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copyright 1999, Lois June Wickstrom 

Life With Kerzelle

by Lois June Wickstrom


Chapter One -- Kerzelle Adopts Us

It was time to get a dog. My dad wanted a dog that would play with all of us. My mom wanted a dog that would fit in the shower with her, so it would be easy to wash. I wanted a dog that would fetch.

We looked in the newspaper classified ads under ``Pets for
Adoption.'' There were lots of ads for big dogs that needed big yards. We live in the city and have a small yard. There were ads for puppies. We wanted a dog -- already grown, so my mom would know how big it was going to be. Also, my mom says she stayed up enough nights with me when I was teething. She never wants to go through teething again. My parents are older than most kids' parents, so they need their sleep.

One ad looked perfect. ``Small female poodle-mix. 3 yrs old.  Free to good home. 555-7879.''

We called and talked to Tim, the man who placed the ad. He just lived a couple blocks away. When Tim answered the door he told us, ``Take off your shoes before coming in. My family is from India. In India we do not wear shoes in the house.'' His voice had a singing sound. No sooner were we in the door when a small black dog with white paws ran up to my dad, who rubbed her behind the ears. Then she ran up to my mom, and licked her hand. When she came to me, she rolled over on her back so I could rub her tummy.

While I rubbed, I looked at Tim. He had grey hair and a bald spot in the middle, and he walked with a cane.

My mom asked, ``She's so friendly. Why are you giving her away?''

Tim said, ``Our neighbor was going to give her to the pound.  That's the most horrible place in the world. I took her home with me, but our pit bull doesn't like her, so she needs a new home.''

``I like her,'' I said. ``And we don't have a pit bull.''

``I like her, too,'' said my mom.

``We'll take her,'' said my dad.

The man gave us a piece of paper with his phone number. ``Her name is Kerzelle,'' he said. ``If you change your mind, call me.  I'll come get her. Just make sure she never goes to the pound.''

We gave him a piece of paper with our names and phone number. Tim looked at my name. He said, ``Phoenix. That's an unusual name.'' 

I said, ``Phoenix is a bird in Egyptian myth. When it dies, it
comes back alive from its ashes.''

Tim said, ``May you have the luck of the phoenix.'' We put on our shoes. Then Tim fastened an old leash on Kerzelle and we walked her home. 

The first thing Kerzelle did in our house was jump on my mom's bed and take the stuffed raccoon doll my mom keeps there. She wanted to play fetch. I knew my mom wouldn't want dog slobber on her raccoon.

I said, ``Buff, you're busted.'' She let me take the doll out of her mouth, as if she knew she wasn't supposed to take somebody else's toy. Then I took $2 out of my drawer and biked to the thrift shop. It's only 4 blocks from my house. I picked a stuffed animal shaped like a dog for 50 cents. I also looked around and saw a nice dog jacket and a dog travel box that looked about the right size for Kerzelle.

The salesman asked, ``Aren't you too old for stuffed toys?'' The salesman is big round black man with a gold tooth. Sometimes when I come here, he's standing on his head. I'm a little bit afraid of him.

I didn't want to tell him my mom has stuffed toys. And I didn't want to tell him it was for a dog. I've heard him say, ``Things in my thrift shop are for people who need them.'' So I just said, ``It's for somebody younger who's staying at my house.''

``You can play with it right away,'' said the man. ``Everything in our store is washed before we put it on sale.''

I paid the salesman and took the toy dog home to Kerzelle.

Kerzelle loved her dog. I threw the dog. Kerzelle ran so fast she
caught the toy dog before it hit the ground. When she had it
firmly in her teeth, she shook it by the neck. My dad laughed and said, ``Poodles are hunting dogs. I'll bet she points, too.'' Then Kerzelle brought the stuffed dog doll back to me so I could throw it again.

We played fetch for about half an hour. Then Kerzelle went to the door. ``She wants out,'' said my mom. ``Make sure the fence is closed.''

