The next morning, as soon as it was light, Sarah raced out to look for the big dog. She didn’t have to go far. He sat in a patch of sun near the front door.
“There you are!” Sarah said.
He looked at her fondly. She was about to give him a hug, when she caught a whiff of rotten eggs. “You smell bad, dog!”
Then she saw the reason. He’d knocked over the trash bin and strewn rubbish across the yard.
“Oh, dog!” she said. “We’re in big trouble!”
Before she had a chance to clean up the mess, the panther raced out.
“Pippa! No!” cried Sarah. “You’re not to be outside!”
The panther headed right towards a pile of old rags that smelled like sardines.
Quietly, Sarah snuck up behind her. “Good cat,” she said. She mustered all her courage and picked up the panther, as quickly and carefully as she could. Pippa made a low noise and Sarah was about to drop her in fear when she realized, this was purring!
She gently carried Pippa back into the conservatory, setting her in her favorite lookout amongst the ferns.
“We’ll pretend you weren’t outside, OK, Pippa? Not a word to Jacob about this.”
Then she headed out to clean up the mess and see what Big Dog might need.
Big Dog was gone, but he’d left so much trash all over the yard! It took a long time to pick it all up. What she couldn’t pick up, she rubbed into the dirt with the soles of her boots. She thought it looked OK, if Jacob saw it in the dark.
Next, to find Big Dog! She whistled as softly as she could and called him in a whisper-shout.
She walked down to the cove by the dock. Not a sign of him.
Then she headed across to the open beach that led out to the sea.
He wasn’t there either.
He wasn’t in the woods, in the lighthouse, on the trawler, in the cave under the bluff, hiding in the empty crates, or waiting by the back door, whining to get in.
He was nowhere to be found.
Sarah trudged back to the conservatory, kicking stones along the path.
The orange raccoon raced down the brick path.
“Are you scared?” Sarah asked, and the raccoon cat darted out of sight.
Back in the house, she heard water splashing in the bathroom.
“My, my, Senator,” said Jacob. “What a mess you are!”
There was the big dog, in the tub, being scrubbed clean by Jacob.
Soon, the big dog bounded out of the bathroom, straight towards Sarah.
“The Senator has taken a liking to you,” Jacob said.
“Why do you call him that?”
“Senator Jones is his name, surely,” Jacob said. “You have a good dog. That you do.”
Was he really her dog?
At lunch, she asked Jacob. “Is Senator Jones really my dog?”
“Must be. You rescued him,” Jacob said. “Can’t stay with me.”
“But I thought he could,” Sarah said.
“He’s all right here in the winter,” said Jacob, “but come summer, shorebirds breed on the beaches, and seals calve in the cove. Hounds are predators, and they can’t stay in the conservatory, like cats. He’ll have to go with you.”
“I don’t know that Mom will let me keep him,” Sarah said.
“Something will work out,” said Jacob.
At least for now, Sarah would pretend that Senator Jones was her dog and she was his girl.
In the afternoon, they roamed the island.
She loved to run ahead of him and then stop, calling him to her.
He raced toward her, his tail pointing down like a rudder.
“We are best friends!” Sarah said. He looked in her eyes as she rubbed his neck.
He stood as tall as her when he put his paws on her shoulders.
This was what Sarah had always wanted, and she didn’t dare to think that it might just be for now. It had to be forever. Something would work out, just like Great Uncle Jacob said.