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Rachel Young

Temple Christian School

Sophomore

First Place--Freshman/Sophomore Division

Sydney

    Sydney Trent absentmindedly stroked the Labrador retriever puppy behind the ears as she watched the guys remove the animal cages from the shelter. Most of them there were volunteers. Sydney stared sadly at an empty cage that had been set aside first. She couldn't believe what had taken place yesterday. The black puppy barked as if to remind her of his presence and began to lick her chin. Sydney smiled and lifted her face out of his reach. As she stroked the pup's silky skin, she thought of Jip, the German Shepherd who'd died the day before. The dog had died of Canine Ehrlichiosis, which was often called tick fever.

     Ticks transmitted it while they fed on the dog's blood. That was why all of them were there. All of the cages had to be thoroughly cleaned, as did the rooms. The animals also had to be checked for ticks and the outdoor kennel was quarantined for the time being.

    "Hey, Sid! Wanna give me a hand!" Mrs. Diller, the owner of the shelter, called. She was struggling with two orange kittens that wanted to climb to the ground. Sydney tucked the puppy close with her left arm and raced to Mrs. Dillerís aid. The older woman relinquished her hold on the two kittens and turned to a family who had come to adopt a dog. Though the shelter was in chaos, business must go on. Sydney tried to bobble the group of animals in her arms and nearly dropped one of the kittens. In panic, the kitten dug his needle-sharp claws into the only thing there was to hold on to--Sydney's arm.

    "Yow!" she cried and tucked her left hand under the kitten's feet to support him. Even though she had a firm hold on him, the kitten seemed to think her no longer able to care for him and sunk his claws even deeper into her shoulder.

    "Here. Let me help," a voice spoke up. Sydney turned to find her two best friends standing beside her. "Carol! Alec!" she said in distress.

    "Say no more. The knight in shining armor has arrived ... to save the cat of course," announced Alec as he took both kittens from her arms. Sydney stuck her tongue out at him. "And the puppy's all mine until you go get that cleaned up," finished Carol. Sydney gave the puppy a pat before she headed down the hall where the first aid kit was stored. Sydney had already taken to the Lab. He reminded her of their Labrador named Rusty. Though he was a family dog, Sydneyís brother Dan spent the most time with him. Rusty was an old dog at the age of twelve and Sydney knew that he could go at any time. Sydney turned and jogged down the hall, happy that she had such good friends. The three of them had been best friends since Alec came in sixth grade. Now they were freshmen and still as good of friends as ever. Sydney thought how amusing it was that they had become friends because they were so different from each other. Carol was the quietest of the three, but would stand up for her friends no matter what. Sydney considered Carol pretty, but Carol usually did not agree. Her long brown hair was usually tucked behind her ears and her green eyes were usually smiling. Alec, on the other hand, never kept his mouth shut. His dark black hair usually looked as if it hadn't seen a comb that day and his hazel eyes were usually filled with mischief. He was the practical joker of the three though Sydney sometimes helped in that department. In fact, that morning Alec had ten year-old Aaron convinced that he was supposed to dig through the dog poop to see if there were any ticks in there. Sydney smiled and turned her attention back to her cut. The wound was on the back of her shoulder and it was difficult to see.

    She swat at it several times with water and then hydrogen peroxide, but when it came time for the Band-Aid, Sydney plainly needed help. She pulled at her skin in order to see the injury, but she only succeeded in causing pain.

    "Oh drat," Sydney said and turned to go find a mirror. She whirled around and ran right into someone.

    "Oh!" she exclaimed. "Iím so sorry!" When she saw who it was she almost wanted to take it back. Tiffany Nichols stood towering above her.

    "Why donít you watch where youíre going?" the seventeen year-old asked with a snobbish air and tossed her blond hair over her shoulder. She stared at Sydneyís shirt and smirked.

    "Nice," she said eyebrows raised. "Glad to see my hand- me-downs are keeping you warm. Of course I know you can't afford in-style clothing." Sydneyís face was red and she was going to let Tiffany know what she thought of her and her hand-me-downs when she spotted something only a second before Tiffany did. On her expensive white blouse was a red stain.

    "Blood! Ugh! Look at my shirt!" she shrieked. "You'll pay for this!"

    "Physically or in cash?" Sydney asked amusedly.

    "This is not a laughing matter!" she spat. "You'll replace this shirt!"

    "Your father can afford to replace it," she answered coolly. It was true too. Mr. Nichols was a wealthy lawyer and Tiffany certainly never lacked for anything.

    "Now if you'll excuse me, I need to do something." Sydney stepped around Tiffany and headed to the bathroom. With assistance from the mirror, Sydney finished the job in no time and returned to her friends. Just before she reached them, she passed a furious Tiffany. Now, she not only had a red stain but now the front of her shirt was wet and she was holding it away from her body.

    "What happened to her?" Sydney asked as she held out her arms for the puppy. Carol and Alec exploded into laughter. Between chuckles, Carol spoke up.

