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Lulu And the Dog from the Sea
By Hilary McKay, Priscilla Lamont
ALBERT WHITMAN & Company Copyright © 2011 Hilary McKay
All rights reserved.
The Cottage by the Sea
Lulu and Mellie were seven years old. They were cousins and they were friends. Their houses were so close that it took less than five minutes to run between the two. They could visit each other easily without getting lost or squished on the road.
That was a good thing, because Lulu and Mellie were not just ordinary friends—they were best friends.
They were such good friends they hardly ever fought, although sometimes they did grumble at each other a little. They mostly grumbled about each other's hobbies, which were not at all alike.
"Coloring again?" Lulu would say when she went to see why Mellie had forgotten to come and play. "You're always coloring!"
"Cleaning again?" Mellie would ask when she came to find out what Lulu had been doing all day. "You're always cleaning!" she would say, holding her nose.
It wasn't true that Mellie was always coloring. Often she was painting or drawing or making things with glue and glitter and chopped-up paper and causing a mess. But it was true that very often Lulu was cleaning.
Lulu loved animals and she had a lot of pets.
The rule about pets in Lulu's house was: The more the merrier! As long as Lulu cleans up after them!
Lulu had two guinea pigs, four rabbits, one parrot, one hamster, a lot of goldfish, and a rather old dog named Sam.
It took a lot of work to look after all these pets. Mostly Lulu did it, but sometimes other people helped her out.
Whenever Lulu's family went on vacation,
Mellie's parents would always help. They would do a swap—Lulu's family would take Mellie on vacation, and Mellie's family would take care of Lulu's pets.
All except for Sam the dog, who was going on vacation too. They were all going to stay in a cottage by the sea. Sam did not think much of that. He didn't enjoy the seaside. He wasn't fond of sand, he didn't like chilly breezes, and he hated getting wet in cold, salty water. Sam was a small, golden, teddy-bear-shaped dog. He had short teddy bear legs, and a round teddy bear tummy, and a sweet, stubborn, sleepy teddy bear face.
When Sam went on vacation he took a lot of luggage, all packed for him by Lulu. He took his red blanket and his water bowl and his food dish and his special dog biscuits. Also his dog leash and his dog towels in case he got wet, and his shampoo and his brushes in case he got sticky.
Sam also took his basket and his red velvety beanbag.
Sam loved his beanbag very much and if he did not have it in his basket he could not go to sleep. Nobody else could go to sleep either, because Sam walked around howling and whining and moaning. It was very important not to forget the beanbag. Lulu's father checked a dozen times that it was safely in the car. He did not want to have to drive all the way home for it in the middle of the night, as he had once had to do.
Sam's luggage took up so much space that it was a good thing Lulu and Mellie had brought as little as possible. Their only big thing was Mellie's build-your-own-kite-kit. Mellie had been given this for a birthday present. She had opened it to admire the strings and the special kite paper, the bright pens, and the exciting instructions. But then she had put it away again to save for this seaside vacation.
Now the kite kit was on the backseat. All the things that would not fit anywhere else were there too, piled around Lulu and Mellie.
"It's part of the vacation feeling," said Mellie. "Being all squished up, hardly able to breathe."
"It's fair that Sam should have the most space," agreed Lulu, "because really he'd rather not come on vacation at all. He'd rather be comfortable."
"This might be a comfortable vacation!" said Lulu's mother hopefully. That made everyone hoot with laughter. They spent the first part of the journey reminding one another about vacations in the past.
"Like the time we went camping and left behind the bag that had everyone's shoes," said Lulu.
"Or that house we stayed in that had a ghost in the attic," said Mellie.
"Or that place where the chimney was struck by lightning and fell down into the living room," said Lulu's father.
Lulu's mother groaned and said perhaps they should turn back and not go away after all.
"They were nice vacations," said Lulu and Mellie, who had enjoyed the lightning and the ghost and the new shoes very much.
They were really looking forward to staying in a little seaside town.
That was what they thought, but the first thing they discovered about the cottage was that it was not near the town at all. It was all on its own, down a bumpy, potholed road. Bumps made Sam sick. So Lulu's father drove very slowly, trying to dodge the biggest holes, while Lulu's mother twisted around, watching for the gulps that meant Sam had to be flung out of the car as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, Mellie was ignoring both Sam and the bumpy road and saying, "Should I unpack my kite now, now that we're almost there? I think I could just open it and get out the parts ..."
"No!" said Lulu's mother and father, but they said it too late. Mellie was already unpacking the kit. When the car fell into another hole, important-looking pieces of kite spilled everywhere, and Mellie began to moan.
"Just what I didn't want to happen!" she grumbled, turning herself upside down to try and gather the pieces from the floor.
"They call this a road?" complained Lulu's father. "It's just one giant crater after another!"
"Now the string's unwound!" cried Mellie.
Sam made a noise like a sort of cough.
