Meet Bailey, a playful yellow lab puppy!
It's a new school year and things haven't been great for Kat so far. She's being teased, and her best friend Maya is in a different class. But things start to look up when her Aunt Jenn opens a kennel and dog-grooming salon, and the girls are allowed to help out with a puppy named Bailey! But is the responsibility of watching someone else's pup too much for Kat and Maya to handle?
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By Susan Hughes
Sourcebooks, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Susan Hughes
All rights reserved.
Puppies were running across the grass. Dozens of puppies.
Some were black, some were brown, and some were white with black spots. Some puppies were red and shaggy, and some were gray with white muzzles. All the puppies had smiling faces and wagging tails.
Kat was sitting on her front steps. Her eyes were closed. She was having her favorite puppy daydream. And it always ended the same ...
The puppies jump around, begging for her attention. Her mother and father smile at her.
"Of course you can have a puppy, Katherine," her mom says.
Her dad sweeps out his arm. "Pick any one you want!"
Kat smiles too. She looks at all the puppies, and she tries to choose. The little toffee-colored Irish terrier that jumps into her lap? The shy gray schnauzer looking at her, his head cocked to one side? The black pug so tiny that —
Aidan's running shoe nudged her leg, and Kat opened her eyes. As usual, her brother was listening to music. He pulled out one of his earbuds. "Come on, Kat," he said. "Let's go! We're going to be late for school."
Kat sighed. The daydream was over. She sent a mental message to the puppies: I'll come back and visit soon!
She ran to catch up with Aidan. The sun was shining. A squirrel chattered at her from the branch of a chestnut tree.
"Do you think Mom and Dad will ever let me get a dog?" Kat asked her brother as they walked.
Aidan shrugged. "You've asked them a million times. They always say no."
"That's because they travel so much for work. But I don't!" Kat protested. "And I'd be the one looking after the dog."
Aidan bounced his basketball as he walked. "I don't know, Kat. I think you should forget about it for now."
Kat sighed. She knew he would say that. He didn't care if they got a dog or not. Her parents both liked dogs, but she was the only one who was truly dog crazy.
Kat and Aidan reached school just as the bell rang.
"Later, alligator," Aidan said to Kat. He hurried over to the seventh- and eighth-grade entrance.
"See you soon, baboon!" Kat called after him.
She rushed across the playground. But she didn't get in her line. Instead, Kat went over to the other fourth-grade line.
"Maya!" she called. Her best friend hung back as her class made its way into the school.
"There you are, Kat-Nip! Late again!" Maya said with a grin.
Kat made a funny face back at her. Maya had called her "Kat-Nip" for as long as she could remember. "You love dogs, but your name is Kat? How goofy!" she'd say. Maya often teased her, and Kat teased her back.
It was all in fun, since they had been best friends forever. Even though they lived on opposite sides of town, they had known each other since nursery school. They played soccer on the same team. They took swimming lessons together. Most of all, they talked about dogs together. Maya was probably the only person in the world who loved dogs as much as Kat.
Until this year, Maya and Kat had always been in the same class. But a few children had moved away over the summer. So Maya was put in the other fourth-grade class.
The girls didn't like it. Not one bit.
School had started last week. The first few days had been tough. Kat hoped it would be better this week, but it didn't seem likely.
"Joke of the day: what does a mother dog call her pups when they come in from playing in the snow?" Kat asked.
Maya thought for a moment. "I don't know. What?"
"I'll tell you at recess!" Kat said, waggling her fingertips at her friend. She turned to run toward her lineup.
"Hey, not fair! Tell me now!" called Maya. "That's torture!"
"Nope! Oh, and I have some really awesome news to tell you," Kat called over her shoulder. "Puppy news!" she added, taunting her friend.
"Seriously? And you won't tell me what it is until recess? You are horrible!" Maya put on her grumpy look, but she couldn't hold it for long. Kat started to laugh, and Maya did too.
