Monthly Archives: January 2012
To celebrate the publication of Corgi Capers: Deceit on Dorset Drive, I’m sharing a short story to introduce you to some of the characters of Corgi Capers. Like the novel, the story targets middle grade readers (ages 8 – 12), but is something adults would enjoy reading to their children.
This tale features the stars of the novel, Sapphie and Zeph. You can find out more about the novel in my last blog post. The story also features one of the corgis’ online friends, Omar Blue. The corgis guest starred on Omar’s blog a while back—you can read all about it—and find out more about Omar and his book Omar Blue and K-9 Town, USA—here. Now it’s Omar’s turn to visit the corgis…
Be sure to check out the contest at the end of the story for your chance to win a free copy of Corgi Capers: Deceit on Dorset Drive. (Please note, this contest is now closed!)
* * * * *
Shadow of a Hope: A Corgi Capers Tale
By Val Muller
Zeph had been watching Adam all morning. The boy was preoccupied. He kept pacing his room and going to the window to peek down the road. Zeph lay at the threshold of the door. He rested his head on his paws, but he kept his eyes raised. If Adam wasn’t going to relax, then neither was he!
A scampering of soft paws on the carpet told Zeph his sister was approaching. Still, Zeph would not take his eyes off of Adam.
“Look, look, look!” Sapphie growled, circling Zeph. A barbeque-scented rawhide bone dropped from her mouth. “Courtney gave it to me. It’s called raw—”
“You’re always trying to think,” Sapphie groaned. She plopped down next to her brother and licked her rawhide bone.
“Look at Adam over there,” Zeph said. “He seems worried.”
“So, he’s my Person. I wonder what he’s thinking.”
“I’ll tell you what I’m thinking,” Sapphie said. “Remember that time we all walked to the end of the neighborhood? And our people kept dripping that delicious food, and we sat at picnic tables and—”
“Molly’s? Of course I remember. That stuff you ate was called ice cream, Sapphie.”
“That was good. But what I’m really thinking about is that awesome-smelling dumpster.”
“Sapphie, last time we were there you got yelled at for trying to get into that dumpster. Remember? Our people told you to stay away from it.”
“Hmph!” Sapphie pouted. “Shows what they know. I’m going back to that dumpster whether they like it or not.”
“What?” Zeph took his eyes off of Adam to look at his sister.
“I have a plan. A sneaky plan. It’s already worked twice, and I’m gonna do it again. Want to hear it? See first what I’ll do is—”
But before Sapphie could tell Zeph her plan, Adam jumped up from his perch at the window. “He’s finally here!” Adam yelled.
Sapphie and Zeph exchanged confused glances. Zeph turned back to his Person and couldn’t help but join in the excitement. Soon the room echoed with Adam’s cries and Zeph’s barks.
Adam pointed out the window. Zeph jumped on the bed to get a better look, and Sapphie followed. The two of them barked and barked, for there in the driveway, stepping out of a car, was the biggest dog either of them had ever seen.
And as Adam told them excitedly, he was a large blue Doberman, and his name was Omar Blue.
* * *
Omar Blue stood stone-still, lowering his eyes until the little pups felt ready to approach.
“Let’s go say hi,” Sapphie told her brother.
“I don’t know,” Zeph said, cowering behind a tree. He stepped out, one paw at a time, until he was within sight of the big dog.
Omar Blue lifted his eyes and offered a soft, friendly bark. Zeph startled but continued his approach. Slowly.
“How boring,” Sapphie moaned. “Let’s play, play, play!” She charged past her brother toward Omar. “Hi,” she yelled, crouching in a playful way.
Omar followed her lead, lowering his front legs as if ready to pounce. Sapphie charged first, and Omar let her pounce.
“This is fun, fun, fun!” she yelled to her brother.
Zeph kept his steady approach until he picked up the visitor’s scent. “He doesn’t smell scary,” he told himself.
Omar barked reassuringly. Sapphie ran and leapt and tackled her brother, sending him barreling into Omar Blue. Even Zeph’s little tail wagged, and soon the yard became a tangle of ears and paws as the dogs enjoyed playing in the midmorning sun.
* * *
Adam sat on his tire swing watching the corgis play with Omar Blue. He had never seen the pups so excited. He even wished Courtney were here to see them. But it was Saturday, and as usual she was at Park City Mall with her friends.
“They sure like each other,” said a voice.
