A Pet for Sugar
by Marci Smart
(Grants Pass, OR)
Sugar sighed and kicked at a clump of grass overgrowing the sidewalk. All her friends had a pet except her. Caitlin said she only had a goldfish and that didn’t count as a pet but Sugar disagreed…anything alive that you get to feed and take care of and talk to if you’re lonely is a pet. Even a goldfish would be better company than nothing. Besides, her parents owed it to her for naming her Sugar. “It’s because you’re so sweet.” Her mom would always say and Sugar would always groan and roll her eyes. Obviously her mom hadn’t thought about what it would be like to go through middle school with a name like Sugar.
Sometimes Sugar wished her mom and Dad would have had more kids. At least they would be company, and maybe they could have names like Cookie or Honey, then Sugar wouldn’t be the only one teased for her name. Caitlin had two younger brothers and said Sugar was crazy to want any siblings but Sugar secretly thought even rowdy, bratty little brothers couldn’t be so bad all the time. She kicked at some gravel and went back to mentally counting all her friends with pets.
Caitlin with her gold fish Sam.
Jennifer and her cat His Majesty.
Felicity had a golden lab named Henry.
Madison had a parakeet Sparky.
And the Sommer’s twins had pet rats Swiss and Cheese.
Everyone had a pet but her! It was so unfair! Her parents had even told her she couldn’t ask about it anymore and had stopped taking her to the mall that had the pet store because she would always have to go inside and look at all the puppies and kittens, rabbits and birds, fish and lizards that they had…hoping for just one…even a little mouse would make her happy. Her class at school had an ant farm but her parents wouldn’t even let her have one of those! Sugar gave an angry snort.
Sugar rounded the corner to the soccer field and picked up her pace as she saw the other kids on the team out on the field already warming up. Sugar didn’t want to get yelled at again by Coach Brown for being tardy to practice again. It seemed like no matter how hard she tried to be early the time just slipped away from her and she ended up late. Sugar pushed through the gate and ran out onto the field to join the other kids hoping Coach Brown hadn’t noticed her late arrival.
Caitlin waved and kicked a ball to her and Sugar ran towards it to kick it back. She could always count on Caitlin to keep an eye out for her.
“Did he notice?” Sugar whispered as she neared Caitlin who was now kicking the ball to Sam.
“Not yet.” Caitlin whispered back “He hasn’t taken roll yet.”
“Whew!” Sugar sighed as she received the ball from Sam and then nudged it over to Caitlin before moving farther away to form a triangle with Sam and Caitlin. Coach Brown blew his whistle a few minutes later and all the kids trotted over to him.
After practice Sugar waved goodbye to Caitlin and headed back towards home. As she stepped onto the sidewalk she heard a rustling in the low hedge that ran along the fence bordering the field. Sugar thought about making a dash for home before curiosity got the better of her. A low whine made up her mind and she crouched down to peer under the hedge. There was a fluffy black and white puppy in the bushes. When he saw Sugar he started wiggling and yelping happily as he scrambled out. Sugar reached for him and he launched into her arms jumping and licking her face. Sugar laughed and tried to push him down. But he was wiggling and squirming too much in puppy ecstasy for her hands to have much effect.
Sugar played with him for a few minutes, laughing and stroking his soft fur while he licked and wiggled and jumped. Then he settled down contentedly in her lap with a big sigh and fell asleep. Sugar bit her lip while she petted him. She couldn’t just leave him there and her parents would never allow her to take him home. He didn’t have a collar, but he must belong to someone nearby, though he seemed a little thin like he hadn’t eaten recently. Finally she decided to check the neighborhood to see if he belonged to anyone.
Sugar pulled the puppy closer to her chest and stood up making him wiggle to get more comfortable but he stayed asleep. Looking around Sugar crossed the street to the closest house and knocked on the door. A nice older lady answered and said she didn’t own the puppy with a smile at Sugar. The lady didn’t think she knew of anyone nearby who’d gotten a puppy lately, but encouraged Sugar to keep looking.
Half an hour later Sugar still had no luck. No one seemed to have lost the dog and he was now awake and squirming like crazy. Even though her parents wouldn’t like it she decided to take him home. They would be starting to worry about her and Sugar was beginning to harbor a small hope that if the owner couldn’t be found they might let her keep him. Especially once they saw what a great dog he was. Sugar hurried the rest of the way home. She kept an eye out for lost dog signs along the way but didn’t notice any.
Sugar bounded up the three steps to the house and pushed open the front door.
