Hollis pulled on her rain jacket and zipped it up as she looked out the window at the clouds. “I hope it doesn’t rain until I get everybody walked,” she murmured to herself.
“Are you going now?” Ally asked.
“I have to – everyone expects me at a certain time.” Hollis looked at her sister with disdain. Ally was five and always wanted to be wherever Hollis was, or do whatever Hollis was doing. “I have to go now.” Hollis opened the back door and walked toward Mrs. Beatrice Bonebutton’s house.
The Bonebutton house was painted a hideous shade of yellow and had funny little round bushes in the front. Mrs. Bonebutton must have loved her round bushes because she had a whole crew of men that came every week to make sure the bushes were pruned exactly round. Mrs. Bonebutton was an old lady with an old, fluffy dog named Snappy. Hollis thought the dog’s name didn’t fit. Snappy sounded like a dog with some pep and Mrs. Bonebutton’s dog was just like his owner – old and slow. But Snappy was Hollis’ first dog walking job, so she always got to the Bonebutton house first.
“I will be so happy when I make enough to get my phone,” Hollis said. She walked up the steps to the front door and range the doorbell.
Shortly Beatrice Bonebutton answered. “Hello, dear,” she said. Mrs. Bonebutton always had an apron on and Hollis was pretty sure that there were always warm chocolate chip cookies in her kitchen. Snappy stood next to Mrs. Bonebutton as she handed Hollis the blue leash. Snappy didn’t have one of those fancy retractable leashes like most dogs, Snappy’s was red and just a plain leash. Actually, it worked okay because Snappy didn’t really like to take walks, so Hollis just led him around the yard while he sniffed at the bushes and trees and then sat down and waited to go back inside. It was an easy $1.00 that Hollis made each day after school and she was happy about that. Hollis had been walking Snappy for over a month and had made about $30.00. She would need more than that to get a phone.
“Hi Mrs. Bonebutton. Hi Snappy!” Hollis said. She took the leash and clipped it onto Snappy’s collar and then gave it a gentle pull to alert the dog is was time to go. “We’ll be back in a little bit.”
“Thank you dear. It’s really Snappy’s only exercise and he looks forward to it.” Mrs. Bonebutton watched them go down the two front steps and then closed the door.
“Okay, Snappy. Let’s see if we can get around the yard before it rains,” Hollis said.
Snappy cooperated today, perhaps he knew the rain was coming and wanted to get back inside as soon as he could. At any rate, Hollis got Snappy around the small front and back yard and then took Snappy back to the front door. Mrs. Bonebutton opened the door as soon as they approached. She had an envelope in her hand and a small plastic bag with some cookies in it.
“Thank you dear, we’ll see you tomorrow.”
Hollis took the envelope and the cookies. She put the envelope in her jacket pocket and opened the cookie bag and took one out. “Thanks Mrs. Bonebutton!”
She munched on the cookie as she headed to her next dog walking job. Mr. Chester Catchum lived two doors down the road from Mrs. Bonebutton. Hollis figured he was older than Mrs. Bonebutton and the two had lived in their houses for a really long time. Mr. Catchum had been in the hospital for a few weeks and now that he was home, he needed someone to help with his dog, Punch. Punch was a boxer and, unlike Snappy, big and active. When Mr. Catchum had talked with Hollis’ dad about walking Punch, Robert had been concerned that the dog might be too strong for Hollis to control. Punch loved to catch balls and chase squirrels, so Hollis had to hold on tight when she walked him. She usually took a couple of tennis balls with her so if he got away, she could lure him back with a ball. Balls were his favorite and Hollis’ dad had taught her the trick of using the balls to get Punch’s attention when he went with her on the first couple of walks. The balls were the only thing that could keep Punch from chasing squirrels.
Mr. Catchum’s house was blue, but the paint was peeling and the bushes around the front of the house were overgrown and tangled. Hollis had lost one of Punch’s balls in those bushes and couldn’t get through to get it out so, every time Punch came out the front door he would run toward the bushes and whine because he knew the ball was still there. Hollis would then show him another ball and he’d be ready to go for his walk. Mr. Catchum paid Hollis $1.50 to walk Punch since he was bigger and a little harder to control.