"See you!" Kat teased. She ran to the back of her own line that had just disappeared into the school.CHAPTER 2
"So?" Maya asked, running up to Kat at recess. "What does a mother dog call her pups when they come in from playing in the snow?"
Kat grinned. "The answer? Drumroll, please ... Slush puppies!"
"Agh!" Maya groaned. She pretended to throw a tennis ball at Kat. "Take that!"
Kat caught the ball easily and laughed out loud. She loved telling jokes to Maya. Her friend always responded dramatically, either loving the joke or hating it. She tossed the ball back to Maya. They threw it back and forth a few more times.
"Okay, next — the puppy news. What is it?" Maya called.
Kat threw the ball back to her, but her aim was wide. "Oops!"
The ball flew past Maya and onto the field. It landed right in the middle of some boys who were tossing a football around.
"Uh-oh," Kat said. She went to stand beside Maya.
Then Kat saw Megan and Cora, two girls in her class, pointing at her. They were giggling.
"Nice, Kat," Megan called. "Did you do that on purpose?"
"Do you want to play with your boyfriend?" teased Cora.
"Oh, great," moaned Kat.
"It's your own fault, klutz," said Maya, poking her elbow into Kat's side. "You'd better go get it."
"No way." Kat shook her head. "Not alone."
"Come on. We'll ask your boyfriend to give it back to us," said Maya, grabbing Kat's arm and heading toward the field.
"Very funny," said Kat. She didn't have a boyfriend, and Maya knew it. But for some reason, Owen, one of the boys, seemed to get all tongue-tied when Kat was around. Sometimes he chased her when the class played tag.
Maya was certain this meant Owen liked Kat.
It seemed like Megan and Cora thought so too.
But it was Matthew, a boy from Maya's class, who picked up their tennis ball.
As Maya marched Kat toward him, he tossed the ball up and down in his hand.
"Thanks, Matthew," Maya said. "Can you throw it back to us?"
Matthew grinned. He threw it to his buddy Sunjit.
"Sunjit," Kat said. She held out her hands. "Over here. Please?"
"Sure thing," Sunjit said. He tossed the ball to Owen.
Maya and Kat stopped. They both frowned.
"Funny," Maya said.
"So hilarious," Kat added. Owen blushed. He froze looking at them.
Maya nudged Kat again. "Basset hound," she whispered.
This was one of the girls' favorite games. They would name a dog breed that a person reminded them of. For example, Kat thought Maya was like an English setter. Elegant. Graceful. Loyal.
Kat looked at Owen. A basset hound? Yes, she could see it. She began to giggle. Until Maya softly cooed, "Oh, look at that face. Those lovey-dovey eyes!"
"Come on, Owen," yelled Matthew. "Over here. What are you waiting for?"
Owen shrugged and threw the ball to Kat.
"Not back to them," Sunjit groaned, smacking his forehead with the palm of his hand.
Maya and Kat laughed and ran back to where they'd been tossing the ball back and forth.
Cora and Megan were still giggling and whispering, but Kat tried to ignore them.
"Okay, finally. The puppy news," Maya said. "Spill it. I need to know now!"
And just then, the bell rang.
"Line up, please, students!" called the teacher on yard duty. "No dawdling! To your lines!"
With a moan, Maya grabbed her hair and pulled at it. "I live a life of torment!" she exclaimed.
Kat giggled. Maya would make a great actress! The girls headed toward the school.
"Okay, okay," Kat said quickly. "Remember I told you my aunt Jenn was opening a dog-grooming salon?"
"Of course, I remember," Maya replied, rolling her eyes.
"Lines, students! Get in your lines!" the teacher shouted again.
"Well, it's opening today! Aunt Jenn called to let us know last night," explained Kat. "My mom and dad are going to finish work early, so we can go and see her place after school. And they said you can come with us. If you want."
"That's so cool! We can ask my mom at lunch." Maya looked excited. The girls took turns going to each other's houses at lunchtime. Today it was Kat's turn to go to Maya's house.