The whole family came outside to watch Kerzelle squat by the peach tree. I remembered they all came to the bathroom when they were toilet training me. ``Good girl!'' said my mom. ``Good dog!'' said my dad. I said, ``Good Kerzelle!'' and walked over to pet her when she was done.

Kerzelle let me get close, but not close enough to touch her. Then she perked her ears and dashed a few feet away. I followed.  Again, she perked her ears, and dashed under a gardenia bush. I laughed. ``She's teasing me!'' I said. Kerzelle waggled her tail and if it's possible for a dog to smile, that's what she did. We played tag for about ten minutes. Then she wanted to go inside again. Before I went in I picked up a ripe peach that had just fallen from the tree, all fuzzy and warm from the sun. I bit into it and the sweetness flooded my mouth.

Kerzelle wandered around the house sniffing everything. Finally she crawled under the end table beside my bed, where I keep my bedtime reading, and the clothes I've worn once, but aren't dirty enough to wash. She spun around three times and went to sleep.

Kerzelle was still napping when Tim called us. I could hear his
cane tapping in time to the music of his voice. ``Is Kerzelle making herself at home?'' ``She's sleeping under my end table right now,'' I said. Tim said, ``That's good. I really like her.  Call me now and then to tell me what she's doing.''

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Chapter Two -- Kerzelle Goes to the Vet

After Mom took Kerzelle with her into the shower the next morning, she announced, ``Kerzelle has fleas. We'll have to buy her flea shampoo.''

My dad said, ``I've made an appointment for her at the
veterinarian's. I'll pick some up after her exam.''

``Can I go with you?'' I asked.

``Of course,'' said my dad. ``She's your dog, too.''

``Will we ride in the car to the vet?'' I asked.

``Yes,'' said Dad. ``The vet is too far away to walk.''

``How will Kerzelle wear a seat belt?'' I asked.

``Good question.'' said my mother. ``I've never seen a dog in a seatbelt.''

``I saw a dog travel box at the thrift shop,'' I said. ``And a
nice dog jacket, too.''

``Good idea,'' said Dad. ``Let's go get them.''

The dog travel box is too big to carry in my bike basket. My dad and I walked the 4 blocks to the thrift shop.

The salesman was standing on his head when we came in, but he righted himself and said, ``Back again? Need something else for your young visitor?''

``Our visitor is a dog,'' said Dad. ``And I think she's staying
for a long time.''

``Dad!'' I said. ``This is a thrift shop. I think the stuff
here is for people.''

The salesman smiled, showing his gold tooth. ``Some of our stuff is especially for people who have dogs.'' He took us straight over to the travel box and the little dog jacket -- cut just like a bomber jacket, but for a dog.

My dad said, ``These are just what we were looking for.''

Then the salesman came up to us with a red bandanna. ``This will go nicely with that jacket. I'll give it to you as a bonus for being such a good customer.''

``We'll have to bring Kerzelle by here all dressed up,'' said my
dad.

``I'll look forward to that,'' said the salesman. He smiled,
showing his gold tooth again.

When we got home, my mom put a pillow in the travel box and put the travel box into the back seat of the car. Kerzelle knew just what the box was for and leaped in.

Kerzelle started to cry when the car bumped in potholes. There are a lot of potholes in the city. My dad sang her a song.

``Dogs are nice and dogs are cute.
Dogs are silly and dogs give a hoot.
Dogs are friendly and dogs are warm
Dogs wag their ears and dogs cause storms.''

``They don't either cause storms,'' I said.

``It rhymes and Kerzelle likes it,'' said my dad.

When we got to the vet's Kerzelle didn't want to get out of her box.

``She can smell that we're at the vet's,'' said Dad. ``She's
been to a veterinarian before. Or maybe she smells the animal hospital next door.'' I could smell it too -- kind of sour and
bitter.

``Come on Kerzelle,'' I said. ``I'll hold you.''

