Sundrop licks my cheek. I giggle. “Sundrop, do you want to play?” I ask.
I take his favorite toy, the squeaky yellow duck, and toss it across the room. Sundrop turns into a small golden blur as he races after it.
“Rrrrr.” He growls. “Rrrr to you, too.” I say as I yank on the toy, playing tug of war. “C’mon, boy, lets go eat your food!” Of course, I’m not eating it. I get to the kitchen and pour some beef kibble into Sundrop’s bowl. He sniffs it, then starts eating. “Good boy.”
After he’s done eating, I yell to my mom, “Mom, we’re going to the dog park!” She shouts back, “Alright, Iris!” One of the things I got to do when I turned 13 was take walks by myself. Pathetic, as some of my friends got to do that in fifth grade, but my parents are protective.
The sky is clear, with a few fluffy clouds, the sun is shining. Grass, slightly covered in dew, shines in the sun. A cool breeze flows through the air. Really, it’s a beautiful day. The walk from my house to the park takes about ten minutes. Sundrop snuffles along, occasionally marking his territory on a lampost or tree.
No one’s at the dog park when we get there. Well, there are the people at the park but not the dog park. In fact, there seems to be a barbeque or something of the sort going on. I open the book I brought, take off Sundrop’s leash, and throw the tennis ball. He races after it.
“Ruff!” He demands, wanting to play more. “Oh, fine, silly.” I say, and toss the ball. I check my watch, out of habit. 9:33 a.m.
We do this for a few rounds, but then I can tell Sundrop is getting tired. So we just sit there, Sundrop panting, me reading. He walks off after a while. Five minutes pass. Ten minutes pass. I put my book down. Where’s Sundrop? I think.
“Sundrop! Sundrop, boy, come here!” I call. “SUNDROP! SUUUUNNNNNDRRROOOPPPP!!!” Some people are staring at me, from the far away barbeque. I ignore them. I start to panic. Where is he? My precious little golden mutt, where is he? My legs get that panicky feeling that I get when I’m anxious. “SUNDROP!!!!!!!!!! BOY! WHERE ARE YOU? COME HEEREEE! SUNDROP!” No……..! Sundrop, the little drop of sun, the one who cheers me up, keeps me company, where is he?
He’s just on the far side of the run. You’ll find him there. I assure myself. I calm down a little, taking off into a sprint to the other side of the dog run, where, or so I tell myself, I’ll find precious Sundrop. My head turns swiftly side to side in search of my golden drop of sun. I barely avoid crashing into the fence at the other end. My knees fail me, knocking together as I realize the truth. Sundrop, the dog I value priceless, the light in my world that keeps me going, my little pooch. He is gone.
You idiot! Why did you get so engrossed into that cursed book that you lost him? I curse myself. Now he’s lost! I’m so mad at myself. Why were you not watching him? Then I freeze, because I remember I have to tell my parents. But that worry is gone in moments. Sundrop is the source of light in my world, and without him, I am nothing.
Racing back to the book, I pick it up and, with a strong impulse to rip it in half because of my anger at it, run back home. I don’t stop running, even though I have a cramp forming and I am gasping for breath. I literally break open the front door, collapsing on the mat, starting to hiccup. Then the tears start falling.
“Iris! Iris, are you okay? Where’s Sundrop? Iris!” My mother calls me, pulling me into her arms. “Are you hurt? What happened?” I sniffle.
“Sundrop.” I choke out. “Yes, what with hi- Oh.” She says. “Sweetie, we’ll find him, don’t worry.
“You mean...you mean you’re not mad at me?” I ask.
“I am mad at you, but, that won’t help anything in this case, will it? Now, Iris darling, let’s go hang some posters, what’d ya think?” I nod, sniffling.
So for the next half hour, my mom and I are busy typing, editing, typing, pasting, more typing, printing. We call my dad to confirm the price for the reward. When we’re done, the posters read, “Missing! Small golden mutt, has collar that reads ‘Sundrop’. If found, please call 592-455-0923 or return to 3637 Bucktail Circle. Last seen at Bay Dog Run at 9:30 A.M. $150 reward.” Underneath that, there’s a picture of Sundrop sitting and looking up. We go around town, putting up the posters.
But there is a feeling of unease that won’t go away. I start the day in my head while we’re in the car, driving to the bakery. Got up, played with Sundrop, went to park with Sundrop. Yes, let’s start there. At the park. I know that when I was playing with him, Sundrop didn’t leave. It was when we stopped playing, when I started to read that stup- that book. Then he wandered off. I searched the entire place, almost crashing into the fence- hey, wait! The fence. It closes around the entire place. The entrance even has a lock so that animals can’t get loose…..so…..how could Sundrop have gotten out?
The door is squeaky and rusted, so when you open it, you can’t help but make a sound. That’s why I think the possibility of Sundrop being dognapped is unlikely. But come to think of it, when I entered the park this morning with oh dearie Sundrop, it swung open without protest. The city must have polished the fence and greased the door.
