It was a long drive to the Jamison Research Hospital. Steve drove his truck with Katie sitting in the middle and Arf on other side by the passenger window. Steve noticed Katie said very little and kept her arm around Arf for the entire drive.
“Are you nervous about today, honey?” Steve asked. “I know I should have paid more attention to what you and Arf have been doing these past several weeks, but you have been so secretive and you sure spend a lot of time off by yourselves.”
“I’m not nervous, Daddy, and I’m glad that you are going to be the only one there when we show Dr. Philips and Dr. Jones what we’ve been practicing.”
Steve chose not to broach the subject of Dina. Katie had been adamant that she didn’t want Dina there today. He had actually felt sorry for Dina when he told her that he thought it best that she didn’t come with them. He promised to report everything the doctors said about Katie’s progress or lack thereof. Dina said she understood, but he knew she was hoping for more. She had been trying hard to give Katie space yet show her that she loved her very much.
***Well, we’re on our way home. Bark, Bark, Bark, Bark, Bark, and Bark. That keeps going through my head over and over. What’s it going to be like when Katie takes twenty steps. She did great today. She took all six steps and could have taken more, but she had in her mind that she had to go six steps today, no more and no less. The doctors were very happy and they sent us to Sam for another lesson. He taught us how to start working together on Katie’s balance. The next thing was for her to stand without the walking sticks. She’s not supposed to walk without them yet, but she is supposed to stand on her own for longer and longer periods of time.
I sure hope Jamie is going to the Vet Clinic tomorrow. I’m in the mood to play with my friend Annie. We like to hunt for things.
“Katie, honey. I am so proud of you and Arf! I had no idea you two had come so far. Why did you keep it such a secret?”
“You’ll see, Daddy. Can I show everybody just as soon as we get home? Please Daddy I want to show everyone!”
“What about your mommy, Katie. Are you going to show her what can do?”
“Yes, Daddy. I really want to show Mommy that I can walk six steps.”
“Okay, but it’s all right if you change your mind about doing it tonight. Maybe you should wait until you’ve rested a little.”
“Oh no, Daddy. I could have taken a bunch of more steps today. I just didn’t.”
But when they got home, Dina wasn’t there. She couldn’t stand just waiting around the house for the day to pass, so she convinced Brad to saddle up one of his riding horses for her. She told him she had ridden many times…she just didn’t tell him it had been more years than she could count. He told her exactly where to go so she wouldn’t get lost and told her what time she should head back in order to be home before dark.
She felt so comfortable in the saddle she opted for a different route. She had heard Steve talk about the road he took on horseback from Brad’s ranch to the house she and Steve had once owned. She loved that house and she wanted to see it again even though she had been there only a few short weeks before. “If only,” she thought. “If only she would have stayed. How different things might have been now.”
Steve had just helped Katie into her wheelchair and was helping her to the kitchen when Brad walked out to greet them.
“Well…I see Arf’s tail is going a hundred miles a minute and you two have some pretty big smiles on your faces. My guess is the day went well. Miss Bessie, Grandma Helen, and Alice are going to be happy they argued themselves through fixing a special dinner for you tonight.”
“Are Dina and Jamie here?” Steve asked. “Katie and Arf were hoping to show them something.’
“Dina went for a horseback ride. I’m really surprised she’s not back yet. I was just coming out to see if she was down by the barn when I saw you pull in. I planned to unsaddle her horse for her. I don’t know where Jamie is, either. I was by her house earlier and she wasn’t there. I was sure she said she didn’t have to go into the clinic today.”
Steve had a bad feeling. He knew Katie would forgive Jamie if she didn’t make it. She didn’t live at the ranch anymore and she hadn’t been quite as involved in knowing the significance of today. Dina was a different story. She was Katie’s mother and he got the feeling that if Katie couldn’t share her success with her now, it would be a huge setback in the building of their relationship. One they both needed so much.
Everyone else waited in the kitchen while Brad and Steve took Brad’s truck to look for Dina. “She was just going to ride up to the little pond a few miles North. She must have changed her mind,” Brad said as they were on their way back.
“I have an idea,” Steve said. “She might have tried to find our old house. She was just there a few weeks ago, but she wasn’t on horseback and she was coming from a different direction. If she got off the road, she could very well be lost.”
The two of them drove all the way to the house and saw no signs of Dina. They tried to ask the new owners if she had been there, but they weren’t home.
They headed back to the ranch, hoping Dina had made it back.
“Look!” There’s the horse Dina was riding,” Brad said. She must be back!”
When they got inside, Miss Bessie met them at the door. “The horse came back,” she said, “but Dina wasn’t with him, and now Arf is gone. He must have gone to find Dina.”
“Where is Katie?” Steve asked.”
“She’s upstairs with Helen who is trying to convince her granddaughter that her mommy didn’t leave her again. Katie keeps saying she was too late. She had six things to tell her mommy and she was too late.”,
“You stay here, Steve” Brad said. “Katie needs you and I know the area much better than you do. Besides, Arf is looking. He’ll find Dina.”