``She'll need some shots,'' said my dad.

``She'll need me to hold her,'' I said.

In the waiting room was a picture of an old building with lots of stone columns. The label said ``Parthenon.'' 

``That's in Greece,'' said my dad. ``Skoros is a Greek name, so maybe Dr. Skoros has family there.''

Dr. Skoros, the vet, had big bushy black eyebrows and very pale skin. He looked almost like a negative image of Kerzelle. She had white spots in her black fur where eyebrows should have been. Dr. Skoros made me let go of Kerzelle so he could weigh her on his scale. She weighed 16 pounds. Then he let me pick her up again and put her on his metal table.

``It's cold,'' I said.

``She doesn't seem to mind,'' said my dad. ``She likes how you are holding her.''

Dr. Skoros felt Kerzelle all over. ``She's been fixed,'' he said. 
``She'll never have babies.''

``That's okay,'' said Dad. ``We just want to make sure she's healthy.''

``She looks fine,'' said Dr. Skoros. ``But we'll need to run
blood tests to be sure.''

``I hate it when they take my blood,'' I said.

``Do you want to leave?'' asked my dad.

``No,'' I said.

Dr. Skoros said, ``It's important to test Kerzelle for heartworm.  If the blood test comes back negative, we'll start Kerzelle on medicine right away so she doesn't get either disease.''

``You mean Kerzelle has to take medicine if she's not sick?'' I
asked.

``This is a serious disease,'' said Dr. Skoros. ``Heartworm can kill your dog. If she takes a pill every month, you won't have to worry.''

``I got shots for polio and tetanus,'' I said. ``Can't Kerzelle
just get a shot?''

``Kerzelle can get shots for Parvo virus, rabies, Lyme Disease and some other diseases, but not for parasites like heartworm.''

``Let's get her the blood test today,'' said Dad. ``And if it's
negative for heartworm, we'll bring her back for all the other stuff.''

``Good idea,'' said the Dr. Skoros. ``You should also get her hair trimmed. The weather's hot right now, and Kerzelle doesn't shed. The only way to help her stay cool is to trim her hair.''

``That reminds me,'' said Dad. ``We need to get a bottle of flea shampoo.''

``You can buy one when you pay for this visit,'' said Dr. Skoros.  ``I'll call you in a few days with the results of the blood test and you can schedule another visit for her shots and pills.''

``Okay,'' said Dad.

``My assistant will hold Kerzelle while we draw her blood for the test,'' said Dr. Skoros.

``I promised her I'd hold her,'' I said.

``You can hold her, too,'' said Dr. Skoros.

Kerzelle didn't even squeak when the needle went into her.

``I've never seen such a good dog,'' said Dr. Skoros.

``She's wonderful,'' I said.

``The best,'' said my dad.

On the way home, I joined my dad making up silly dog songs.

``Dogs have fur and dogs have tails.
Dogs eat munchies and shop at sales.
Dogs run fast and dogs sleep slow.
Dogs are friendly wherever they go.''

Kerzelle wagged her tail in time to our song.

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Chapter Three -- Kerzelle Gets Her Hair Trimmed

We looked in the yellow pages and found a pet beauty shop right near our house. Funny we'd never noticed it before.

The woman who owned the pet beauty parlor answered the phone herself. ``Pets Beautiful. Marlene speaking.''

I was surprised to hear an adult introduce herself to me by her first name. 

``We're all on a first name basis here,'' she said. ``What's
your dog's name?''

``She's Kerzelle,'' I said.

``When would Kerzelle like to come in?'' asked Marlene.

``Could you see her this afternoon?'' I asked.

``Is Kerzelle a big dog?'' asked Marlene.

``She's 16 pounds,'' I said. ``And very friendly.''

``Bring her in,'' said Marlene. She sounded nice. Her accent was from somewhere is Asia.

