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My name is Buddy.
I used to be a detective. I used to solve mysteries with my old human, Kayla. But Kayla moved to Springtown, and now I have new humans. Their names are Connor and Mom.
I'm giving up the detective business because I have a new job to think about.
I'm going to be a THERAPY DOG! That means I'm going to sit, lie down, stay, and come when I'm called. I'll walk nicely next to Mom, and I won't pick up treats on the floor unless someone says I can. I won't even speak to other dogs. And I'll make friends with lots and lots and lots of humans.
I also get to ride IN THE CAR every time I go to my job. In fact, I am IN THE CAR right now. I LOVE the car. It's my favorite thing!
And I'm sitting next to Connor. I LOVE Connor. He's my favorite boy!
"Ew! Buddy!" Connor says, wiping his face. "No lick!"
Connor, Mom, and I are all on our way to SCHOOL. I LOVE school. It's my favorite place! It's where Connor and Mom go every day. And now I get to go there every day, too, because that's where my new job is.
Except ... the car is stopping and we are not at school. We're at Mouse's house. Why are we stopping at Mouse's house?
I stick my head out the window. "Mouse!" I call. "Hey, Mouse! Are you coming to school with us?"
Mouse is my friend. He's a dog, not a mouse. In fact, he's the biggest, loudest dog on our street. Hey, maybe he's going to be a therapy dog, too!
Mouse pokes his head out of his doghouse. "NO, I'M NOT GOING TO SCHOOL," he says. It sounds like he's yelling, but he's not. He talks this loud all the time. "THERE'S A NEW BOY AT MY HOUSE. HE'S THE ONE WHO'S GOING TO SCHOOL. NOT ME."
"You have a new boy?" I say.
"YES. MY HUMANS JUST BROUGHT HIM HOME YESTERDAY."
Mouse's humans bring home new boys and girls a lot. I don't know where they get them all. Most of the kids are nice, but the last one they had threw rocks at Mouse.
"Is this a nice boy?" I ask nervously.
"OF COURSE HE'S A NICE BOY," Mouse says.
I think Mouse forgot about the kid who threw rocks.
I see Mouse's new boy, but I can't smell him yet. He's walking toward our car with Jack. Jack is the alpha human at Mouse's house. He smells like cars and gasoline.
The boy is about Connor's size, and he has long, shaggy hair. There's something shiny in his right earlobe.
Mom rolls down her window when he and Jack get close.
"Good morning, Sarah," Jack says to Mom. "This is our new foster son, Michael."
"Nice to meet you, Michael," Mom says. She tilts her head toward the backseat. "This is my son, Connor. I think you two are in the same grade."
Jack opens the back door, and Michael climbs in next to me.
"Hey," Connor says.
Michael just grunts.
I sniff Michael all over. He smells like peanut butter toast and dirt and ... I'm not sure what else. I hope he's not another rock thrower.
Mom waves goodbye to Jack and backs out of their driveway.
"So," Connor says to Michael, "where are you from?"
"Minneapolis," Michael says, gazing out the window.
"I'm from Los Angeles," Connor says. "I just moved here, too. My mom and dad got divorced, and my dad is still in California."
Michael doesn't say anything to that, so Connor asks another question. "What do you like to do?"
"Do you play baseball?" Connor asks. "Basketball? Soccer?"
Michael shrugs again. I don't think he's much of a talker.
Connor keeps trying. "What about music? Do you play an instrument? Do you like to read? Do art? Play computer games?"
"I like ghost stories," Michael says finally. "Books ... movies ... anything with ghosts in it."
"Yeah?" Connor says. "Then you'll like our school. We've got a ghost!"
"Connor!" Mom makes why-would-you-say-such-a-thing eyes at Connor in the rearview mirror.
"What?" he says. "It's true. There was a fire at our school a long time ago, and part of the school burned down. This girl—her name was Agatha Curry—she got burned up in the fire, and now her ghost haunts the old part of the school."
Mom shakes her head. "That's just a story, Connor," she says. "It's not true."
