silently down his cheeks.
I nuzzled at his hand, worried about him. It wasnât right, for Jakob to cry like this. Something needed to be done about it.
âItâs okay, Ellie. Good dog. Sit.â
I sat. Since I couldnât Find Jakob, or rescue him, or do anything to help him, I just stayed next to him, feeling sad with him.
He cleared his throat. âI miss you so much, honey. I justÂ â¦ sometimes I donât think I can get through the day knowing youâre not going to be there when I get home,â he whispered hoarsely.
I lifted my ears at the word âhome.â Yes, I thought. Letâs go home. Letâs leave this sad place.
But Jakob didnât move, and he kept on talking.
âIâm on K-9 patrol right now, search and rescue. Iâve got a dog. Her name is Ellie, a one-year-old German shepherd.â
I wagged my tail.
âYouâd like her, honey. I wish you could have met her. Sheâs a good dog; she really is.â
I wagged harder, but Jakob didnât seem to notice me, even though heâd said my name and, âGood dog.â
âWe just got certified, so weâll be going out, now. Iâll be glad to get off the desk. Iâve gained about ten pounds from all the sitting.â Jakob laughed, and the sound of it was so peculiar that it nearly made me whimper. It was such a sad, tortured little laugh, with no happiness in it at all.
We stayed there, hardly moving at all, for about ten minutes. Jakob seemed like one of the pieces of stone sticking up out of the ground, hard and cold and motionless. Slowly, the feeling I could sense in him shifted. It was less raw pain and more of a feeling sort of like fear.
âI love you,â Jakob whispered. Then he got up and walked away. I followed closely at his heels.
From that day forward, we spent more time away from the kennel. There were a lot of people out there who needed to be Found. Sometimes they were adults and sometimes children. Sometimes they were scared. Sometimes they were confused or, like Marilyn, not really aware that they were lost. But most were happy to see us.
Sometimes we would ride on airplanes or helicopters. âYouâre a chopper dog, Ellie!â Jakob always told me when we took off. The first time the noise made me nervous, but after that I understood that airplanes and helicopters were something like the truckâthey got us to where Work needed to be done. The humming that I could hear and even feel through the metal floor started to make me drowsy after a time or two, and Iâd usually doze off. When I woke up, Jakob and I would go to Work.
One day Jakob took me in the truck to the biggest pond Iâd ever seen. There were a lot of people there, but a man and a woman ran toward the truck when we pulled up, talking frantically before Jakob even let me out of the cage. The woman pulled a limp purple sweatshirt from a big bag over her shoulder, and Jakob held it down for me to smell.
âCan your dog reallyâ¦,â the woman began, sounding like she was about to cry. âI mean, weâre not even sure how long itâs been. I thought for sure Charlotte was playing with a few other kids down by the water, and then when I looked up she wasnât there. They didnât even remember seeing her leave.â Now the woman was crying for real and the man put an arm around her.
âEllieâs very good,â Jakob said calmly. âWe just need to let her do her job. Find, Ellie!â
I sniffed the sweatshirt deeply. SunscreenÂ â¦ saltÂ â¦ ketchupÂ â¦ a smudge of ice creamÂ â¦ strawberry-smelling shampooÂ â¦ and little girl. Now I knew who I was searching for.
I put my nose down to the sand. It smelledÂ â¦ different. Iâd tracked people across grass, dirt, sidewalks, and roads. But this was something new. Everything smelled damp and salty, and there was a strong, wet, powerful scent of