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Saturday, June 4, 2011

It Takes Courage by Kaarina Brooks

“Mom! Hurry up!”

In the rear-view mirror Cathy glanced at her son who sat in the back seat of their car, tenderly holding a whimpering pup on his lap.

“I’m driving as fast as I’m allowed, honey.”

In front of a brick bungalow she parked the car. It was late, but a bluish flickering light shone from one of the windows. Good. The vet was still up, watching TV. The white, clapboard animal hospital a short distance from the house was in darkness.

The pup squealed as Jason lifted it out of the car.

“Careful, sweetie,” Cathy cautioned as they stepped up to the door. She rang the doorbell and soon they heard approaching footsteps.

Doctor Noble—Michael—was an old friend who’d looked after their dog for thirteen years. He'd put old Sheba to sleep only six months ago.

Cathy would never forget how Jason had sobbed bitterly as he said goodbye to the pet he’d known all his life. No more dogs in the house, she’d decided then and there. It was just too painful when they died—as all pets did, eventually. She couldn’t bear to see Jason grieve like that ever again.

But it was worse when a beloved person died. Like Jim, who passed away five years ago. Jason, then only two, didn’t remember his father, but Cathy remembered, all right. And the pain of it all was another thing she didn’t want to repeat. Ever again! No more love in her life, thank you very much. Just Jason.

“I’m sorry we’re barging in on you after hours like this, but I found this pup on our lawn when I went to put out the recycling,” Cathy explained to the tall, lanky man who opened the door. “He was just lying there, whimpering.”

“Prob’ly got run over,” Jason added with a worried frown. “Will he die, you think, Doc'r Noble?”

“Let’s take a look.” Michael gently relieved Jason of the pup and carried it out to the hospital building, with Cathy and Jason following close behind. He unlocked the door and snapped on the lights.

"Maybe you two could sit here in the waiting room while I take a look at our little patient," Michael said, as he entered the examination room with the pup.

In a while he popped his head out to announce, “I think he has a broken leg, but the X-rays will tell for sure. I'll be back in a moment.”

As Cathy and Jason sat side by side on the couch, the boy snuggled up to his mother. She thought he was tired, but soon realized the cuddliness was just an ulterior motive—a ploy!

“Mommy, can I keep this puppy?” the boy cooed in his most persuasive lobbying voice that Cathy recognized immediately. “He doesn’t gots no collar, you know.”

Gently Cathy stroked the boy’s head. “I'm sure the pup has run away from home and his owners are very worried about him.”

“Yeah, but what if they don’t want him no more?”

“That is a very big if.”

Cathy was perplexed. She couldn’t believe that only six months ago he'd been crying his eyes out over old Sheba's death, and now he was ready to forget all about his best friend and get another dog! What was wrong with the child?

Michael came out to the waiting room. He'd donned his white lab coat to do the examination and looked like his professional self, the way Cathy was used to seeing him. The sports shirt, open at the neck, and the khakis he'd been wearing when he met them at the door tonight—rather charming, Cathy had found herself thinking.

Jason ran up to him and impulsively he flung his arms around the man’s waist.

“He's going to be O.K.? Can I keep him?” he cried all in the same breath.

Cathy’s eyes met Michael’s above Jason’s curly head, and with pursed lips she shook her head firmly.

“Well, the answer to the first question is a definite yes,” Michael said with a laugh, tousling Jason’s hair. “But the answer to the second question depends on two things. One, can we find the owner? And two, what will your mother say?”

“If we can’t find the owners, I can keep him, can’t I, Mom?” Jason turned back to Cathy and appealed to her with his big, brown eyes. Jim’s eyes.

“I think every kid should have a dog,” Michael said, looking at Cathy with his blue eyes. His very kind, smiling eyes.

Cathy frowned. Not him, too! She was being taken by storm here, and she didn't like it one bit. “Please wait here, honey,” she said to her son. “Could I see you for a moment in the next room, Michael?”

“Of course.” Michael opened the door into the examination room and closed it behind them.

The moment they were alone, Cathy directed her angry eyes toward the man whom she’d known since she and Jim had acquired old Sheba. “Little Sheba” she’d been at the time, and she and Jim had been newlyweds.

“Michael, you of all people know how Jason grieved for Sheba when she died! How can you even suggest he should have another pet? He’ll have to go through that pain all over again when the dog dies! They all do, eventually.”

“It’s been six months, Cathy. He’s obviously ready to love another dog.”

“It’s been only six months, Michael!”

“For a child that’s a lifetime. He’s ready, or he wouldn’t be begging to keep this pup.” Michael grinned. “And it’ll live a long, healthy life with me looking after it.”

“But… but…”

“Cathy, trust me. He’s ready to love again.” Michael reached out his hand and raised her chin gently. “While you, on the other hand, are still afraid to take that step. It’s been five years, Cathy. And you’re young and beautiful.”

Red heat rushed up her cheeks and Cathy turned her face away. Michael had asked her out once, two years ago, but she’d firmly turned him down. He’d never broached the subject again—till now.

“Are you saying you’re not as brave as your little boy?” Michael asked softly.

Somehow Cathy found herself closer to his broad chest. She could feel his heart beating under the white coat.

“I…it’s just that…” she faltered.

“There are no guarantees in life, of course, but…” Michael took her by the shoulders and pulled her closer. “I’m a very healthy specimen. Don’t you agree?”

She nodded, blushing again, as she raised her eyes to look at him. He certainly was! A handsome, healthy male.

Just then the dog moved as he was regaining consciousness, and Michael went over to look after him.

Cathy watched him administer to the puppy. How kind and patient the man was. So gentle with animals and so good to her son.

If he asked her out again, Cathy decided then and there, she would accept.

With the pup comfortably settled in a cage, Cathy and Jason got ready to leave.

“Even if the owner of this pup is found, I think Dr. Noble can help you pick out another dog,” Cathy said to Jason, and gave Michael a smile.

"Yahoo!" Jason jumped and hopped around the waiting room with wild whoops of joy.

“I sure can,” Michael assured him. Then he winked at Cathy. “If your mother will help me pick out a good restaurant where we all can have dinner this Saturday?”

About the Author: My publishing career is varied, from children’s books to romance, but my focus is romance. A retired teacher with BA in English, I belong to CANSCAIP (Canadian Society for Children’s Authors) RWA (Romance Writers of America) TRW (Toronto Romance Writers) and FATA (Finnish American Translators Association), which “says it all”.

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