Light Up The Night

By: Regina Cole

A Firehouse Three Novel



1.

Big, brown puppy dog eyes had always been her kryptonite. Everly Pitts knelt, stretching out her hand palm-down to the prick-eared, tan and black shepherd. With a couple of sniffs and a friendly wag of his thick tail, he gave the back of her hand a brief kiss.

She ran her fingers down his spine, noting the obvious bony ridges. Poor guy hadn’t been eating enough; that was clear. But his teeth were strong and white, and though his nails were too long, he looked fairly healthy. His tail never stopped wagging during her examination.

“You just need some fattening up and a couch to call your own, don’t you, pup?” She scratched behind his ears and got another exuberant kiss for her efforts. Perking up, he began wiggling and sniffing around in earnest. “We’ll get the vet to double-check him, but as long as he’s heartworm negative and he passes his personality tests, I think he’ll be ready to adopt in a week or so.” Satisfied, she pushed to her feet and looked at Charlie, the shelter staffer who held the dog’s lead. “So, he was a surrender?”

Charlie nodded in answer to Everly’s question, her freckled nose wrinkling. “Yeah. Apparently he belonged to a man who had a massive stroke recently. It left him a vegetable, poor dude. He just went into a long-term care facility, and this kiddo was passed around for a while until the family got tired of him. They brought some paperwork.”

Everly took the stained manila envelope from Charlie, watching as the dog wagged and panted, obviously excited to be in a new place. He had a nice attitude. Hard to believe that none of the family had wanted him. Shepherds were pretty high-energy dogs, but they were very trainable, and this kid looked eager to please. He looked to be pretty young, maybe about six months or so at most, in that gangly stage where he looked to be mostly tail and elbows. Scanning through the documents, Everly grinned.

“I’m going to have to call Jesse about this one.”

“Really?” Charlie looked up from scratching the dog, her blonde braids falling over her shoulders with the motion. She’d always worn her hair that way, even though she was a couple years older than Everly.

“Definitely,” Everly said as she scanned through the rest of the records. “This guy is a purebred Belgian Malinois, and they’re ideal for what she does. Got his pedigree and vet records in here. Don’t take pictures of him yet. I don’t want to put him on the website before she’s had a chance to check him out.” The envelope rustled in her hands as she put the records back inside. “She’s been looking for another pup to train, and I’m going to score tons of bestie brownie points for this one.”

Charlie smiled as she scratched Otto Von Pickles—that was his overly odd name, according to the records Everly held—once again. “You’re going to love it at Jesse’s. She has the best cookies.” Blowing air kisses at the dog, Charlie ruffled his ears.

She was so good with all the animals—sure, confident, cheerful. And people too. Everly envied that of Charlie. In contrast to Charlie’s homegrown confidence, Everly was sporting a whole lot of awkward when it came to the two-legged kind of critter. In the six months since Charlie had been there, she’d quickly become Everly’s right hand.

Everly nodded down at the pup. “And, let me do you a favor. We’re going to call you Sirius for now. You’re much too nice of a boy to be called ‘Otto Von Pickles’ for the rest of your life.”

“Sirius?” Charlie stood, wrapping the leash around her hand.

Everly shrugged. “Jesse’s got a thing for Harry Potter, and she’s already got a Lupin and a Dumbledore. This way, I get to say I named him when he’s a famous search and rescue dog.”

Laughing, Charlie patted her leg. “Come on, Sirius. Let’s get you a bunk.”

Everly watched as the pair walked back to the kennel area of Hopeful Paws, the pet rescue she’d started what felt like forever ago, but was really only eleven months. This place had rapidly become her heart. She’d poured everything into it—her time, her energy, and pretty much every dime she had.

The lobby area was empty, so Everly passed through it on her way to the room just behind—her office. The mountain of paperwork scattered over her desk wrung a big sigh from her as she sank into her beaten leather chair, a Goodwill find. Bills. The lights, the Internet, the web hosting, the rescue’s van, dog food, cat food, vet visits, all of it cost money.