I put Kerzelle on her leash. The sidewalk was hot from the sun, but Kerzelle didn't mind. She stopped to smell every weed that poked up from the cracks. It took twice as long as usual to walk the four blocks to Pets Beautiful. While Kerzelle was smelling a dandelion puff, we met Tim out walking with his cane. 

Kerzelle waggled her tail at Tim and did something I'd never seen before. She jumped straight up in the air, like a helium balloon rising on a string. Tim petted her head at the top of her jump. Then in his musical voice he said, ``She looks happy.'' 

Finally we arrived at Pets Beautiful. It was right near the
thrift shop. When we got there I knew why I'd never noticed the pet beauty shop before. The window was full of dog food and dog toys and pictures of dogs before and after. I'd never had a dog before. When I rang the bell, dogs barked.

I saw a woman with long straight black hair put a big shaggy dog into a travel box and aim a hair blower on it. Then she came to the door. Her shop smelled like freshly washed dogs. There was a travel poster for Korea over the sink, so I thought, that's where Marlene's accent comes from.

``Hi,'' she said. ``I'm Marlene. You must be Kerzelle.''

``And I'm Phoenix,'' I said.

``Hi, Phoenix. Do you know what kind of trim Kerzelle wants?''

``I've never had a dog before. What kind of trims are there?''

Marlene got out a book of dog pictures. First she showed me fancy poodles with puffs on their feet and tails. Then she showed me a poodle with plumes on its ears and its tail.

``I want something less fancy,'' I said.

``How about a puppy cut?'' said Marlene. She showed me a picture of a cute little dog with its hair cut close all over its body.

``I like that,'' I said.

``You just leave Kerzelle with me,'' said Marlene. ``She'll be
ready in about four hours.''

``Can I stay and watch?'' I asked.

``No,'' said Marlene. ``If you're here all the dogs will want to come out and play.''

So I went home. The house felt empty without Kerzelle. I read a book on dogs. It talked about how important it is to touch your dog while you train her. I wondered what Kerzelle would feel like without all her wonderful deep thick fur.

Finally it was time to pick Kerzelle up from the beauty parlor. I remembered walking right to this spot without a dog many times. Still it felt strange to be walking here without Kerzelle. I
wondered if I'd recognize her. Once I didn't recognize my
teacher, Ms. Maya, when she got a new hairdo.

I rang the doorbell. This time I could see that Marlene was
trimming a dog that was suspended from the ceiling in a hammock like babies bounce in. I heard her say, ``Now be good, Cuddles.  I'll be right back.'' Then she came to the door and let me in.

``See if you can guess which dog is Kerzelle,'' she said. Then she went back to trimming Cuddles. 

The room was lined with travel boxes. I knew Kerzelle wasn't one of the big dogs, so I went to the wall with the small boxes. There were three little black dogs with white feet in boxes right next to each other. All three of them wiggled their tails at me. Two of them smiled. I really didn't know which one she was.

Then one of the dogs stood up. It was a boy. I went over to the remaining smiling dog. ``This one!'' I shouted.

``Good job, Phoenix!'' she said. ``I didn't think you'd recognize her.''

``I didn't,'' I said. ``She looks so little.''

``She'll be much cooler now,'' said Marlene. ``Here's her collar and leash. And here's the bill.''

I looked at the bill. $25. ``That's more than I've got with
me,'' I said.

``Take the bill and Kerzelle home,'' said Marlene. ``You can pay me later.''

When I took Kerzelle home, my mom said, ``Are you sure this is Kerzelle? She looks so small.''

Kerzelle wiggled her tail and flapped her ears. My mom gave her a munchie from the dog biscuit box she'd bought at the grocery store.

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Chapter Four -- Kerzelle Eats Food Off the Floor

Sunday morning, I decided to make blueberry pancakes. Kerzelle followed me to the kitchen. She wiggled her tail, stood up and licked my hand. I knew if she could talk she'd say, ``Feed me first.''