“Mom? Dad?” She called
“In here honey.” Called her mom’s voice from the kitchen. “Did practice run late today?”
“No” Said Sugar as she walked towards the kitchen.
“Um…something…I…found…” She trailed off not sure how to explain and appeared around the doorway with the puppy in her arms.
“What honey?” Said her mom not glancing up from her recipe book. Sugar could see her Dad in the backyard through the kitchen window digging up something.
“I found something on the way home.” Sugar mumbled at the top of her Mom’s head.
“What did you…Oh” Sugar’s Mom looked up and spotted the dog. “You found a puppy on the way home?” Her voice was dry.
“Yes.” Said Sugar “He was in the bushes by the soccer field. I tried to find who he belonged to but no one knew. I couldn’t just leave him there.”
Her mother frowned looking at the dog clutched in Sugar’s arms that was wagging his tail like crazy and trying to lick her chin. “We can’t keep him Sugar, he doesn’t belong to us.”
“But what if he doesn’t belong to anyone?” Sugar pleaded.
“I’m going to talk to your Father, bring him outside with you so he doesn’t make a mess on my floor.”
Sugar followed obediently outside and set the puppy down while her mom stalked purposefully across the yard to where her Dad was digging. In a few minutes her Dad came over followed closely by her Mom.
“What have you got here Sugar?” Dad asked.
“I found him Dad. I couldn’t just leave him!”
“I know pumpkin, I know. But he may belong to someone. We can’t just keep him. We’ll have to take him to the Humane Society. Perhaps they can locate his owners.”
“But Dad!” Sugar wailed. “That’s not fair!”
“I know sweetie, but that’s how life is sometimes.”
Sobbing Sugar scooped up the puppy and ran inside the house to her room. She flung herself across the bed and the puppy bounced next to her licking her face and making little whining noises. Sugar pulled him close and cried into his soft fur until he wiggled to be released. Her Dad knocked on the door a few minutes later.
“C’mon Sugar, we need to take him before they close. Do you me to take him or do you want to come?”
Sniffing Sugar got up off the bed and opened the door. The puppy jumped clumsily off the bed and followed her.
“I’ll come.” Was all Sugar said.
She picked up the little dog and followed mournfully in the car. On the way to the Humane Society she stroked his ears and told him what a good dog he was. The lady at the desk was nice enough and she took the puppy saying they’d try to locate the owners if they could.
Sugar cried all the way home and ignored her Dad’s lame jokes as he tried to cheer her up. She went straight back to her room and wouldn’t come out for dinner. Eventually her parents gave up and left her alone.
Since it was Friday, Sugar had a long weekend to mope about the puppy. She had already called Caitlin and told her about the puppy and what happened. Caitlin of course agreed it was completely unfair, but there was nothing they could do about it. Sugar just couldn’t understand why her parents had to be so mean about it! They knew how much she wanted a dog! And this one was perfect for her! He had found her as if they were meant to be together. Why couldn’t her parents see that?
It was a hard week at school. Sugar forgot her homework on Tuesday and was late to soccer practice. Friday morning was a pop quiz in Math and Sugar knew she did terrible on it. Friday after school Sugar was surprised to see her Dad’s car in front of the school waiting to pick her up. Hoping nothing was wrong she ran towards it and opened the door.
“Hi Sugar!” Her Dad exclaimed almost too cheerfully causing Sugar to feel instantly suspicious.
“Hi Dad, um why are you here?” she responded.
He laughed “Can’t your Dad pick up his favorite daughter after school sometimes?”
Sugar shrugged “I guess.”
The whole way her Dad acted really strange and Sugar was left wondering what on earth was wrong with him.
When they got home Dad bounded up the stairs and stood expectantly while Sugar trudged up after him. With a huge grin her Dad yanked open the door and out bounded the black and white puppy! He ran straight for Sugar, jumping and yelping while she dropped her bag and threw her arms around him.
“What? Where? What?” Was all Sugar could sputter. Her mom came out the front door laughing.
“Surprised?” she asked.
“Really? He’s mine? I can keep him?” Sugar asked with amazement, afraid she was misunderstanding something.
“Yes he’s yours!” cried her Dad “Your mom and I had a long talk this week about him and when the Humane Society called today and said they hadn’t been able to locate the owners and were overcrowded we decided that we should go get him for you.”
“Wow!” exclaimed Sugar “Wow, you’re my very own!”
She grabbed the puppy in a tight squeeze before letting him down and running out to play with him on the lawn.