Jamie didn’t know what to do. She had just learned from Brad’s aunt that his younger brother, Tom, is an aerial firefighter.
Mrs. Jones seemed to be very proud of the nephew she and her husband had raised from the age of twelve. Yet, the letters found in the attic sounded as if when Tom confessed to Mr. and Mrs. Jones that it was him who started the fire and not Brad, they had begun to resent Tom and maybe even mistreated him.
“Mistreat Tom?” Mrs. Jones said in disbelief. “Of course we didn’t mistreat him. It was Tom’s own guilt that drove him away from us. He began to misbehave and we laid down some rigid rules. It could have partially been a teenager’s rebellion, I suppose.” Mrs. Jones said as if the possibility had just occurred to her.
Jamie couldn’t decide what she should do with the information. Should she tell Brad and let him pursue a relationship with his brother, or should she go talk with Tom, first?
She finally decided she would talk with Tom before saying anything to Brad. Her intuition told her that it was not going to be easy for the brothers to rebuild a relationship. Brad had told everyone that he was the one who started the fire that had killed their parents and sister, and convinced Tom it would be better that way. Brad blamed himself for causing Tom the pain of living a lie. Who knows how Tom felt about Brad? It appeared that he finally couldn’t stand it any longer and told his aunt and uncle the truth. That couldn’t have been easy.
Because of Tom’s schedule, Jamie realized it could be a while before she would be able arrange a meeting with him.
With Arf’s help, Katie got stronger every day. He was her best friend and the source of her motivation. He inspired her and made her believe that she could learn to walk.
Within a week of getting home from the hospital, Katie began to work with Arf. She tried hard to be patient. They had to start from the beginning and exercise hard and faithfully to build up Katie’s strength and stamina. Arf remembered all of the signals and commands. He also remembered how to prompt Katie and when to push her to do more and when to let her rest.
Katie insisted the two of them work alone and everyone in the household respected her wishes. She was scheduled to be checked for progress in six weeks. All they could do was pray and be supportive in other ways.
Arf really liked the pretty lady. He learned her name was Dina. She was sad at first, but as she settled in, some of the sadness seemed to go away.
Steve had gone back to work. He acted a lot happier, too. Maybe because Dina was there or maybe he was happy to be working again.
Dina was constantly keeping herself in check. She didn’t want to put any pressure on her daughter, who didn’t seem ready to accept that she was her mommy, so she tried to show her how much she cared in other, subtle ways. Dina realized the main thing she had to do in order to build trust was to stay at the ranch no matter how she felt about living there. If she left, Katie would never be convinced her mother wanted to be involved in her life, forever.
“Arf,…I’m really getting stronger aren’t I?” Katie asked one day when they were outside enjoying a picnic lunch that Miss Bessie had prepared for them.
***I was really interested in what was in the basket. Had Miss B remembered to pack a good bone? I could smell tuna fish sandwiches but I don’t like tuna fish.
Katie was sitting in her wheelchair enjoying the cool breeze. She was leaning forward to look in the basket to see if she could find a bone for me, when I sensed something. I picked the basket up by it’s handle and moved it to a flat spot a few feet from where we were. Then I pushed Katie’s chair over by the basket. My next move was to get the folding stick we always keep in the back pocket of the chair. When I brought it to Katie and then sat down directly in front of her, she shook her head.
“No, Arf, I can’t.” she said. I’m too afraid.”
**I didn’t move. Neither of us moved for a minute or two and then not knowing what else to do, I reached into the basket and came out with a little package of cookies.
I was hoping Katie would understand that she could have a treat if she just tried to stand. She was right. She was getting stronger all the time. She had the walking stick to support one side and she knew that I would raise up and sit on my back legs. She could steady her other side by holding onto me. If she started to fall, she could put her arms around my neck and I would gently let her down into her chair. There was no way she could get hurt even if she slid to the ground.
Katie could do this, and we both knew it. She got a determined look on her face and asked, “Are you ready, Arf?”
I lifted my paw which was the signal that I was ready. Katie used the strength of her arms and with one hand she held onto the walking stick. She placed her other hand on my head. Looking straight ahead, she slowly began to raise herself up out of her wheelchair.
Katie could feel new strength in her legs. She was standing. She had stood once before, months ago, but she was weak then and hadn’t trained with Arf. She had immediately fallen back into the wheelchair.
This time was different. She lifted herself up with ease and stood with only a mild amount of shakiness. She wanted to stay there forever looking over the garden and the flowers. It seemed she could see so much farther than when she was sitting in the chair.
***I was so proud of my Katie. If dogs cried, I would have cried. When I knew the time was up, I gave the signal for her to lower herself back into the wheelchair.
“You can’t tell anyone, Arf,” Katie begged. “Not until I can walk, but I stood for a very long time didn’t I? Now reach into the basket and give me those cookies. I know for sure there’s a good bone in there, too.”