"Yes, it is," Connor insists. "Kids have seen her, Mom. So has the janitor."
"Mr. Poe likes to tell stories," Mom says. "And he likes to get kids all riled up. There's no such thing as a ghost, Connor. You know that."
I didn't think there was any such thing as a ghost. But I'm glad to hear Mom say it.
We pull into the school parking lot, and Mom parks the car. I see kids playing on the swings ... kids playing chase—I LOVE chase. It's my favorite game! Oh, and over there I see kids hitting a ball around a pole. That looks even better than chase!
"Let me out!" I say, scratching at the door. "I want to PLAY BALL!"
Mom opens the door, and Connor hands her my leash.
"Is that our new therapy dog?" a girl about Connor's age calls out. She and a bunch of other kids run toward us.
Oh, boy! New friends. I LOVE new friends!
"Yes, this is Buddy," Mom says.
I am trying to sniff and lick all these kids, but there are too many of them. And they are all petting me! I LOVE getting petted!
"I need to take Buddy inside now," Mom says as she tries to lead me away.
Aw ... so soon?
"Bye, Buddy," Connor says. He and Michael race toward that pole with the ball.
"Where are you taking him? Where is he going to be?" a boy with a missing tooth asks.
"He'll be in my office most of the time," Mom says. "But once he settles in, Mrs. Warner will have him in the library sometimes, too. You'll be able to sign up for reading sessions with him."
"Yay!" the kids cheer.
Mom opens the door to the school. "This way, Buddy," she says, guiding me down the hall. My toes make a funny clicking sound as we walk. Just like at the vet's office.
There are so many interesting smells in this place. Pancakes ... sausage ... I LOVE pancakes and sausage. They're my favorite foods!
I also smell shoes. Lots of shoes. And dirt. And perfume. And coffee. I think we are moving closer to the coffee. And farther away from the pancakes and sausage. Too bad!
Mom leads me into a room with a desk and table, plants, and lots of windows. There are two ladies in here. One of them is sitting at the desk. She's an older lady with curly hair, and she smells very nice. Like liver treats. I LOVE liver treats. They're my favorite food!
"Ellie," Mom says to the lady, "this is Buddy."
Ellie smiles at me. "Hi, Buddy."
I rest my chin on Ellie's desk. She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a LIVER TREAT! She hands the treat to me, and I gobble it up. Mmm. I think Ellie and I are going to be good friends.
I'm not so sure about the other lady. She smells like hot pepper and pineapple, and she's looking at me like I'm the one who smells bad.
"I can't believe the school board approved this," the hot-pepper-and-pineapple lady tells Mom. "Dogs don't belong in schools."
"Buddy is well trained, Mrs. Argus," Mom says, scratching my ears. "And I think there's a lot of good that can come from having a dog at school. Studies have shown that simply petting a dog lowers heart rate and blood pressure—"
"Yes, I read the information you passed around," Mrs. Argus says. "But that doesn't mean I agree with it. I'll be watching this dog." She points a finger at me. "One wrong move, and he's out of here!"CHAPTER 2
One wrong move? What does that mean?
"Don't worry, Sarah," Ellie tells Mom after Mrs. Argus leaves. "Mona is slow to warm up to new ideas. But she'll come around. In time."
"I hope so," Mom says. She brings me into a smaller room across from Ellie's desk, then takes off my leash. There's a desk and chair in the middle of the room, two chairs on the other side of the desk, a big fluffy pillow under the window, and a water bowl next to the pillow.
Everything in here smells like Mom. This must be where she works. And when Mom points to the pillow, I know this is where I'll be working, too.
I turn two circles on the pillow, then plop down and wait for Mom to tell me what to do next. Does she want me to sit? Will she throw a piece of hot dog on the floor and tell me to leave it? What does she want me to do?
I watch as Mom sits down at her desk, turns on the computer, and starts writing on some papers.
I let out a small woof, in case she's forgotten I'm here.
"What's the matter, Buddy?" Mom asks. "Do you need to go outside?"
"No," I tell Mom with my eyes. I just want to know what I'm supposed to do. I don't want to make a wrong move.