"Almost there, Sam!" said Lulu's mother hopefully, rolling down her window.
Only Lulu sat quietly, gazing at the view. Ahead, she saw a white cottage and green grass. Every few minutes, she saw glimpses of a sea that gleamed dark gray or silver bright.
All along the edge of the sea Lulu could see a mountain range of sand dunes. Strange bushes grew on them with dim gray leaves and orange berries. Strange ribbonlike blue-green grasses were combed by the sea wind. Strange narrow sandy paths twisted and climbed and suddenly vanished.
And all among the bushes and grass and sandy paths a strange animal leaped and ran, watching the car. It moved so quickly that the only thing Lulu could see clearly was its strange, flapping ears.
They were ears like brown paper bags.
The owner of the cottage was waiting for them when they arrived. Everyone except Mellie (who was still picking up pieces of kite) tumbled out of the car, all stiff and achy from traveling.
"Took your time, didn't you?" said the cottage owner as Lulu's parents smiled and called hello. "I saw you, dithering along that road, like there was all the time in the world!"
"Well!" began Lulu's father. "It's quite an obstacle course, that road ..."
"You've got the wrong kind of car!" said the cottage owner. "You need something much bigger! Hurry up! Come inside and I'll give you the key. Shoes off!" she added sternly.
"It's very kind of you to wait," said Lulu's mother, as she and Lulu's father followed her to the door.
"Had to," snapped the cottage owner grimly. "I needed to warn you about that dog!"
"Sam?" asked Lulu, but the cottage owner had disappeared, with Lulu's parents after her.
Bang! went the door in a most unfriendly way.
"Why's she so ..." began Mellie, staring.
"Shush!" warned Lulu.
"... angry?" finished Mellie loudly, dropping pieces of kite all over the ground as she spoke. "Don't worry! She can't hear! She shut the door. Why do you think she said that about Sam?"
Lulu couldn't imagine. Sam was behaving perfectly. He had survived the bumps without getting sick, and now he was doing what he always did at the end of a car journey: unpacking his food bowl.
On days when Sam was going for a ride in the car he was only ever given a very small breakfast. Now he wanted the rest of it. He stood up on his teddy bear legs, dragged his bowl out from his mountain of luggage, carried it in his teeth to Lulu, and dropped it at her feet.
It was Lulu's job to fill it up as quickly as possible.
As usual, she rushed to do it, and as usual Sam stood and watched, stumpy tail wagging, with a smile on his teddy bear face.
From inside the cottage Lulu's parents could see all this happening. Lulu's mother asked worriedly, "Why do you want to warn us about our dog? We did tell you we were bringing him."
"Your dog?" asked the cottage owner, looking out of the window at the happy sight of Sam gobbling dog food. "I wasn't talking about your dog! He's a poor old thing, isn't he? Looks more like a sheep ... That dog!"
She jabbed a pointing finger in the direction of the sand dunes, where a small sandstorm had just erupted.
The sandstorm rolled down the sand dunes, arrived between Lulu and Mellie in a cloud of dust, seized the packet of dog food that Lulu had only a moment before put down, whirled around, and raced away, all in one astonishing moment.
"RUFF! RUFF! RUFF!" barked Sam, nearly falling over with rage.
"That dog!" said the cottage owner, rushing out of the cottage with Lulu's parents behind her. "That dog!" she repeated, pointing to a dusty blur on the sand dunes. "That dog from the sea! He's a thief! He's a menace! The people last week lost a whole roasted chicken from under their noses! Nothing is safe from him and no one can get near him. We've had the dogcatcher out twice already and he's never gotten close enough to grab—"
"Oh, poor dog!" exclaimed Lulu.
"Don't you go encouraging him," said the woman, turning on Lulu quite fiercely. "He's not welcome around here! You'll have to be careful. No leaving out picnics or scraps for the seagulls. He goes through all the trash too. So you'll have to remember to take the trash can into the house at night!"
"Take the trash can into the house at night?" repeated Lulu's father, staring.
"I've warned you and now I need to go," said the cottage owner.
"Did you say, 'Take ...'?"
"I did," said the cottage owner, dragging a bike from the hedge. Then she handed Lulu's mother a large and rather rusty key and rode off.
"Take the trash can into the house at night!" exploded Lulu's father wildly the moment she was gone. "What kind of place is it where you have to do that?"
Lulu and Mellie became helpless with giggles and rolled around on the grass.
"And you're not helping!" complained Lulu's father as he stepped over them.
"Oh!" said Mellie. "I love this place!"
"You haven't seen the inside yet," warned Lulu's mother. "And neither have we, hardly! I thought she might stay and show us where things are ... and explain about hot water and how the stove works ... Oh well, never mind! Who's coming with me to explore?"
Lulu and Mellie scrambled to their feet and hurried to follow her into the cottage.
It was very clean.
And very bare.