Adam looked up to see Mrs. Pinkney leaning against the fence. “You didn’t get a third dog, did you?”
“No,” Adam said. “That’s Omar Blue. His owners were in the area. They’re friends of my parents, and Mom and Dad said they’d watch him for the day.”
Mrs. Pinkney nodded, but there was something sad in her eyes.
“Everything okay?” Adam asked. He hadn’t seen her this upset since her house was burglarized last summer.
Mrs. Pinkney sighed. “No. Not really. I haven’t seen Shadow in three days now. She’s gone off like this once or twice, but usually in the summer months. Never this late in the year.”
Adam looked up at the changing leaves and tried not to think about how cold it was getting to be at night. “I’m sure Shadow’s fine,” Adam offered. “Maybe she’s staying with a neighbor.”
Mrs. Pinkney frowned. “I’ve called everyone in the neighborhood. The Stoys. The Davenports. Even the new folks across the way. No one’s seen my cat. I was hoping maybe you’d seen her.”
Adam shook his head. “Sorry. But maybe I can help by putting up flyers.”
“I’d like that.”
Adam nodded and hurried to his computer. He popped on his fedora, thinking about what Riley Couth the Super Sleuth might do to find a missing cat. And then he got to work.
* * *
“Where did your Person go?” asked Omar. The dogs had been playing so frantically; they only just realized they were alone in the yard.
Zeph looked around fighting panic.
“Silly Zeph,” Sapphie said. “While you two were busy being boys, Adam went inside.” She stretched out on the cool patio and motioned to the glass door.
Zeph approached the door, and Omar followed. The two dogs cocked their heads to make sense of what Adam was doing.
“It’s something at the computer,” Zeph said.
“What’s a computer?” Omar asked.
“I’m not really sure. But I think I see a picture of—a cat.”
Sapphie’s ears perked up. “A cat? What kind? What color? Tell me, tell me, tell me!” She rushed towards her brother.
“I don’t know, Sapphie.”
“Is it a fuzzy gray cat? Is she cute with the deepest sparkling eyes?”
Zeph shook his head, ignoring her.
“I’ve never seen Adam play with a picture of a cat before,” Zeph said.
Sapphie growled and ran in frustrated circles around the yard. Every now and then she pulled out a clump of grass and ran with it hanging from her mouth. “Is she gray, gray, gray?”
“Yes,” Omar said.
This only seemed to agitate Sapphie more. She picked up speed, circling the yard like a race horse. Omar stepped into the yard. He’d seen lots of dogs in his day, but none so wild as little Sapphie. Even Zeph joined Omar. He was used to Sapphie’s behavior, but this was a bit much.
“What’s she doing?” Omar asked.
“Just let her get it out of her system,” Zeph said.
“Omar, Omar, Omar!” Sapphie managed on one of her passes.
“Yes, yes yes?” Omar asked calmly.
“Sit, sit, stay!” Sapphie shouted.
To humor the pup, Omar obeyed, curious to see what Sapphie had planned. With a final yelp, Sapphie charged at the Doberman and used him as a ramp, springing off his back to clear the fence.
For a brief moment, Zeph saw his sister suspended against the autumn sky. Then she toppled to the ground. Uninjured, she took off without another word.
But it was no use. Sapphie had already run out of sight.
Zeph ran to the back door and barked wildly. Omar joined in, and soon Adam opened the glass door just a sliver and peered out at the dogs.
“You three need to settle down,” he said. He held a stack of papers. He pointed to a picture of a small gray cat. “I need to ride my bike around to put up these flyers. You all stay and be good, and I’ll be back soon.”
Adam closed the door, leaving Omar and Zeph alone in the yard.
“He didn’t even see that Sapphie’s gone,” Zeph cried. He plopped down on the ground and whined. “She’s my sister, and I promised our dad I would always watch her. But now she’s gone, and I don’t know how to find her. By the time my People find out she’s missing, it might be too late.” He thought about all the trouble Sapphie had gotten into in her young life.
Omar nuzzled his new friend. “You may not be able to get out and look for your sister,” he said, observing Zeph’s short little corgi legs. “But this fence wasn’t meant to hold a dog like me. I’ll go find your sister, and I’ll bring her back. I promise.”
With that, Omar Blue took a running start and charged the fence. Then, just before impact, he leapt into the air, clearing the fence with ease. He didn’t look back, but he charged straight into the distance, following the scent of his new friend Sapphie.
* * *
When Courtney returned home from the mall, the house was unusually quiet.
