Winter break was over. The fun of the holidays was now just a memory. Today was the first day back to school for ten-year-old James and seven-year-old Mandy. But they didn’t mind.
“Bye, Rosco!” Mandy called to her large German shepherd as she and James climbed out of the minivan in the chilly morning air, both eager to see their friends again.
“Bye, Mom!” James smiled and waved.
Inside the car, Rosco frowned. The kids had been home for three whole weeks over the holiday break. Rosco had enjoyed the busy house and all of the fun he’d had with the kids.
But now they would be gone again, and Rosco was already lonely. From Monday through Friday, the kids were gone to school. After school, they often had sports practices, instrument lessons, or play dates with friends. It would take some serious readjusting, spending his days in such an empty house.
Rosco tried looking on the bright side as Mom pulled out of the school parking lot. At least Mom would be home. She often took him for morning walks and kept him entertained as she sped about the house all day, cleaning this and organizing that. She usually brought him along to drop off the kids at school. But she was too busy to play most of the time.
He sighed heavily. What am I going to do all day without the kids?
Soon, Rosco and Mom arrived home. Rosco was surprised to see a very large, long, yellow truck parked on the street outside the house next door. The house had been empty for several months now. Someone had placed a sign on the lawn that said For Sale.
Rosco wasn’t sure what that meant, but he guessed it was something sad, because Mandy had cried when she saw it. James and Mandy had been friends with the kids who lived there, and had played with them for as long as Rosco could remember. The four kids had spent many afternoons riding bikes and kicking a ball around in the yard. Rosco missed those kids.
So, what was this giant truck here for now? And, why was the sign missing?
Mom pulled into the garage and parked the car, commenting on the truck. “Wonder what’s going on next door? What do you think, boy?” she said to Rosco.
Rosco clambered out as she opened the side door for him. Inside the house, Rosco skipped to the window by the front porch so he could watch.
Two men dressed in brown pants and white shirts climbed out of the front of the truck. One was holding a clipboard as the other climbed a small ladder on the back of the truck. This man raised the enormous back door and lowered a long, steel ramp to the ground.
Inside the truck, a mountain of cardboard boxes and furniture sat piled high. Rosco gazed, wide-eyed, as the men began to unload the boxes and carry them toward the house. They placed the boxes on the driveway.
Mom walked over and stood next to Rosco at the window. “Looks like we’re getting some new neighbors, Rosco,” Mom said. “Someone’s finally moving in. Won’t the kids be excited?” She left him and began tidying up the house.
New people? We’re going to have new people next door? Rosco thought, panting and smiling. Wow, the kids sure will be excited. I wonder who it will be?
Rosco watched as a car pulled up next to the house and a man and woman carefully stepped out. They had gray hair and kind faces and reminded Rosco of James’s and Mandy’s grandparents.
The woman opened the backseat passenger door of the car. She reached in and carefully pulled out a plastic, gray box that had windows and a door, and a handle on the top. It looked like a miniature version of Rosco’s kennel.
A kennel? There must be an animal inside! Rosco thought, wagging his tail. This family has a pet!
The woman carried the kennel to the front door and set it down on the porch, then joined her husband on the sidewalk. Rosco still couldn’t see what was inside of the small kennel. It was too far away to tell.
The man and the woman greeted the movers. Then, with the click of a button, the gray-haired man opened the garage door, and the four of them disappeared into the house.
But the kennel still sat on the front porch.
I wonder what’s inside that kennel? Rosco thought. He just had to know. The anticipation was becoming more than he could take. He would have to take action.
He could sneak over to the porch, take a peek, and get back home before any of the neighbor people or the movers or even Mom would see him. He raced to his doggy door at the back of the house and slipped out.
The morning air was still brisk and the lawn still wet with frosty dew. Rosco padded cautiously through his back yard, around his house, and toward the neighbor’s front porch.
He would smile and wag his tail just in case anyone saw him. He was a very big dog after all, and sometimes strangers got nervous when he showed up off-leash. He didn’t want to alarm anyone. He wanted to make friends of the new people, too, after all.
Rosco trotted up to the porch, barely able to control his excitement. He sniffed at the kennel and peered inside. A startled little face stared back at him.
It’s a dog!
The dog had a smooth, light, coat, and a short, wrinkled, dark snout. His ears were as dark as his snout. He was easily less than half of Rosco’s size.
The little dog’s eyes grew huge at the sight of this great big, unexpected visitor staring at him through the silver bars of his cage. He sank back on his haunches inside the kennel. Who was this visitor?
Hello there, Rosco woofed. I didn’t mean to scare you. I live next door, he said in doggy language. Welcome to the neighborhood! I’m Rosco.
The little dog barked in reply, wagging his curly tail. With a few short, peppy barks, he told Rosco that his name was Sparks.
Just then they heard voices inside the front door.
Gotta go, Sparks! I’m not supposed to leave my yard when I’m alone outside! I don’t want them to see me! Rosco woofed quietly. Nice meeting you! I’ll come and play when I see you out in the back yard!
Arf Arf! Sparks called cheerfully.
Rosco raced back through the yard to his doggy door and returned to his spot at the window. Mom was heading downstairs with a pile of laundry.
“Wow, Rosco. You haven’t even moved? Must be pretty interesting out there, hah, boy?” she said.
Rosco smiled at Mom, panted and sat down, returning his gaze to the moving truck.
I guess it won’t be so bad that the kids are back to school, he thought, now that I’ll have someone to play with!
Suddenly, the days ahead didn’t seem so long.
Sparks, as drawn by D. Gorian
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