Katie’s father, Steve, had been working behind the scenes doing everything he could to get Katie into a research program that was offered by a hospital in the adjacent state. Katie’s pediatrician had recommended it. He helped Steve complete all of the paperwork and he gave Katie the required tests. Something about Katie’s condition just didn’t fit the profile of a victim of polio.
Steve was coming to the ranch on Saturday to pick his daughter up for her first two weeks at the research center, and he had a big surprise for her.
***I know I’m just a dog, but I can tell when something is up. Everyone is bustling around and I hear them saying Katie’s name all of the time. Miss Bessie and Miss Helen bought her some pretty new dresses and new shoes. Why would she need new stuff just to play on the ranch? We spend our days having picnics under the tree or I push Katie around on the porch in her chair with wheels on it..
I made sure I stayed close to my new friend. I knew she needed me.
“Oh, Katie, you look so beautiful. I can’t wait until your daddy sees you in your new dress.” Grandma Helen gleefully clapped her hands. “You don’t look very happy. What’s wrong, honey?’
“I want to try to get better,” Katie said. “But I don’t want to leave Arf. He needs me.”
“You’re only going to be gone for two weeks at a time, honey. Then you will be home and you can play with Arf all day long. That is, until school starts. Your daddy has worked hard to make this happen. You must be grateful.”
“Sometimes I dream that I can walk,” Grandma Helen.
***Steve got there just in time for a quick lunch before heading back to Jamestown where the research hospital is. I stayed at Katie’s feet the whole time. I knew that she was going to leave. People I love usually do.
Steve got into the truck and Brad lifted Katie up and strapped her in beside him.
I stood there with my tail between my legs.
All of a sudden, I heard Steve yell, “Arf! Arf! come on Arf! You get the seat by the window!”
***I couldn’t believe it. I was going where Katie was going. We were going to be together wherever we were going. I love you, Steve!
“Now, how are you going to take care of a dog at the research hospital? They’ll tell you to turn that truck around and go back home,” Miss Bessie said.
“Oh, didn’t I tell you?” Steve was grinning from ear to ear. “Arf got accepted into the program, too. They’ll be training together. It’s what you call, Animal Assisted Therapy, or AAT. Patients work more diligently and try harder when they work with a dog. Katie will need to work hard and the doctors and I believe Arf will be a great partner for her.”
“Isn’t that wonderful?” Miss Bessie said, and then added. “My…Steve is handsome. This is the first time I’ve seen him without his hardhat on.”
“And he’s such a good father,” Grandma Helen said. “He asked me not to say anything while they were still here, but there is a good chance our little Katie will need to have some extensive surgery.”