"You were just outside before we got here," Mom says. "You shouldn't need to go outside already."
I already said I don't need to go outside.
"You just lie there and be a good dog," Mom says.
That's it? That's all you want me to do? Lie here and be a good dog? I can do that!
I rest my head on my paws and let my eyes close. I think about how much I like my new job already. I'm not going to get into any trouble while I'm here. I'm going to make new friends. Maybe I'll even make friends with Mrs. Argus. That would be nice ...
Then I hear a strange, almost ghostly voice. "He-e-el-l-l-p me, Buddy."
Huh? Who said that?
I look around. I'm not in the office anymore. I'm in a big room with lots and lots of books. And right behind me is a girl with a burned face. But she's not a real girl. She's like a ... ghost girl. I can see right through her.
She reaches for me. "He-e-el-l-l-p me, Buddy," she says again.
I step back. "H-how do you know my name?" I ask. She scares me. You're not supposed to be able to see through humans.
"Mom?" a voice interrupts. "Can Buddy come outside to play during recess?"
My eyes pop open. The ghost girl and the room with the books disappear. It was all just a dream.
I'm still here in the office. With Mom. And Connor wants to take me outside to play.
I sit up and give myself a good shake. I would really like to go outside to play.
"Sure," Mom says. "He could use some exercise."
"Let's go!" I tell Connor, wagging my tail. I'm already at the door.
Connor grabs my leash. "Does Buddy have to have his leash on outside?" he asks.
"Of course," Mom says.
Connor groans. "Why? I won't take him on the blacktop. We'll stay on the other playground. The one that's fenced."
"I don't want anyone to feel scared if there's a dog running around loose on the playground," Mom says.
"Who would be scared?" Connor asks. "Buddy's a good dog. And I told everyone that we could play fetch with him. How can he fetch on a leash?"
Mom thinks about this. "Well," she says after a little while. "I suppose we could try having him off-leash on the back playground."
"Yes!" Connor cries.
"But keep the leash on until you're outside," Mom says. "And if he starts to bother anyone, put the leash back on right away."
"Okay," Connor says.
We head down the hall ... down the stairs ... around the corner ... and out onto the playground, where there are kids running and balls flying EVERYWHERE!
Connor unhooks my leash, and I RUN! I love to run! I love to chase! I LOVE to play ball! It's my favorite thing!
If that's not exciting enough, there are new friends all around me. Real friends, not ghost friends. And everyone is trying to get my attention. "Come here, Dog!" "Here, boy! Here, boy!" "He looks just like my friend Kayla's dog!"
Wait. Who said that last thing? I look all around me. It sounded like Kayla's friend, Jillian.
It IS Jillian! "Hey, Jillian!" I cry, barreling toward her. "How are you doing?"
But before I get to her, another kid calls, "Come here, Dog!"
"His name's Buddy, not Dog," Connor says.
"Come here, Buddy!" "Does he play ball?" "Hey, Buddy! Go fetch!"
Whoa! There goes another ball! I run after it ...
"No, come here, Buddy!" Jillian calls me.
I stop. I don't know where to go or what to do or who to play with. I'm standing next to a kid who is smaller than Connor. He smells like bananas, sweat socks, and dirt. In fact, there's a little piece of banana stuck to his shirt. I LOVE bananas. They're my favorite food!
I'll just clean that banana off his shirt. His alpha human will never know it was there.
"If you want to join the Sharks, you have to do something no one else at our school has ever done. Something to prove you're worthy," the kid says as he pushes me away.
"Yeah, we don't let just anyone into our club," says another kid, who smells like hamburger, pencils, and dirt.
Huh? What are these kids talking about? Oh, they're not talking to me. They're talking to that really little kid over there. The one that smells like blueberry muffins.
"I can jump higher than anyone in my class," Blueberry Muffin Kid says. He jumps up to a high bar on the climbing toy to prove it.
The two bigger kids laugh. "You think no one else in the whole school can jump up to that bar?"
"Hey, Buddy?" a dog calls behind me. "Is that you?"