It was just four little rooms: two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room, with a very damp-smelling bathroom tacked onto the back. The water in the faucet was as cold as ice, and the oven (said a neat label that was stuck on the front) was missing a part.
"No wonder Mrs.-on-the-Bike ran away so fast!" said Lulu's father, and he went outside and looked suspiciously at the chimney to see if it had by lightning. It looked solid, however, and there was no ghost in the attic because there was no attic. There was no upstairs at all.
"Well, at least we all have shoes this time!" said Lulu's father, cheering up. "So maybe we'll survive!"
Lulu and Mellie were sure they would. Their bedroom window faced the sand dunes. They pushed it open and the sea wind blew in, and there they were, nearly among the blue-green grasses and gray, orange-berried bushes. Almost next to the little gold paths down which a dog from the sea might swoop like a storm.
"It's the most perfect place ever," said Lulu.
Her mother said "Hmmm" to that. She was exploring the kitchen cupboards. She had just discovered that there were not enough mugs for all four of them to have hot drinks at once, and not enough glasses for all four of them to have cold drinks at once either. And she discovered other things about saucepans and forks and spoons that made her say "Hmmm" as well.
"But we do have shoes," said Lulu's father. "So let's go and explore!"
So they did.CHAPTER 2
The Dog from the Sea
"I would like to know much, much more about the dog from the sea," said Lulu.
There was no sign of him in the sand dunes, nor on the wide windy beach. No dog with paper-bag ears splashed in the pools by the breakwaters, or raced across the golf course (where no dogs were allowed). But as they got nearer to the town end of the beach they heard news.
The ice cream and hot dog stand knew him very well. They had lost more than one sausage to his thieving ways.
The lady from the bucket and shovel shop said, "Shocking!"
What else could you say about a dog who helped himself to the most expensive sort of wood-handled shovel? Who lifted it from its box by the postcard stand, galloped off with it clamped in his jaws, chewed it to shreds, left the bits on the sand, and came back, tail wagging, for another!
"But where did he come from?" asked Lulu.
"He came from the back of the Golden Lotus," said the lady from the bucket and shovel shop.
The Golden Lotus was a Chinese restaurant. There was a whole street of little restaurants in the town. Indian and Chinese and Italian and Thai and a fish and chip shop at the end. And behind the shops was a small messy space, full of crates and boxes, trash cans, recycling bins, and other things like old fridges waiting to be taken away.
It was a big untidy muddle, the shop lady told Lulu, and in the most untidy bit of the muddle, under a pile of crates and cardboard boxes behind the Golden Lotus, the mother of the dog from the sea had made a den.
Three puppies had been born in that den: the dog from the sea and the dog from the sea's two sisters.
All through the spring they lived together, a wild and happy life. In the daytime they slept, all flung in a warm heap under the crates.
At night they went hunting with their mother. She was a very clever dog, and she knew all the places to find things to eat. Seaside towns with hungry visitors have lots of spare food, either thrown into trash cans or dropped on the streets. The mother dog taught her three puppies how to crawl under the fence near the fairground to get to the large garbage bins. She showed them how to push over a trash can, and how to chase a seagull from a handful of chips. She showed her wild family every single thing it was possible for a dog to eat.
What good dogs, thought Lulu as she listened. What a lot of cleaning up they had done. People should have been very grateful, she thought.
But people were not grateful. Not even at the Golden Lotus, where the dogs cleared up most of all.
They sent for the dogcatcher.
Two dogcatchers came. A very tall man and a very tall woman. They spoke to the dogs with kind voices.
First they caught the two sisters. They put them in two cages, where they howled and cried so loudly their mother came to rescue them.
That made it easy for the dogcatchers to catch her as well.
Very soon there were three dogs in three cages.
The last of the wild dog family watched in horror. He did not know what happened to a dog after it was caught in a cage. He had never heard of vets or rescue homes or the friendly people who visit them and say, "That's the dog for me!" All he knew was what he saw and heard: his sisters crying, his mother frantic, tearing at the cage.
He watched, but he watched from a distance. He guessed they had a cage for him too, and he was right—they did.
But they could not get him into it.
When the dogcatchers turned to the last wild dog, and spoke in their kind voices, the wild dog ran for his life.
He ran to the sand dunes, and there he hid.
That was how the wild dog became the dog from the sea.
For a long time he would sneak back to the crate pile behind the Golden Lotus, just in case the dogcatchers had changed their minds and allowed his family to come back. But at last he gave up hope.
He lived among the sand dunes, a wild hungry life. He stole all he could, and he ate whatever he could swallow, and sometimes it made him ill and sometimes it made him stronger. He got used to that. He got used to the long thirsty waits to drink from the stream that crossed the golf course or from the kiddie pool near the town. He got used to cold winds and the thorns on the gray bushes, but he never got used to being alone.
Excerpted from Lulu And the Dog from the Sea by Hilary McKay, Priscilla Lamont. Copyright © 2011 Hilary McKay. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
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