    "Tiff came out here angry about her shirt. She spotted the puppy and took him from my arms. Just then he decided it was time to take a potty break." Sydney chuckled.

    "Better her than me," finished Carol. Sydney turned and glanced at Tiffany who stood by the cages angrily glaring at them.

    "Why is she here anyway?" puzzled Alec. Carol shrugged. Sydney spoke.

    "Her outfit."

    "What?"

    "Her outfit," repeated Sydney. "She came here to show off her outfit. And boy is it getting a lot of attention." They broke out in laughter again. Sydney held up the puppy.

    "I think you are cute," she told the black dog as he licked her cheek. Carol giggled.

    "And I think you are going to take him home with you," Carol said knowingly. Sydney sadly shook her head.

    "I want to, but I can't. I don't have enough money to adopt him."

    "I think you should tell Mrs. Diller to hold him for you," interrupted Alec. Sydney stared at the puppy for a while.

    "I think that is a good idea," she finished. "Hold him, Carol. I'll go talk to her." Sydney trotted off to find the owner of the shelter.

    "I wonder how she'll pay for him," pondered Carol. "I know she's saving up to buy a dress for the first school dance we have."

    "But that's months away!" said Alec. Carol nodded.

    "You know how money is in their family. She already has one on lay-away. You should see it. It's silvery white. Though this guy will be on hold for a while," she admitted as she stroked the puppy.

    "Well letís go catch up with Sydney," Alec said. The two of them trotted off. Neither of them noticed Tiffanyís evil grin follow them and neither of them saw a girl determined to get even with Sydney.

     Later that day, they paused for a lunch break. The trio had left their lunches inside and Sydney went to retrieve them. She passed Mrs. Dillerís office when a shriek came from inside.

    "Why not?!" Sydney froze. That was Tiffany! What on earth could she want from Mrs. Diller?

    "Because I already promised him to somebody," Mrs. Diller said firmly.

    "She can get another one," Tiffany pleaded. Another what? Sydney moved closer when Mrs. Diller whispered something that Sydney couldnít hear.

"Itís not fair! I want that dog and neither you nor Sydney can stop me! You'll be hearing from my father!" Sydney froze. Tiffany was talking about her! Sydney clenched her fists and narrowed her eyes.

    "You stay away from my dog, Tiffany Nichols," she muttered threateningly. Just them the doorknob turned and Sydney barely had time to duck into the restroom. Quietly, she waited until Tiffany was out of sight.

    "This time you've gone too far," Sydney whispered to herself. No way was Tiffany going to get that puppy. No how!

    Sydney drove quietly down the road. She passed other cars and farms, but she never really saw them. Her mind was on the dress that was soon to be hers. In her mind she saw herself in it, dancing with the cutest guys in school. Sydney laughed. That was far from reality. She'd be lucky to dance with anyone other than Alec! That is if she got the dress in time. Her fingers drummed the steering wheel as she pulled into the gravel driveway that led to a large white house. She turned off the ignition and opened the door. Jock their Jack Russell Terrier ran to greet her.

    "Hey boy," she said and squatted down to pet him. He warily sniffed her as if to ask whom she had been with before. Sydney laughed. She most likely did smell like twenty different cats and dogs. Sydney stood to her feet and whistled.

    "Rusty!" she called. Usually the old dog came to greet her, though his arthritis sometimes slowed him up. She whistled again and ran up the sidewalk. He was nowhere in sight. Sydney shrugged her shoulders and went inside. She entered the kitchen where her mother was in a panic.

    "O thank goodness!" she cried when she saw Sydney.

    "Whatís wrong?"

    "Danís gone missing. I canít find him anywhere! After the incident, he just took off!"

    "What happened?" Sydney asked. Mrs. Trent looked uncomfortable as she hesitantly spoke.

    "Rusty ... heís ... heís dead," she stuttered. Sydney bit her lip and tried to quell the tears that threatened to surface.

    "We think he suffered a heart attack though we don't know for sure. After Dan took off, we hurried up and buried him out by the pine trees." Slowly Sydney turned and headed back outside.

    "Iíll go get him," she said quietly. Dan and Sydney had an unusual relationship. Even though he was only eight, he understood some things better than she did. He shared things with her that he never told anyone else. Thatís why she knew exactly where he would be when something like this happened. Sydney ran past the barns to the old oak tree where Rusty had liked to sleep. Sure enough, on the other side sat a mournful little boy. Without a word, she sat beside him and put her left arm around him, pulling him close. He didnít say anything for awhile, but then he finally spoke.

    "I miss Rusty," he said simply and was quiet. But in those few words was more meaning than even Sydney understood.

    "So do I," she agreed.

    "Do you think we could maybe get another dog sometime?" he asked and then shook his head. "No. Mom and Dad canít afford to buy another dog."

    "0h donít worry about it," she said. "We still have Jock." He shrugged.