“Sapphie!” she called, clapping her hands.
No one answered.
“Omar is visiting today,” Mrs. Hollinger said. “If they aren’t in the back yard, then I’ll bet Adam took the three of them for a walk.”
Frantic barking in the back yard made Courtney think otherwise. She opened the back door expecting to see three playful dogs. But instead she found only Zeph.
“Mom!” Courtney yelled. “Something’s wrong. Zeph’s all by himself. And Sapphie’s missing—again!”
* * *
Adam was enjoying the cool wind on his face as he biked through the neighborhood looking for places to put his LOST CAT posters. It was nice to be alone for once—away from Courtney’s gossip and Sapphie’s antics, from his father’s preoccupation with work and his mother’s obsession with grammar. He was gliding along, lost in his thoughts, when he heard the rush of a car behind him.
The car slowed, and Adam pedaled to the side to let it pass. But instead it came to a halt. Adam’s heart raced for just a moment, wondering who it could be and why it must be stopping. He had flashbacks of last August. But he shook it all away when a familiar voice shouted his name.
It was Courtney.
“Adam, something terrible’s happened! Sapphie’s gone, and so is Omar.”
Adam’s heart sunk. “What about Zeph?”
He was answered by a happy bark, and a tricolored head with tall brown ears popped out of the window.
“Adam, you’ve got to help us find Sapphie.”
“And Omar,” Mrs. Hollinger added. “I promised his owners we’d watch him. They’ll be so upset!”
“Alright,” Adam said. He hopped off his bike. “Give me Zeph. If anyone can find Sapphie, he can.”
Courtney opened the car door and handed Zeph’s leash to Adam. “Hurry,” she said.
“What about my bike?”
“I’ll ride it home for you.”
Adam’s eyes popped open and met a similar look of surprise on his mother’s face. But he shrugged off Courtney’s cooperation and watched her hop onto his bicycle. He took his extra LOST CAT flyers and tucked them into the band of his Riley Couth hat. Then he turned to his dog and said, “Zeph, find Sapphie.”
* * *
Sapphie’s scent meandered through the neighborhood. Under hedges and around fences. Her short legs made it difficult for her to jump over things without assistance, so she took the long way around. But not Omar. He was on a mission, and there could be no delay. He jumped heroically over fences and hedges. He let nothing stop him, not even when he saw people watching him from their windows and yards.
He smelled lots of new scents that would have made any other dog stop to investigate. But not him. He was Omar Blue, and he had a job to do. And so he ignored all the interesting smells and focused only on Sapphie.
Before long, he followed Sapphie’s scent to a clearing. It was a shaded area underneath some tall pines. Underneath the trees were a series of wooden tables and benches that looked like they could be used for a picnic. But there were no people there.
Omar paused for a moment, sitting on a soft bed of pine needles. He thought how comfortable they would be to nap on, but he shook his head. He wasn’t here to nap. He was here to find Sapphie.
His nose started up again, and before long he caught Sapphie’s scent. But there was something else that he smelled, too. Something nearly overpowering. Something that smelled like—a dumpster.
So Omar followed his nose until he caught sight of the green dumpster. It was near the shaded picnic area and directly behind a store. It was large and situated near the curb. And that’s where Omar found her. Sapphie was lying on the pavement near the dumpster. Her head was pushed down into a sewer drain, and her stubby little tail was sticking out in the air, wagging furiously. Omar barked to get her attention, but Sapphie could not turn around to greet him.
Her little head was stuck.
* * *
Adam held Zeph’s leash tight and hurried through the neighborhood on foot.
“Zeph, find Sapphie,” Adam said. He pulled his Riley Couth fedora over his brow.
Zeph’s nose twitched frantically, but he just couldn’t find Sapphie’s scent. Mrs. Hollinger had let him out of the car at the far end of the neighborhood—and Sapphie had run off in the opposite direction. Zeph barked in frustration.
“Please, Zeph. Try harder.”
Zeph barked again, pulling Adam.
“Good boy,” Adam called from behind the leash.
Zeph couldn’t help wagging his tail, but with all his anxiety he couldn’t stop barking.
It wasn’t long before this caught the attention of some neighbors.
“My,” said a man who was trimming back some plants around his mailbox. “What is it with dogs today?”
“Sorry!” Adam yelled as he hurried by.
“Another crazy dog!” said a woman loading some bags into her car.
“Must be a full moon tonight,” said a man walking down the street with his son.
