Emma was so happy. Today’s schedule was perfect. She was going to help Lily at the animal shelter, then shower, then have a family pizza/movie night. What could be more fun? This was Emma’s first time helping at the shelter, and she thought she might sign up to come every week if she enjoyed it. After putting on a T-shirt, she sauntered out into the driveway and hopped in her car.
Arriving at the shelter, she read the sign out front: ANIMAL RESCUE HOME, Est. 2004. Putting her keys in her purse and walking toward the main door, she called, “Lily!”
Opening the door a crack, and then flinging it wide, Lily said, “Oh hi, you’re here. I could really use your help, this pup’s a silly one.” Lily, who was usually such a neat freak diva kind of girl, was wrestling with a dog so overjoyed that it was wiggling all over, spraying mud everywhere.
Hesitantly, Emma knelt down and began helping Lily get the exuberant dog in a harness. When they finished, Lily, Emma, the harness, and the brown dog were all covered in slimy mud. Lily stood and wiped her hands on her jeans, saying, “Hey Emma, could you take Zoe out? Make sure you let her sniff and go potty, because today we’re supposed to give her a bath.” Zoe, the little dog they had just harnessed, waggled her tail even harder, apparently oblivious to their conversation concerning a soapy bath.
Emma really looked around for the first time as she stood. All around were little enclosures, empty save a lumpy doggie bed and a steel dish of water. What a sad thing, Emma thought. Only about half the enclosures were occupied, and the animals inside all looked very anxious and bored and definitely in need of some love.
“Okay, time to give Zoe a little walk.” Lily announced. Emma took the leash and clipped it with difficulty to the wriggling dog’s harness.
“Let’s go, Zoe!” Emma gave a gentle tug, and Zoe ran outside as soon as the door was open. Emma held onto the leash for dear life, even though they were in a fenced area. Unlike any of the house dogs she had walked, Zoe tramped around, apparently surprised every time the leash yanked her backwards. Emma struggled to keep up with the sporadic whims of the exercise- craving dog.
Lily laughed as she emerged with an older, more well-behaved dog. “Want to switch?” She giggled, and Emma nodded, relieved. Five minutes later, Lily announced bath time. “She needs it!” Emma commented, as she followed Lily to the bath basin enclosure. Lily said, “Stay here with Zoe. I’m going to put Bay inside.” Walking the other dog out, she closed the gate behind Emma.
While she waited, Emma arranged the towel, dog shampoo, and various brushes and sponges so they would be easily accessible. Zoe had obviously gotten a bath before. She whined and whimpered and made it very clear that she did not like what she saw.
Emma noticed a plasticy, rope-like leash connected to the wall near the tub and dragged Zoe over to connect her. After clipping an agitated Zoe to it, Emma remembered that her purse was inside, near Zoe’s cage. It’s okay, she thought, I’ll get it after Zoe’s bath. Putting it out of her mind, Emma turned on the warm water and poured in some dog soap.
Suddenly, Lily came out, looking shocked. Emma took one look and left the bath enclosure to see what was going on. “What’s wrong?”
“My...my brother was in a car crash. He’s in the hospital.. He twisted his leg and got a couple scratches, and he should be all right. But I think I should go.”
Emma nodded, and said, “I can handle Zoe’s bath. You go to the hospital.”
Lily smiled a little and said, “Thank you so much. Just make sure you lock up, okay?”
Emma nodded again and gave Lily a thumbs up. After watching Lily go, she set to work on Zoe’s bath, scrubbing away. Emma couldn’t believe how well it went. Zoe emerged sparkling clean. Carrying her to the back entrance, Emma made sure to keep her away from dirt. Pulling at the heavy door with her free hand, Emma could not get it to budge. She carefully set Zoe down on the swept concrete (holding her leash tightly), and pulled now with both hands. The door remained shut. Finally, Emma faced the fact: they were locked out. With no means of contacting help.
Sitting down, Emma pulled Zoe into her lap. “Well,” Emma said, “at least you’re clean.” Zoe grunted, unsatisfied. Emma gave her a pet, them immediately regretted her decision. Never pet a wet dog. As Emma tried to wipe her wet, now fur-covered hand on her pants, Zoe suddenly shot out of her lap and dashed into the yard before she could so much as yell. Emma wondered if Zoe was crazy! She ran over to where Zoe was now furiously digging under the chain link fence, and slowly and carefully approached.
Emma cautiously grabbed the end of Zoe’s leash- but it was too late! Zoe was outside the fence! Emma was now laying on her stomach, holding on as well she could at the end of the leash as Zoe strained on it, pulling it taut. A young girl walking a small dog had been Zoe’s target. “Sorry! Keep going!” Emma yelled apologetically, and they quickly hurried on.
“Whew.” Emma breathed. As Zoe relaxed on the leash, Emma scolded, “Bad, bad girl, Zoe!” Zoe didn’t seem to understand or care that Emma was angry. She was sniffing at a patch of crabgrass, oblivious to whatever else was happening in the world. Emma got annoyed and pulled Zoe closer to the fence, intending to pull her back through the hole.
But Zoe would not go in. She locked her legs and stood firm. Emma was afraid she might hurt her if she pulled too hard, so she set about trying to get her in another way. Tying Zoe’s slack leash to the chain link fence, Emma climbed up. She reached the top and was trying to get into a position to jump off on the other side when a jolt yanked her hands from their unstable grip. Falling back into the yard, Emma watched helplessly as Zoe squirmed out of her harness and tore off down the street, free at last. Sprinting after her, Emma came around the corner and was surprised to see to see Lily, who had returned to help. Lily had grabbed Zoe and was trying to keep ahold of her, and Emma quickly came to help. Together, they wrestled Zoe back to the yard area and replaced the dirt in the hole. Then they gave Zoe a quick bath again (she was now covered in mud).
When Emma got home, she stepped inside and immediately kicked off her shoes. Her mother gave her dripping, muddy, furry daughter a suspicious look, raising her eyebrows. “What? I was giving a dog a bath.” Emma defended herself, grinning.
“Hmm. Maybe the dog got cleaner, but you definitely got dirtier,” her mother countered, looking at the muddy hallway. Emma giggled as she headed toward the shower. She was definitely helping out at the shelter next week.