I opened the refrigerator to get her can of dog food. When I reached for the can, I accidentally knocked a leftover piece of pizza on the floor. Before I could bend over to pick it up, Kerzelle tore off the plastic wrapper and ate the whole thing.

``Are you still hungry for breakfast, Buff?'' I asked.

Kerzelle looked hungrily at the can in my hand, so I scooped some into a dish for her. She ate the whole thing.

Then I started to make the pancakes. While I was measuring the blueberries, some of them bounced onto the floor. Kerzelle ate them as soon as they landed. This gave me an idea for what to do with leftovers in the future.

My dad came into the kitchen. He eats like a little kid. He
went straight to the cabinet where we keep the canned goods and got out his can of spray cheese goop. 

As he was spraying the cheese onto a slice of bread, I asked, ``Do you think Kerzelle would like some cheese goop?''

``I don't know,'' said Dad. He squirted some cheese goop onto his finger and held it out to Kerzelle. She licked his hand clean.

Then I told Dad about the pizza and the blueberries.

``I may never have to wash the kitchen floor again,'' said Dad. ``Do you suppose she eats carrot slices, too?''

``Only one way to find out,'' I said.

I got out a carrot and sliced off the end with the greens. Mom walked in as I was feeding it to Kerzelle.

``Why are you feeding her a carrot top?'' asked my mom.

``To see if she'll eat it,'' said my dad.

``She can have it if it falls on the floor,'' said my mom. ``But
she's got dog food. It's been @i(scientifically formulated to be best for her nutritional needs.) Or at least that's what the
label says. So please stop feeding her our food just to see what she'll eat.''

``It's just a carrot top,'' I said.

``And she likes cheese,'' said my dad.

The phone rang. It was the vet, Dr. Skoros.

``Calling on a Sunday,'' said my mom. ``I'm impressed.''

She listened for a while. Then she bounced on her feet like she does when she's happy and said, ``I've got to tell them.'' She turned to us. ``Kerzelle's fine. No heartworm. We can bring her in tomorrow for her shots and pills.''

I hugged Kerzelle. Kerzelle licked pancake batter off my fingers.

#

Chapter Five -- Kerzelle Stops Eating

Even though mom didn't want us to, Dad and I kept sneaking bits of food to Kerzelle to see what she'd eat. We discovered that she likes bread, and chicken skin, but not red cabbage.

My mom said, ``We're going to have to put in a dog door, so Kerzelle can let herself in and out. She goes out to squat by the peach tree, and out to chase cats, and out to bark at trucks to scare them away.''

``I didn't see one of those at the thrift store,'' I said.

``We can look there one more time,'' said my dad. ``They get new stuff in there all the time. But if they don't have one, we can buy one at the hardware store.''

``First let's eat lunch,'' said Mom. ``We're having pizza and
fresh peaches from our tree.''

``My favorite,'' said Dad. 

``Pizza is Kerzelle's favorite, too,'' I said.

``We'll have to be careful not to drop it on the floor,'' said
Mom. ``Or Kerzelle will eat it before we do.''

I saved a little for Kerzelle. After we'd cleaned up from lunch, I gave the little piece I'd saved to Kerzelle. She sniffed it, but
she didn't eat it.

``Something's wrong with Kerzelle,'' I said. ``She won't eat the pizza I saved for her.''

``Are you sure?'' asked Dad.

``Look,'' I said, holding the pizza under Kerzelle's nose.

``That's not normal,'' said my mom. ``Good thing she's going to the vet tomorrow.''

``Maybe she's not hungry,'' said my dad. ``Maybe she'll eat in the morning.''

My dad and I walked to the thrift store. ``Back again?'' greeted the salesman, his gold tooth glinting. He was sitting in a big armchair, legs folded together like a pretzel. ``What can I get for your dog today?''

``We'd like a dog door,'' I said.

``I just got one in this morning,'' said the salesman, unfolding his legs. ``I haven't had time to wash it yet, so I'll let you have it half price.''