Adam slowed and adjusted his hat. It was strange that everyone he met was making a comment about dogs. “What do you mean?” he asked the man.
“Just that animals tend to act a little crazy when there’s a full moon. First the little dog, then the giant dog, and now this one. All three uncontrollably excited…”
“Two other dogs?” Adam asked.
The man nodded. “A big one. Bigger’n most dogs I’ve seen. Must’a been a hundred, hundred-twenty pounds. And a tiny one with little stubby paws.” He looked at Zeph. “Looked kinda like your dog, kid. Only this one was even smaller.”
“Sapphie,” Adam whispered. “Which way did they go?”
The man pointed down the street toward Molly’s Ice Cream Parlor at the end of the neighborhood. Adam barely had time to thank him, for he was already halfway there, grabbing tightly on Zeph’s leash as the two of them charged toward Molly’s and the scent of the missing little pup.
* * *
Adam and Zeph raced all the way to the other end of the neighborhood. When they got to Molly’s Zeph stopped short.
“Is she here?” Adam asked.
Zeph barked and pulled, but Adam resisted. “Let’s stop in and see if anyone’s seen Sapphie or Omar.”
He peeked into the front door of Molly’s. There were bins of colorful candy and sprinkles, lists and lists of the dozen flavors offered, and colorful tubs of ice cream. But there were no people to be found.
“That’s odd,” Adam muttered.
Zeph pulled the other way, and Adam followed. They walked around Molly’s to the picnic area in the back. And that’s where Adam saw them.
Mr. Kirkland, the owner of Molly’s, was kneeling on the pavement. He had a portable phone in one hand and had the other hand partway down the sewer. Omar Blue sat next to him, eyeing the situation intently.
“Omar!” Adam said. “Mr. Kirkland!”
The dog looked up only briefly and then turned his eyes back toward the pavement. Mr. Kirkland saw Adam and Zeph, and he looked relieved.
“I remember you,” he said. “You have the two corgis. I found one of ‘em.” He moved his hand, revealing Sapphie’s little body, her head sticking down the sewer. “I think she’s stuck. I called the department of animal control. Maybe they’ll be able to help.”
“Sapphie!” Adam gasped. He rushed over and handed Mr. Kirkland Zeph’s leash.
“I tried to get her out,” Mr. Kirkland said, “but every time I try, she ends up growling at me. I didn’t want to upset her…”
Adam shook his head. “She’s more bark than bite,” he said. Adam knelt down and tried to pull Sapphie’s head free from the sewer. But Sapphie growled and squirmed. “I don’t think she’s stuck,” Adam said. “Sapphie, how about a cookie?”
Sapphie stopped growling long enough to consider the offer, but she kept her head firmly in the sewer grate.
“I’m pretty sure she could get loose—if she really wanted to,” Adam said, backing away from the sewer. “I don’t know what’s gotten into her. I bet Courtney could coax her out. Too bad I don’t know her cell phone number.”
“Well can’t you call your house?” Mr. Kirkland asked.
“I could,” Adam said. “But no one’s home. Courtney’s searching for Sapphie by bike, Mom’s searching for her in the car, and Dad’s out working on another architecture project. If I could only just figure Sapphie out…”
Zeph cried and pulled toward his sister. He barked and barked, but Sapphie wouldn’t budge. Omar had been quietly watching the whole time. He looked from Adam to Zeph and back again. Then he barked once.
“Quiet, Zeph. Quiet, Omar,” Adam said. “I need to think.”
Zeph sat at Adam’s feet and whined.
But Omar wouldn’t have it. He barked once more.
“Omar, shhh!” Adam scolded.
Omar stood on all fours. Then he paced back and forth. He stuck his nose down the sewer with Sapphie, then he trotted back over to Adam. Back and forth, back and forth. Zeph cocked his head.
“Omar, I’m trying to figure it out,” Adam said.
Omar trotted to Adam once more. He sat and barked. But Adam still didn’t understand.
Omar knew he had only one choice left. His owners had taught him not to jump up on people, but in this case Omar had no choice. As gently as possible, he jumped onto Adam, resting his two front paws on Adam’s shoulders.
Adam nearly dropped Zeph’s leash from shock. Omar was so tall, he towered over the boy. Compared to the corgis, Omar was a giant. Adam froze in place as, very gently, Omar reached for the flyers Adam had tucked into his hat. The dog grabbed a mouthful of them and returned to a sitting position. Then he dropped the flyers on the ground, barked once at Adam, and then ran to the sewer.