"Miss Reynolds? Do you have somewhere you need to be?" It was the recess-duty teacher. She looked at Kat pointedly.
"Right. See you, Maya," Kat said, and off she hurried. She couldn't wait until this afternoon!CHAPTER 3
"There it is! Aunt Jenn's place: Tails Up! Boarding and Grooming," cried Kat, reading the sign.
She and Maya ran ahead of the rest of the family, past the barber shop, the bank, and the hardware store. Then they waited impatiently for everyone to catch up.
Kat's father, Mr. Reynolds, frowned as he came up and read a sign in the store window. "Walk-ins are welcome. Don't most dogs walk in?" he asked. "Though, I guess some dogs might have dirty paws, so carrying them in would be better."
"Funny, Dad." Kat grinned. "You know it means that people don't have to make appointments ahead of time. They can just walk in with their dogs."
"Oh, yeah. Right," Mr. Reynolds said, grinning back at her.
But then he frowned for real. "I just hope Jenn can handle it all. Your aunt is a very enthusiastic person — especially when it comes to dogs. I love her dearly. But sometimes she can get a bit carried away with her projects."
"Oh, Robert," said Mrs. Reynolds. "You worry too much about your sister! I'm sure she'll be fine. Come on, gang. Let's go in."
"Yeah, let's go," said Kat. She and Maya led the way into Tails Up!
The waiting room had a small couch and three chairs. There was a scale and shelves lined with bags of dog food. At the front desk was a computer, a cash register, and a phone.
There were two customers waiting in the little room. One was a young man who sat with a white shih tzu on his lap. The other was a woman with a long-haired Shetland sheepdog lying at her feet. Both customers looked impatient.
Just then, Aunt Jenn came flying out of a room in the back. She wore a white grooming coat. Her brown hair was mostly pulled back in a ponytail. A few stray hairs frizzed around her forehead. With her was a thin man holding a tiny Chihuahua.
"So how was she?" the man asked nervously. "It was Chiquita's first time being groomed."
"She was a natural. Very calm," Aunt Jenn said. "It was a pleasure to groom her."
The man smiled, relieved. He quickly paid his bill and left.
"And now, hello to you, my loyal family!" Aunt Jenn cried, hurrying toward them with her arms open. She gave each family member a huge hug. "Hello, my Kitty-Kat," she said. That was her special name for Kat. She lifted Kat right off her feet!
Then she turned to Maya. "And my most-special niece's most-special friend, you came too!" And Maya was swept up in a hug as well.
"The place looks fantastic!" Mrs. Reynolds said.
"Yes, well done," Mr. Reynolds added. Aunt Jenn plastered a kiss on his cheek. He patted her on the back awkwardly.
"Oh, it is so nice to have a fan club," Aunt Jenn said, pleased. "Would you all like a tour? This, of course, is the reception area," she said, throwing her arms wide. "When I get a receptionist, this is where she or he will sit."
Mr. Reynolds looked worried. "You haven't hired any help yet?"
Mrs. Reynolds poked him. But Aunt Jenn answered cheerfully, "Nope. Can't quite afford it yet."
"Um, excuse me." It was the woman with the sheltie. She was standing now. "I'm Mrs. Fennel, and I have been waiting for quite some time. I believe my Clarke-Davis is next to be groomed."
Aunt Jenn ruffled her brother's hair. "Oh, Mrs. Fennel," she said. "You don't think this shaggy guy needs some emergency attention?"
Kat and Maya giggled.
Mrs. Fennel frowned. "Oh, well," she stammered. "No, I meant ..."
"Your sheltie is beautiful," Kat said quickly. "What's his name?"
Mrs. Fennel's frown vanished. Her face lit up. "Why, thank you. His name is Clarke-Davis."
Clarke-Davis? Kat tried not to giggle again. "I love dogs," she said. "May I pet him?"
"Certainly," the woman replied, pleased.
Kat knelt beside the brown-and-white dog. Gently, she ran her hand over his back. "His hair is so soft," she exclaimed.