Hollis rang Mr. Catchum’s doorbell and could hear Punch barking and Mr. Catchum’s walker thumping across the floor. “Coming,” he called.
As he opened the door, Hollis was ready to catch Punch’s collar because the dog was always ready to run. “I’ve got him,” Hollis said as she took the leash from Mr. Catchum and hooked it to Punch’s collar. “We’ll be back in a little while.”
“Thank you so much Hollis. I don’t know what we’d do if you couldn’t come after school to take Punch for his walk.”
“No problem, Mr. Catchum. Punch and I have a good time.” With that, Hollis felt the jerk of the leash as Punch bolted out the door and over toward the bushes. Hollis pulled the ball out of her jacket pocket. “Don’t worry, I have him under control.”
Punch’s walk went without too many incidences. He saw a couple of squirrels near the end of the sidewalk at a neighbor’s fence, but Hollis was ready with her ball and threw it up in the air and caught the dog’s attention. He turned back to Hollis and she steered him past the squirrel and the fence and they headed toward the school parking lot. Punch loved to run to the end of his leash and then wait for Hollis to catch up and he’d run again. His leash was retractable so he had good length to get a running start. Hollis had to walk really fast to keep up with him and they were both usually winded by the time they got back to Mr. Catchum’s. As long as Hollis could keep Punch from chasing squirrels the walk went well. Hollis did feel she earned her $1.50 and was happy to get Punch home and securely inside.
The clouds were getting thicker as Hollis left Mr. Catchum’s house and Hollis worried as she headed in the opposite direction toward her last dog walking job. Mrs. Megan Milner lived on the other side of Hollis’ neighborhood so she had to pass by her own house on the way. As Hollis looked at her house, she saw Ally outside on the porch.
Ally saw Hollis and waved. She came down the porch steps and ran toward her sister. “Are you done with your job now? Can we play?”
Hollis shook her head. “I walked Snappy and Punch, but now I have to go walk Calypso.”
“Can I come, too?” Ally asked hopefully.
Hollis looked at her little sister. Ally had her raincoat and rain boots on and Hollis was sure she had been waiting on the porch for Hollis to walk by ever since she left. Ally was always tagging along when Hollis would let her and sometimes Hollis wished Ally would find something else to do!
“I can help walk Calypso. She’s so cute.” Ally said.
“Does Mommy know you’re out here?” Hollis asked. Sometimes Ally wandered off to the neighbors without telling anyone and Hollis knew that her parents got really upset.
“Yes,” Ally said.
“Okay, you can come, but you have to let me do the walking. It’s my job.” Hollis hoped she said that firmly enough. Hollis had gotten this dog walking job to show her parents that she was responsible enough to get a cell phone of her own. She promised them that they could have the money she got from the dog-walking to help pay for the phone.
“Is Dad home?” Hollis asked Ally.
“No. Mommy says he is still at work.”
Their father had lost his office job a couple of months ago and was now working construction to help pay the bills. He had long hours and often was in a bad mood when he came home. When Hollis had asked her mom about a cell phone, she was told that there wasn’t money for it right now and that Hollis had a habit of losing things and phones were expensive. That’s when Hollis came up with the idea of the dog walking business. She had to prove to her parents that she could help pay for the phone and be responsible. Her mom had been the one who suggested that Hollis go to Mrs. Bonebutton to ask about walking Snappy. It was scary ringing that doorbell and asking, but Mrs. Bonebutton seemed very pleased and eager to have Hollis walk Snappy. It was Mrs. Bonebutton who had told Mr. Catchum about Hollis’ dog-walking skills.
Ally kicked stones on the sidewalk as they walked to Mrs. Megan Milner’s house. Hollis could tell that Ally wasn’t her usual happy self. She thought about asking her what was wrong, but then decided that she didn’t really want to know. Hollis had her own thoughts and problems to deal with without getting involved in Ally’s childish issues. All of her friends had phones and Hollis was the only one who didn’t and she felt left out of stories and jokes. She wanted to be part of the crowd and was determined to show her mom and dad that she was responsible and could keep track of a phone.