I sit up straight and tell my mom this. She asks, “Does the fence have a hole?” No. No, it doesn’t. I don’t think so, anyway. And even though Sundrop is small, he can’t squeeze through the fence. So I say, “No.”
I’m starting to think it’s hopeless as we put up the posters. When we get home, there is another surprise waiting for me. And my mother. On the welcome mat outside of the front door, there is an envelope. I pick it up, finding that it is addressed to no one, that it is from no one. I open it, finding a piece of paper inside. I take it out and read it.
“Do you ever want to see your mutt, Sundrop, ever again? if so, leave $500 on the bench at Bay Dog run in envelope Tomorrow at 4:00 pm.”
By the end of it, goosebumps are all over me. “What….what do you think this….is...is....what is it…..” I stammer to my mom. She just stares at the paper. “Are we….giving the money?”
“No. We’re...taking this to the police.” My mom answers.
“What? But who knows what that horrible person is-” I start.
“Iris! We are going tomorrow. You don’t know, but there have been cases in Sumer like this one. The people who’s dogs were stolen received a threat like this.” She pauses. “Some gave the money and found their dogs somewhere, like the place where the money was, sometimes at their house. However, some went to the police, told them, and the police staked out at the money place. A person came, sometimes with the matching dog, and he, or she, would be arrested if they were seen to be taking the envelope of money. But this is the interesting part. The ‘dognappings’ happened again and again, even though the police arrested many people. So there is most likely a large group of people, taking dogs for money, even though they’re getting arrested. Though some criminals were bailed out, most likely with some but not all the money. No one has identified the whole ‘gang’.”
I’m in even more shock. How could I have lived here for my whole life and never known about this? “But...how come you or Dad never told me? And what happened to the people who didn’t do anything? There were people like that, right?”
“Yes. There is. There was. If you simply ignored the note, the missing pet, well, people think the ‘gang’ sells your pet, therefore collecting more money. It’s not confirmed, but there have been a few times where someone’s new dog is familiar and responds to its supposed previous owner. Only a portion of the missing dogs ended up here, in Sumer, though. Some might’ve been sold to other cities, other states even. You never knew because when you were younger, when some cases happened, you were in about third to fifth grade, and every time we brought it up,” She stops and lets us both in since there’s no point in talking right in front of your house, “you just covered your ears and shouted, ‘I don’t want to hear it! Stop talking about it!’ so your dad and I gave up on telling you.”
“Oh.” is all i can think of to say. Again, out of habit, I check my watch. 10:47. It’s been about an hour since Sundrop disappeared.
The day drags by. It turns out my mom had to go out somewhere, so we couldn’t tell the police. Without Sundrop, the house, the whole world even, seems empty of everything. Empty of light, of happiness, of...everything. I curse myself for bringing the book, getting distracted by it mostly, as I usually bring along a book.
My sleep is restless. Finally, at 6:30 in the morning, which is early, I guess, for a Sunday, I decide I can’t sleep. I come downstairs, stumbling into the yellow duck. A pang of pain enters my heart. My mom and I go to the police station. The officer that’s behind the desk looks surprised to see us, but she quickly fix that up.
“Hello, how can we help you?” the officer, whose name tag says ‘Lia’ says.
“Well, uh, well yesterday I took my dog to the dog park and then I lost him have you seen the sig-” I rush. My mom interrupts me. “Another one of those dog-napping things.” Officer Lia nods.
“Alright. Where’s the place?” Place? What place? Like the place I brought Sundrop to? I said that already, right? “The stone at Bay Dog Run.” My mom says. Lia nods again, writing notes down. “And the dog?” I speak before my mom gets to, “Sundrop. He’s a little golden mutt.” This goes on, Officer Lia asking questions, me or my mom answering, the officer nodding, taking notes.
“Okay, you guys are all set. We’ll call you when it is done.”
I should feel relieved, I guess, but I just can’t imagine the things that could go wrong. The person not coming. Him or her snatching the money away, without Sundrop. Him or her coming at the wrong time on purpose. Sundrop dead. No, I can’t think that. Sundrop’s alive, I tell myself.
At 5:00 o’clock P.M., we receive a phone call. Turns out to be one of my mom’s friends. Then, right now in fact, comes Call Waiting! “Sorry, someone is trying to call us.” My mom says, “Bye!” She switches to the other call. Her face gets happier and brighter as she talks with the person. “Really?...When can we go?.....Who was it?.....Oh…...But thank you. She hangs up. I turn to her, hopeful. “Is….it?”
In the car, my mom tells me what happened. The person, apparently named Camille or something, set down Sundrop (am I getting the order right?), went for the money, which was fake money, Monopoly money, saw the police and bolted. The police didn’t catch her. But Sundrop is SAFE!
We get there, and I hear a barking that is very, very familiar. “Sundrop.” I say. “Sundrop!” I burst open the door, and a small golden dog appears. I get down on my knees and spread out my arms as he races toward me.