I whirl around again. There's a pug on the other side of the far fence. I know that pug!
"Jazzy!" I say.
Jazzy wags her tail. "You remember me?"
"Of course I remember you," I say, running toward her. I just met her twelve ... or three ... or eleventy-three days ago. She got mixed up with another dog that kind of looked like her, but didn't smell anything like her. I solved the mystery and got both dogs back where they belonged.
"Come back, Buddy," Connor calls, waving a ball at me.
"Yeah, play with us!" some other kids holler.
Hmm. I want to play ... and I want to talk to Jazzy ... and I want to make new friends ... and ... I don't know what I want most!
"It's okay," Jazzy says. "Go play! We'll talk later."
"Okay, see you later!" I turn and—BANG! I accidentally run right into Blueberry Muffin Kid. He falls to the ground.
"Oops. Sorry," I say.
I sniff him to see if he's hurt. There isn't any water coming out of his eyes, but there's red stuff coming out of his arm. I remember when Kayla fell off her bike and there was red stuff on her knee. Red stuff is bad.
Two girls rush over. "Are you okay, Zack?" one asks.
"You're bleeding. You need to go to the nurse," says the other girl.
"What's going on over there?" a teacher calls.
Uh-oh. It's Mrs. Argus. The lady who said, "One wrong move ... "
Mrs. Argus puts her hands on her hips. "Did that dog knock you down, Zack?" she asks Blueberry Muffin Kid.
"Sort of," Zack says, rubbing his elbow.
Mrs. Argus makes angry noises through her nose and grabs me by the collar. "Would you two walk Zack to the nurse's office?" she asks the girls.
They both nod. Each one reaches a hand out to Zack and pulls him up.
Mrs. Argus drags me toward the school.
"Hey!" Connor calls, running up behind us. "Where are you going with my dog?" My leash is dangling from his fingers.
Mrs. Argus snatches the leash from Connor, but doesn't put it on me.
"We're going to see your mother," she tells Connor.
I swallow hard.
We go into the school ... up the stairs ... around the corner ... down the hall ... into Ellie's office and then into Mom's office. Mom is sitting at her desk.
My tail droops. I can't even look at Mom.
"I told you dogs don't belong in school," Mrs. Argus tells Mom. She drops my leash on the floor, but keeps a very tight hold on my collar. "Your dog just attacked one of my first-graders!"
"Attacked?" Mom and I say at the same time.
I step forward. "No! It was an accident!" I explain. "I didn't attack anyone—"
"I don't know what happened outside, but I assure you, Mrs. Argus, Buddy would never attack anyone," Mom says.
"Well, he just knocked Zack Goodman completely off his feet. Zack is in the nurse's office right now. I warned you—"
"Sarah? Would you like me to check on Zack?" Ellie asks from the outer office. She has a telephone in her hand.
"Yes, please," Mom says wearily. She rubs her forehead.
"I'm going to report this to the superintendent," Mrs. Argus tells Mom. "And then I'm going to call Zack's parents. We'll see how they feel about having a dog in this school."
With that, Mrs. Argus lets go of my collar and storms out of the office.
Mom looks at me.
"I didn't attack him," I say again. Then I lie down on my pillow and make myself as small as I can. I'm not a bad dog. Really, I'm not.
Ellie comes into Mom's office. "It's okay," she says to Mom. She bends down and gives my ears a scratch. "The nurse said it was just a little scrape. Zack is fine. He said Buddy didn't mean to knock him down. He's on his way back to his classroom."
"Thank goodness," Mom says, leaning back in her chair. "You know, we had a therapy dog at my old school. It was such a positive experience. Kids read to him. He helped with peer conflict. Everyone loved him. I had no idea people here wouldn't be in favor of the idea."
"Most people are in favor of it," Ellie assures Mom. "It's just—"
Ellie's words are cut off by a noise so loud and so horrible I feel like my head is about to explode.
Excerpted from The Buddy Files, #4 The Case of the Fire Alarm by Dori Hillestad Butler. Copyright © 2010 Dori Hillestad Butler. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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