They arrived at the Milner house. It was a two-story, white farmhouse. It had black shutters and Hollis thought it was the prettiest house in the neighborhood. It had a big wrap-around porch on it with baby gates at the steps. Hollis had to laugh at that – although Evan and Ethan (the twins) were still little, the gate was actually for the cute French Bulldog, Calypso. Calypso was a puppy and she loved to run – she ran out the door, out of the yard, where ever she could go when she got loose.
Hollis and Ally walked up to the porch and Hollis undid the lock on the baby gate and went to the front door. Ally followed Hollis onto the porch. Megan Milner came to the door with Ethan crying on her hip. Hollis could see Evan behind them sitting on the floor crying. “Sorry Hollis – it’s been wild around here! Apparently, the boys opened the back door and Calypso ran out.”
Hollis stared at Mrs. Milner. “Oh no!”
“Oh no is right! I yelled at the boys and now they’re crying and I’ve been out in the back yard calling for Calypso but she’s gone.”
“Do you want us to go and look for her?” Hollis offered.
“Oh, would you? Calypso loves her walk with you and she might come when you call.” Hollis noted that Megan’s hair was all messed up and there were food stains on her shirt.
“Sure, we’ll go around back and see what we can do. My sister Ally is with me, so between the two of us we can cover more space.”
“I’ve called Mr. Milner, so he should be on his way home to help as well. I’ve left the back door open in case Calypso comes back.”
“We’re on it!” Hollis turned toward Ally and pointed toward the door. “Let’s go out and into the back yard and see if we can find her.”
Ally gave Hollis a thumbs up and they both hurried off the front porch and around the side of the house to the back yard. The Milner’s didn’t have a fenced in back yard, Megan had told Hollis that was the next project on their list. The neighbors directly behind them had a wooden fence that ran the width of the Milner’s back yard so, Hollis figured that Calypso had to go right or left to get out of the yard. The girls hadn’t seen the dog on their way to the Milner’s so Hollis was pretty sure she ran toward the back of the neighborhood.
“Ally, you go that way,” Hollis pointed to the right. “I’ll go the other and call her name.”
“Okay!” Ally started out running and screaming for Calypso.
Hollis did the same. As she got close to the far end of the fence, she noticed a red shape in the grass. She stopped to examine it and found one of Calypso’s squeaky toys. Calypso loved squeaky toys more than anything. There was a hole in the fence next to the toy. “Ally! Come here!”
Ally stopped running and turned toward Hollis. “Did you say something?”
“Yes. Come here and see what I found.” Hollis was holding the red toy in her hand.
When Ally got next to Hollis, she could see the toy. “What is that?”
“It’s Calypso’s squeaky toy. She loves this and since it is next to this hole, I’m thinking she tried to go through the hole with it and had to leave it behind.”
Ally took the toy and looked at the hole. “That’s pretty smart Hollis.”
Hollis smiled at her little sister. “I think we have to follow the fence until it stops and then get on the other side to find Calypso.”
Ally nodded and the two girls walked along the fence until they came to a gate which wasn’t locked. They opened the door and walked through making sure to close it. Then they ran back along the fence until they came to the hole.
“Look around and see if there are any signs of Calypso,” Hollis said.
The girls looked around but it hadn’t rained in several days so there were no tracks or anything else that might lead them to the puppy.
“Look Hollis!” Ally pointed to a driveway with a garage door that was partially open. “Maybe Calypso went in there.”
Hollis was impressed. “Good eyes, Ally.”
Ally smiled at her big sister. “I have good eyes.”
The two girls ran through the yard and up the driveway to the garage door. They got down on their knees to look through the opening and called for Calypso. There was no response.
Hollis felt disappointed. She had hoped they had solved the mystery of where the puppy had gone. When they walked around the garage to the other side of the yard Hollis realized that they were next to Walker Park. Sometimes Hollis and her friend Katie went to this park when Hollis was playing at her house. Katie lived just a couple of houses down this side of the street.
“Come on Ally. My friend Katie lives near here. Maybe she saw Calypso.” Hollis started walking in the direction of Katie’s house.