    "I guess." Sydney didnít answer. She knew that Rusty had been more Danís dog than anybody else's. Jock couldnít take his place. Sydney was about to rise when Dan spoke again.

    "Bryan and I were going to have that contest with our dogs. I was going to win. Rusty was smarter than old Spaz. Now we canít do the contest," he said dejectedly. Sydney knew how much it meant to him. Dan had been practicing with Rusty for a whole month. Just then she thought of the puppy back at the shelter. She sighed. If only I had more money. She thought wistfully as she stood.

    "Letís go back to the house. Mom was worried about you."

    "Iíll be there in a minute," he said. Sydney returned to the house and headed up the stairs to her room. As she kicked her shoes off, she opened her closet and picked up her old tennis shoe that held an envelope full of money for her dress. Sydney grabbed the envelope and tossed it on the bed. She knew what she had to do. Taking out the necessary money, she returned the envelope to the closet. She took a deep breath and slowly let it out. She knew that if she did this, she would never have a chance to buy the dress. Sydney glanced at her watch. She had just enough time to make it before the shelter closed. Determined that Tiffany would never get the Labrador, Sydney stuffed the money in her pocket and raced down the steps.

    "I got to go back to the shelter, Mom," she called as she raced out the door.

    Within ten minutes Sydney pulled into the shelterís parking lot. It looked like most of the volunteers had left already. She hurried into the building and ran to where the animals were being stored temporarily. She sighed with relief when she saw the puppy. Sydney opened his cage and picked him up.

    "You wanna come home with me?" she asked him. His reply was a lick.

    "Iíll take that as a yes," she said and headed down the hall to the office. Mrs. Diller was finishing up in the office when Sydney burst in.

    "I wanna adopt him," she said in a rush. "I have the money right here." She reached into her pocket and dumped it onto the desk. Mrs. Diller smiled.

    "This shouldnít take too long," she said and pulled the forms out of her desk. Without regret, Sydney began to fill them out.

    Several minutes later Sydney made her way to the parking lot. She had just unlocked the door when Sydney spotted a familiar looking Corvette. Tiffany and her father had come to settle the score. Sydney leaped into the car and locked the doors. Tiffany leaped out of the still moving red car when she spotted the puppy. Sydney started the car and with her left hand held the puppy secure as her foot found the accelerator.

    "Wait!" Tiffany called as she slammed into the side of the car. Sydney looked both ways and turned onto the road.

    "Victorious!" Sydney cried as she hit the road. She honked the horn twice and giggled. The puppy started to climb all over her when she stopped for a red light.

    "Would all passengers please remain seated," she said to the puppy as she gently placed him on the floor of the passengerís side of the car.

    "Stay!" she commanded in a firm voice. The puppy sat down, cocked his head, and stared quizzically at her.

    Sydney burst into laughter and released her hold on the brake.

    "Letís go home," she told the dog. He yipped in agreement.

    Sydney opened the door to the house and walked backward into the kitchen in order to hide the puppy. "Where Dan?" she asked.

    "Upstairs," her mom said without turning around. "I have a bag for you to take up to your room, Sid," she said, but Sydney was already upstairs.

    "Hey, Danny boy," she said and stuck her head into his room. He raised his head.

    "Mind if I bring a friend in?" she asked. He shrugged and hung his head. Sydney entered and set the puppy on the

bed. Danís eyes lit up.

    "Whose is he?" he asked, picking the dog up.

    "Ours," Sydney answered. His eyes widened.

    "Really?"

    "Really." Dan studied the puppy carefully.

    "I think I like him, but he canít take Rustyís place."

    "Of course not," Sydney assured him.

    "Sydney Nichole!" her mother cried. "Take this stuff up to your room now!" Guiltily, Sydney left the room.

    "Just donít let him wet the carpet," she whispered before she went back downstairs. Sydney joined her mother in the kitchen.

    "What?" she asked.

    "Mrs. Nichols gave me this sack Tiffanyís clothes the other day. Take them up to your room." Trying not to show her distaste, Sydney picked up the bag and headed to her room. She tossed the bag on her bed and pulled the clothes out of it.

    "Shirt, shirt, jeans, sweats ... sweats? Tiffany Nichols wears sweats?!" Sydney burst into giggles and returned to the pile.

    "Dress, shirt, jeans, more sweats," more giggles, "jeans, dress, jea..." Sydney froze. Her hand trembled as she picked up the dress. Her jaw dropped and she held it out at shoulder length. This was the dress she had been saving up to buy! Sydney couldn't help it. She began to laugh so hard that tears started to flow. She held the dress up to herself. It looked like it would fit perfectly.

    "I got the best of you, Tiffany Nichols," she said and spun in a circle. "And youíll never know how much." She hung the dress up in her closet and returned to Danís room where she plucked the puppy from his arms. She smiled as she remembered the dayís events.

    "You know, Dan, I don't think it could get any better than this."

 

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