zoe says dramatically as she runs over to join us.
The strawberry-kiwi water-ice clump slides down the side of the cup and smacks me in the face.
s Zoe heads to the kitchen to unpack her goody bag, a sputtering red Jeep parks next to Gran's van. The doors open, and the Donovan family pours out: Shelby and Inky, twin black Labrador retrievers, along with Christopher and Nicholas, energetic three-year-old human twins. Poor Mrs. Donovan, who always looks tired, closes the doors and grabs the dogs' leashes.
Shelby and Inky helped bring our group of volunteers together. The puppies were rushed to Dr. Mac's Place last spring. They had been bred in a horrible puppy mill and were close to death. They're completely healthy now, big, friendly, and extremely playfulâjust like Christopher and Nicholas.