Ally followed Hollis along and every once in a while. the girls would call Calypso’s name. They arrived at Katie’s house and knocked on the door. Katie answered. “Hi Hollis!”
“Hi Katie. We are looking for a little French Bulldog puppy names Calypso. We think she got through a hole in the fence over there.” Hollis pointed toward a house not far away. “I thought maybe you had seen her.”
Katie shook her head. “I just got home from ballet class, so I haven’t been here.”
Ally stepped forward, “maybe you saw her while you were driving home?”
Hollis smiled a forced smile. “Thanks anyway. See you at school tomorrow.”
“Bye,” said Katie.
The two girls looked at each other. “I don’t know if we can find her or not. I’m afraid she’ll get hurt running across the streets,” Hollis said.
“She could get kidnapped. I watched a show on television where these bad men stole puppies to sell,” Ally said.
“Well, I’m not giving up!” Hollis looked in the direction of the park. “I think if I were a puppy I’d like to run in the park.”
Both girls took off running toward the park. The clouds had continued to get thicker and suddenly rain drops began to fall. The girls put up their rain hoods and kept going. Hollis became worried now that Calypso might get scared out in the rain and would hide where they would never find her.
They entered the park through the large iron gates. The path into the park was edged with lush, thick bushes that had little pink flowers on them. In the rain the flowers were curling up and so the bushes weren’t as pretty as they might have been, but Hollis noticed something blue in the bush ahead of them on the left. She ran over to it and bent down to find a scarf – it was Calypso’s neck scarf.
“Look Ally. This is Calypso’s! She’s been here. We’re on the right path.” Hollis was almost jumping up and down she was so excited.
Ally looked happy too and they began to call Calypso’s name loudly.
Because of the rain, which was now a light drizzle, no one else was in the park. It was getting darker because of the storm clouds and Hollis’ enthusiasm began to wane. “She’s probably afraid of the rain,” Hollis said. She looked at Ally. “We’ll never find her.”
Ally pulled a red object out of her pocket. “I could try this.” She squeezed the red ball and it began to squeak.
Hollis laughed, “you brought Calypso’s toy?”
Ally beamed at her sister and then began squeaking the ball over and over as Hollis called Calypso’s name.
All of a sudden there was a rustling in the bushes next to the girls. A little black face looked out at the two sisters.
“Calypso!” Hollis shouted. “Come on, girl. We’ve got you – we’ll get you home.”
Calypso came out of the bushes wagging her little tail as Hollis picked her up. Ally gave Calypso the squeaky toy which she happily took in her mouth.
The girls walked as quickly as they could back through the park’s main gate, through the yards and around the gate back to the Milner’s yard.
Mr. Milner was in the yard with an umbrella calling Calypso’s name when he spotted the girls and the little black puppy. “Oh! You found her.”
“We followed the clues to the park and she was hiding in the bushes,” Hollis explained.
“I got her to come out of hiding with her squeaky toy,” Ally said proudly.
“You girls are quite the dog whisperers,” Mr. Milner said as he took Calypso from Hollis. “And I need to get our fence built as soon as possible.”
The group walked toward the house and Megan insisted that they come inside and get dried off. “I’ll call your parents so they can come and get you. I don’t want you to have to walk home in the rain.”
The girls enjoyed some cookies and juice while they waited for their parents to arrive. Calypso seemed happy to be home and the twins weren’t crying anymore.
When Hollis and Ally’s parents arrived and heard the story, they were so proud of their two daughters. Mrs. Milner gave Hollis an envelope. “There’s some extra in there for all your good detective work.”
“Thank you,” Hollis felt so proud when she took the envelope.
On the way home the girls told the story again of how they followed the clues and how they found Calypso and what part each played in the adventure.
“You have definitely proved how responsible you are Hollis. Your Dad and I will talk about the cell phone.” Mom said. Hollis smiled with pride. She noticed however that Ally was very quiet.
Back home Hollis went into Ally’s room after dinner and asked. “What’s wrong?”
Ally looked at Hollis with tears in her eyes. “I need to get a job, too. Mommy says there isn’t enough money for me to take ballet classes this year. I wish I was 9 like you so I could find a job.”