``Thanks,'' said Dad. 

When we got home, Dad sawed a hole in the back door and put in the dog door. Then he got out an old board from the shed and showed me how to use the saw. 

``You really have to lean into the blade while you push down.  Then take your weight off and glide the saw back,'' he said.

It took me half an hour to saw that one board in half. But by the time I was done, I knew how to use a saw.

Kerzelle knew just what to do with the dog door. She went in and out all afternoon. 

``She must have had a dog door where she lived before,'' said my dad.

``That's great,'' said my mom. ``Now she can go in and out just like we do, whenever she wants.''

That night Kerzelle slept beside my bed, under the end table, with her stuffed dog doll beside her.

In the morning, she didn't eat her breakfast.

We took her to Dr. Skoros. She wagged her tail while we sang to her in her travel box. She didn't cry at all.

Dr. Skoros offered her some cheese goop. She just sniffed it. He said, ``Maybe she's depressed and misses her old home. I won't give her the shots or pills today.'' He petted Kerzelle and she smiled at him. ``You're not refusing food just to get out of a shot are you?'' he asked.

Kerzelle waggled her tail.

``I don't think a depressed dog wags her tail,'' said my dad.

``Watch her for a couple days and bring her back,'' said Dr. Skoros. ``If she's sick she shouldn't have her shots today.''

Kerzelle didn't eat anything for the next two days. She still
played fetch with me, but not as fast as she did when she was eating. She still slept under my end table. We took her back to Dr. Skoros.

Dr. Skoros put her on the scale. Kerzelle weighed only 13 pounds. 

Dr. Skoros said, ``I'd like to x-ray her to see if something is blocking her gut.''

My dad said, ``Okay.''

I said, ``Can I go with her?''

Dr. Skoros said, ``X-rays are too dangerous. I can't let you be in the room with her. But I'll bring her right back.''

He carried Kerzelle into a back room. It seemed like forever until he brought her out again. He had the x-ray with him. He said, ``I don't see anything unusual on this x-ray.''

``Then what's wrong with her?'' asked my dad.

``I don't know,'' said Dr. Skoros. ``I could open her up and look, or you could wait a few days and see if she starts
eating.''

``She's really sick,'' I said. ``She's not eating. And she
doesn't run fast any more.''

Dr. Skoros said, ``It could be cancer. She could die from the surgery. And it may be something I can't fix.''

``But if you don't do something, she'll die!'' I shouted.

``Do the surgery,'' said my dad.

``Take her home with you tonight. Don't even try to feed her anything but water. If she's still not eating, bring her back in the morning for surgery.''

I was worried and sad when we brought Kerzelle home. But we still sang silly dog songs to her so she wouldn't cry when we went over potholes.

``Dogs are silly and dogs have ears.
Dogs are wiggly and have no fears.''

That night, Kerzelle crawled under the covers with me. I knew my parents wouldn't approve. But it was Kerzelle's last night before her operation. Maybe her last night ever. I couldn't blame her for wanting to snuggle up against someone she loves.

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Chapter Six -- Kerzelle's Operation

The next morning, Kerzelle still didn't want to eat. I didn't want to eat either. We drove her to Dr. Skoros office, attached to an animal hospital. I wondered if the pound smelled like the animal hospital -- if you're a dog.

``Do you think we should call Tim and tell him about the
surgery?'' I asked Dad.

``I think we should wait until the surgery is over,'' said Dad. 
``And I hope we can give him good news. He was good to rescue Kerzelle from the pound.''

I carried Kerzelle into Dr. Skoros' office. He was there to meet us.

``I'll set her up with an intravenous drip to put her to sleep,''
he said. ``I'll do the surgery at about 10 AM, and I'll call you as soon as I know anything.'' My dad gave Dr. Skoros his work number. I petted Kerzelle not wanting to stop.

My dad said, ``You don't want to be late for school. Dr. Skoros will do his best.''

