This story was written for the March 2022 Monthly SimLit Short Story Challenge, coordinated by the one and only LisaBee! This month’s theme is “Lucky.”

In early April, head over to LisaBee’s blog to find the list of all entries. After you read them, you can vote for your three reader’s choices in the veteran and novice categories.

We named our dog Lucky. The neighbors thought that it was because, as a stray, he was lucky to be adopted by us. He had a reputation of being aggressive, and the county Animal Control had him on their list to be euthanized, the next time they received a complaint about him. Stubborn and with messy, shedding fur, no one else wanted him. But really, we were the ones who were lucky to have him in our lives.

He adopted us. He started by sleeping on our porch. Then I started setting out food and water for him, and before long, he chose me as his person, even letting me pet him and brush that thick matted coat.

My grandfather wasn’t a cuddly type.

He was a very good man, but growing up, I always felt he cared more about the state of the environment than he did about the state of my emotional well-being. I realize now that part of why he wanted to save the earth was because he wanted to leave me with a habitable planet; it was part of his selfless goodness. As a kid, I just wanted affection and someone I could talk to.

I found both in Lucky.

We were inseparable.

He walked with me halfway to school every morning, along the path by the stream, stopping when we got to the big street.

While I was at school, he ambled through the meadows, or strolled back home to sit in the sun while Grandpa fixed things. And when I got out of school, as soon as I crossed the big street, I’d see him racing up the banks of the stream to meet me. We spent the afternoons rambling through woods and beaches.

As I started getting older, my grandfather reminded me more often about not talking to strangers. “If you don’t know their names, if they’re not folks I know, or people you know from school or town, just leave a wide berth,” he said. “Don’t give out any personal information, and, well. Just don’t talk with them.”

It didn’t make sense to me because I’d been raised to be friendly, respectful, polite, and helpful. What if someone new here, whom I hadn’t yet met, needed directions or help with something? Grandpa said it wasn’t my responsibility. Somebody else, an adult, maybe, could help them. This conflict in values was uncomfortable for me, but I trusted Grandpa, and I guess, at the time, obeying him was my prime directive.

One afternoon, a man followed me all the way home from school.

I didn’t talk to him, and I kept trying to get further and further away, but his legs were longer.

“Hey, little girl,” he kept saying. “Where you going? Why’re you in such a hurry? Don’t you want to slow down and talk to me? I’ve got something to show you.”

My grandpa’s words rang strong, so I stayed silent and kept on walking. I was afraid that if I ran, he’d grab me.

Something inside of me warned me not to go directly home, so he wouldn’t find out where I lived, so I took a detour down by the beach, hoping we’d run into someone. But the beach was empty, and he kept getting closer. I could feel him breathing behind me.

Then, I heard Lucky’s bark. I glanced back just quick enough to see Lucky racing towards us, going so fast now he couldn’t even bark.

Then he growled and snapped. We’d tried so hard for so long to teach him not to bark, growl, and snap at people, afraid of what Animal Control might do if he did, but I was so grateful that day that we hadn’t been successful in training him.

He stood, all the hair on his back raised and bristling, between me and the man.

Then the man backed up and walked off.

“You saved me!” I told Lucky. “You’re like a hero dog!”

A few weeks later, Grandpa and I were watching TV after supper, with Lucky lying on the carpet at our feet, when I saw that man’s face on the news report.

“That’s the guy that followed me,” I told Grandpa, “when Lucky rescued me.”

“What was that?”

I told Grandpa the story.

“We are very lucky,” said Grandpa. “That’s a very bad man. He’s done all sorts of bad things to little kids. That’s why he’s in jail right now.”

He reached down to pet Lucky. “Good job, old boy,” he said. He put his arm around me, for the first time I could remember, and held me tight next to him. “Good job for you, not talking to that man. Good job that you’re safe, little Annie.”

After that night, I sometimes saw Grandpa standing outside watching Lucky while he slept on the porch.

I always got the impression that he was thanking God for him, just like me, thanking God every day for our good luck.