Adam readjusted his hat and scratched his head. What was Omar trying to tell him? Zeph caught on before Adam did. He clawed at one of the flyers. Then he barked at Adam.
Before long, Zeph and Omar were both barking at the sewer. “It can’t be,” Adam said, picking up a flyer. “Could Mrs. Pinkney’s cat be…”
Adam knelt down to investigate. Mr. Kirkland was ready with a flashlight. “They’re right,” Adam said, craning his neck. Two yellow eyes reflected from the depth of the sewer, and the flashlight beam revealed a trembling gray coat. “It’s Mrs. Pinkney’s cat. It’s Shadow.” He studied the situation some more. “It looks like she’s trapped. Her collar got caught on a piece of steel down there.”
Mr. Kirkland scratched his head. “The other day, I could have sworn I saw your little dog here at the sewer. She was running from the dumpster to the sewer and back again. Each time I came out to investigate, she’d disappear, but…” He scratched his head again. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say your little dog was actually—feeding the cat!”
With that, Sapphie popped her head out of the sewer and wagged her tail, barking at everyone.
“Alright, little pup,” Mr. Kirkland said, holding up his portable phone. “Help is on the way.” He turned to Adam. “I’ve never seen a dog so worried about a cat before. The two of them must be good friends,” he joked.
* * *
Later, Omar and Zeph piled into the back of Mrs. Hollinger’s van. They watched the world pass by the window—tired, but happy. Adam and Courtney sat in the middle, more relieved than anything else. But the happiest section of the van was the front: there, in the passenger seat, sat Mrs. Pinkney, cradling her little gray cat Shadow. And seated on her lap was little Sapphie, who nuzzled the cat from time to time. She was happiest of all, for not only had she gotten a whiff of the awesome-smelling dumpster, but she had saved her friend to boot.
* * * * *
Congratulations to the winner of Corgi Capers! Stay tuned for more contests in the future!
* * *
What happens when Adam Hollinger and his obnoxious older sister, Courtney, convince their absent-minded mother to allow them to adopt a pair of corgis — after their father explicitly said, “No!” ?
Author Val Muller answers this question as the mystery on Dorset Drive unfolds.
There’s a serial thief robbing every house in the neighborhood, including the Hollingers’. As the plot deepens and the suspense builds, Adam and the rambunctious corgi pups are determined to crack the case. Even Courtney can’t resist getting involved.
Corgi Capers: Deceit on Dorset Drive (223 pp., $8.99) is the perfect book for your ‘tween detective. From the brother/sister bickering and teasing, to the elderly couple that raise corgis, to Sparkles and Owl, the parents of four wiggly little corgi pups, to the pups who talk to one another and get adopted by their new people, this book will quickly become a favorite with your children. The story line is intriguing, the pups are adorable, and there’s plenty of humor to keep your children turning the pages until they reach the suspenseful climax.
Here and there light from a front porch spilled onto the road. Still, as he looked up, the trees took on sinister shapes. When the wind blew, a giant oak looked like a three-armed monster reaching out to grab him. And there was just enough of a crescent moon to show the filmy clouds hovering spookily in the sky, veiling the stars in a gossamer shade.
Adam shivered and turned on his flashlight. He felt like it was Halloween.
Zeph, on the other hand, was not afraid. His nose took over so that the darkness didn’t bother him.
“You’re braver than I am,” Adam admitted as he shined the flashlight at the oak — just to make sure it was still an oak.
With that, Zeph let out a long, low groowwwl.
“What is it?” Adam gulped.
Zeph froze, his nose pointed toward the cul-de-sac. A moment later, Adam heard the shuffle-shuffle-shuffle of feet.
“Is somebody there?”
Adam pointed his flashlight in the direction of the noise. A jogger dressed in dark clothing shielded his eyes from the flashlight.
“Do you mind?” asked the jogger in an energetic — almost nervous — voice.
“Sorry,” Adam said. “You scared me. Why are you jogging in the dark?”
“It’s the best time,” the man said hastily.
Adam shone the flashlight again on the man, but the man covered his face.
“It’s dangerous to be out in such dark clothing. Especially with a burglar on the loose.”
Adam pointed the flashlight once more at the stranger, but the man had already started jogging away.
* * *
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I hope you enjoy the interview. Feel free to leave a comment on Chastity’s blog.