I was crying when we left the office. When I got my breath back, I asked, ``Who will call me?''

My dad said, ``I'll call the school office as soon as Dr. Skoros calls me.''

I can't pay attention in class. My teacher, Ms. Maya, asks me, ``What do you think about the Bill of Rights in the Constitution?''

I tell her, ``My dog is having surgery this morning. She may not live.''

``That's scary,'' she says.

A messenger from the office comes in the classroom.

Ms. Maya says, ``Phoenix, your dad's on the phone for you in the office.''

``Does it say anything about Kerzelle?'' I ask.

``No,'' says Ms. Maya.

I go to the office, afraid to pick up the phone. But I do it.

My dad is almost laughing. ``It was a peach pit,'' he says. 
Kerzelle ate a peach pit. She's a small dog with narrow guts. The point on the peach pit ripped a hole in her guts, so she couldn't eat. But now she's going to be fine. Dr. Skoros wants to know if you want to save the pit.''

``She's not sick?'' I ask to be sure.

``She's got a small infection where her gut ripped. Dr. Skoros has medicine for her. It's not cancer. She's out of surgery.  She's fine.''

``I'm sawing down that peach tree when I get home from school,'' I say. ``Before we go get Kerzelle.''

``I thought you loved fresh peaches,'' says my dad.

``I love Kerzelle more,'' I say. ``And we can always buy peaches at the store.''

``Okay,'' says Dad. ``What kind of tree do you want instead?''

``Something with small pits -- an apple tree.''

I can't pay attention in class even after I know Kerzelle is all
right. I can't wait to get home and saw down that tree. I can't wait to go to the vet's and bring her home.

It takes me over an hour to saw down that tree, but my mom and dad let me do it myself. They know how important it is.

After I saw down the tree, my dad drags it out to the trash. My mom, dad and I search the yard for any fallen peaches, and throw them away, too. My mom calls the nursery and orders an apple tree.

``This free dog is turning out awfully expensive,'' I say.

``That's true,'' says my mom. ``But Kerzelle's worth it.''

The vet says, ``She's pretty tired after the surgery. She'll
probably just lick an ice cube tonight. Tomorrow you can try to feed her again, but she'll need special food.'' He gives us cans of special food. And bottles of medicine. ``Bring her back in a week for another exam. If she's eating well by then, she can have her shots and her pills.''

That night, Kerzelle doesn't just lick ice cubes. She drinks bowls of water. She sleeps under my end table. And in the morning, she ate a whole can of her special food.

We called Tim to tell him Kerzelle was all right. He said, ``It
seems Kerzelle has become a phoenix herself. I'm glad she found a good home.''

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Chapter Seven -- Kerzelle the Guru

The next day for homework, Ms. Maya, my teacher, told us to write
about something we learned that wasn't in school.

All the way home, I thought about things I've learned. How to
walk. How to ride a bike. How to shop at the thrift store.

Those were things anybody can do. I thought about how my dad
taught me to use a saw. Maybe I'm the only one in my class who
has sawed down a tree.

When I opened my door, Kerzelle greeted me with her stuffed dog doll. I took the doll and threw it. She chased after it and brought it back to me.

I said, ``Buff, I've got to write a paper about something I
learned that wasn't in school.''

Kerzelle smiled at me and waggled her tail in answer. Then I knew. I had to write about Kerzelle.

I'd only had her a week, and already I'd learned about heartworm and fleas. I'd learned about how different she looks before and after she's trimmed. I learned about what dogs eat and what you have to keep away from them. I learned how to use a saw...

Then I remembered the night Kerzelle was dying. She crawled in bed with me. She must have been in pain from the peach pit. And she must have been hungry. She hadn't eaten in days. But she wasn't feeling sorry for herself. She didn't hide. She didn't try to bite me or Dr. Skoros when he felt her all over.

She thought about me. She wanted to be with me on what might be
her last night on Earth. That was the night I learned about
love.

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