By Linda Porter Carlyle
Joseph Anderson Donetti and MacKenzie Isabelle Evans stared out the car windows. “J!” Mac shrieked. “On that license plate over there!”
“I can’t find one!” Joseph complained. “Js are hard.”
“There’s a J,” Mr. Evans, Mac’s dad, said, pointing.
“J!” Joseph echoed, reading “Jacksonville Highway” on the sign.
“K!” Mac announced. “Right there! On the Western Bank building.”
“K!” Joseph said. “On that license plate right in front of us.”
Joseph and Mac continued playing the alphabet game until Mac’s dad pulled into the parking lot in front of the appliance store. He turned off the motor.
“I won!” Mac announced, flopping back against the seat. She’d been looking for a “W” while Joseph still searched for a “V.”
“Yeah. But I was close!” Joseph said. “And I’ll beat you on the way home!”
Joseph and Mac followed her dad into the store. They had come to look at new refrigerators. Mac’s mom said their refrigerator was on its last legs. Which had made Mac laugh. She imagined the refrigerator standing on tall, stilt-like legs that slowly crumpled underneath it until it fell over onto the kitchen floor and died. She knew Mom meant the refrigerator wasn’t keeping the food cold enough anymore and that the repairman had said it was really too old to fix. But Mac liked her mental picture.
In the store, Joseph and Mac passed a row of stoves on their way to the refrigerator aisle. There, refrigerators stood at attention on both sides of the aisle. Mac stopped, opened a door, and peeked inside. “This one has glass shelves,” she said. “And really, really big shelves in the door!”
Joseph poked Mac’s shoulder. “Look,” he whispered.
Mac looked down the aisle. A little golden lab puppy trotted over to a refrigerator and sniffed it.
“Oh!” Mac exclaimed. “How cute! What does that say on its jacket?”
The puppy wore a green jacket with white letters. They read, “Guide-dog puppy in training.”
“It’s a baby guide-dog for the blind!” Joseph said.
Mac shut the refrigerator. She and Joseph walked toward the puppy. The woman holding the puppy’s leash smiled at them. “Would you like to pet Cass?” she asked.
Mac dropped to her knees and touched Cass’s silky hair. “She’s so cute!” she exclaimed. “Did you ever see such a cute puppy?”
“How old is she?” Dad asked, behind them.
“Ten weeks,” the woman answered. “I’ve only had her for two weeks so far. But she’ll live with our family for the next year or so. Then she’ll go back to the school for her special guide-dog training.”
“That would be really hard—to send your dog away after a year!” Mac exclaimed, looking up.
The woman nodded. “Yes, it’s hard. I know—I’ve done it twice already. But Cass is not really our dog. We have to keep that in mind. She has a very special job to do one day. And it’s our family’s job to get her started out right.
“So Cass will go everywhere with us and get used to people and all kinds of places,” the woman continued. “She’s allowed to go anywhere we go because one day she will need to accompany her blind partner everywhere.”
Cass stretched out on the floor and gave a big sigh. She shut her eyes. Joseph stroked her ear.
“I wish I could have a guide-dog puppy!” Mac said wistfully.
“If you’re really interested, there’s a Guide Dog 4-H Club here in the valley. In fact, I’m the leader of the club,” the woman said. “You’re welcome to come to our meetings and see what we do and get to know other puppy raisers. Maybe you’ll decide you’d like to join us.”
“Could I?” Mac asked eagerly, looking at Dad. “Could I please do that? Please! Please!”
Dad smiled. “I don’t see why you couldn’t go to a meeting,” he answered. “That doesn’t mean I’m giving you permission right now to become a guide-dog puppy raiser,” he added quickly. “But we can find out more about the program.”
Mac jumped up. “You just never know what will happen when you go to look at new refrigerators!” she exclaimed.
Dad and the 4-H leader laughed. “Give me your phone number, and I’ll have my wife call you about when and where your meetings are,” Dad said. He pulled a pen and a business card to write on out of his shirt pocket.
Mac knelt down again to pet Cass. Cass opened her eyes and scrambled to her feet. Her little tail wagged back and forth. “You’re so cute!” Mac murmured.
After Cass and the 4-H leader left, Mac scuffed along behind her dad from refrigerator to refrigerator. Dad opened doors and talked to the salesman about sizes and prices. But Mac’s mind was not on refrigerators anymore. It was on guide-dog puppies. “Want to go with me to a guide-dog meeting?” she asked Joseph. “Maybe we could raise guide-dog puppies together! Wouldn’t that be fun? We could take them with us everywhere! And people would stop and talk to us, and we could tell them all about guide-dogs.”
“Sure!” Joseph answered. “I’ll go.”
Dad finally decided which refrigerator he wanted to have delivered the next day. He wrote out a check, and it was time to leave.
Back in the car, guide-dog puppies were all Mac could talk about. “And raising a guide-dog puppy would practically be a missionary project too!” she went on. “I mean, it’s a perfect way to serve someone else who really needs it! A blind person couldn’t even have a guide-dog unless people raised the puppies until they are old enough to go to school and learn all that special stuff!”
“We should tell Pastor Chuck about it,” Joseph put in. “Maybe that lady could come to Sabbath School, and all the kids could learn about guide-dogs and blind people and stuff.”
“That’s a brilliant idea!” Mac exclaimed, bouncing on the seat. “We can call him when we get home.” She took a breath. “Maybe I’ll be a guide-dog trainer when I grow up. In between when I work at a soda fountain and when I fight fires I mean!”
If you are interested in learning more about guide-dogs, check your local library or this Web site: www.guidedogs.com