"Well, I brush him twice a week. And then I have him clipped once a month." The woman turned to Aunt Jenn. "My old groomer moved away last month. I was hoping you might be as good as him, although it's doubtful. No one, no one has ever had a way with Clarke-Davis like Roberto did."
"And what about us?" It was the young man with the shih tzu in his lap. His dog was asleep, but he wasn't.
"Mr. Winston, you're welcome to leave Clyde here until I'm ready for him," suggested Aunt Jenn. "I have several crates in the back room. He'd be quite comfortable there while he waits, and then you don't need to sit here with him."
"Leave Clyde in a crate?" The man looked horrified. "Never."
"Well, we'll just be a second," explained Aunt Jenn. "Promise."
She pointed to the room that she'd just come out of. "My grooming room."
Kat peeked in. She saw two large grooming tables and two stand dryers. Several grooming brushes, clippers, shavers, shampoo bottles, and other equipment were scattered nearby.
Aunt Jenn opened a door to another large room with windows. There were several big crates lined up side by side. "This is where the dogs waiting to be groomed will stay. If their owners will let them!" She winked at Kat. "And the dogs I board will be lodged here as well. I guess I could call it the doggy day care room!"
She pointed to a stairway. "Up there is a large room where I can do some puppy training. And there's a big yard out back that I can use too. So you see? I'm all set!"
"And you're going to live here too?" Kat's father raised his eyebrows.
"Yup. There's another room upstairs that is now officially my bedroom. And there's a small bathroom and kitchen too," said Aunt Jenn.
"Grooming, boarding, training ... You're planning to do all of these, Jenn?" Mr. Reynolds asked doubtfully.
"Sure am," Aunt Jenn said confidently, with a toss of her ponytail.
Mrs. Reynolds nudged her husband and turned to his younger sister. "It all looks wonderful," she said firmly.
Aidan pulled out one of his earphones. "Very cool," he agreed, nodding.
"Thanks, Reynolds family!" said Aunt Jenn with a grin.
As Kat's parents and Aidan went back out to the reception room, Aunt Jenn motioned to Kat and Maya to stay behind. "I don't really want your dad to know this yet, Kat," she said quietly. "He'll just think I'm in over my head. But ... well, I have a little surprise to show you girls."
Kat and Maya stared at one another. What could it be?CHAPTER 4
"Follow me," said Aunt Jenn. She led them to the far side of the room. A crate sat under the window in the sunshine. But it wasn't empty.
"Oh!" Kat breathed.
"A puppy!" said Maya.
A golden-yellow puppy lay in a corner of the crate all curled up, sleeping peacefully. But he must have heard the girls' voices, because just then he woke up.
He lifted his head and looked at the girls with his beautiful blue eyes. Then he jumped to his feet and wagged his tail energetically.
Kat's heart melted.
"His name is Bailey," explained Aunt Jenn. "He's a Labrador retriever pup. He's only eight weeks old. His owner, Kelly, has only had him for a few days, but she found out last night that she has to go out of town for three days. There aren't many kennels nearby, and most of them are large. She didn't want to take him to a big kennel. She saw my sign, so she called just this morning to see if I'd take Bailey until she's back." Aunt Jenn shrugged. "Look at him. I just had to say yes!"
Kat looked at the adorable little puppy. She knew exactly what Aunt Jenn meant. That was one of the things she loved about her aunt: she'd do anything to help a dog.
"I'll just have to scoot out here every once in a while to check in on him," said Aunt Jenn. "And then tonight and tomorrow night, I'll bring his crate up to my bedroom. It should be fine." It sounded like Aunt Jenn was trying to convince herself.
"Of course, it'll be fine," Kat said reassuringly. She slipped her arm around Aunt Jenn's waist as they headed back to the front door. "Tails Up! is amazing, Aunt Jenn," said Kat. "And so are you."
Excerpted from Bailey by Susan Hughes. Copyright © 2013 Susan Hughes. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
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