Girl's Best Friend

Tiffany was practically vibrating with excitement as her father pulled into the parking lot. Today was the day! Her family was finally going to pick out a dog. Inside that plain, brick building was her new best friend.

She had been begging her parents for a dog since the second grade. A dog would always be on her side no matter what. Tiffany wouldn't have to worry about her dog making fun of her hairy arms or hanging out with other people behind her back. Her dog would be nothing like those kids as school. It would be the purest friendship ever.

Last month she had even prepared an entire PowerPoint presentation on the benefits of owning a dog. That had gotten her mother reminiscing on her childhood pets. Then, at dinner on Monday, her father announced that this weekend they would go to the local SPCA to see if there were any dogs that could be a good fit for the family. It was the longest week of Tiffany's life. As soon as the car was parked, Tiffany flung off her seatbelt and swung open the door.

"Hold your horses," her mother commanded.

With a frown Tiffany closed the car door and turned to look at her parents.

"We are only looking at dogs today. There is no guarantee that a good match for us will be in there. Got it," her mother warned with a raised brow. She looked pointedly at Tiffany's older brother, Danny, who was slouching in his seat.

He sat up straighter and replied, "Got it, mom."

"Tiffany?"

Tiffany released a sigh. Her mother had said the same thing before they left the house and again during the drive.

"I got it," she replied, tossing her braids over her shoulders.

"Alright, then. Let's go," her father announced.

Tiffany launched herself from the car, her feet slapping against the pavement as she raced toward the door.

"Hurry up," Tiffany called as she pranced in place at the front door. Her mother laughed. When her family finally reached the entrance, Tiffany wrenched it open and stepped inside.

"What can I help you folks with," a woman sitting behind an information desk asked.

"We're here to look at dogs," Tiffany announced.

"Well, you just have to go down the hall and to the left. Sign-in at the desk and then you can took a look," the woman replied smiling widely.

Tiffany made to dash down the hall but was stopped when her father grabbed her by the shoulder.

"Stop running," he warned before releasing his grip.

Tiffany scrunched up her face and waited next to her father as Danny and her mother caught up with them.

"I don't want a tiny, little lap dog," Danny groused. "I want a dog I can play catch with. It'll help me with baseball."

Tiffany rolled her eyes. Danny was the starting centerfielder for his baseball team. All he ever talked about was making his arm stronger so he could throw the ball farther. A dog was a family member not a baseball trainer.

"Yeah," Tiffany's father agreed. "I don't want a dog where we have to worry about some animal snatching it up out of the yard."

"That's true. I saw a hawk circling the neighborhood last week," her mother said. "But not a dog too big. We don't need anything over 40 pounds."

Her mother had enacted the 40 pound limit earlier when Danny and her father began to talk about rescuing a St. Bernard they found on an adoption Website.

"Guys," Tiffany complained. They hadn't even looked at any dogs yet and her family was already worrying about one being eaten by some wild animal.

With tremendous patience, she followed her family down the hallway and waited while her father filled out the sign-in sheet. They were the first people to visit that Saturday morning.

"Okay," he said, motioning toward the door.

Tiffany scrambled forward and tugged the metal door open. She immediately wrinkled her nose in disgust.

"Ugh. This is definitely where the dogs are," her mother remarked.

Tiffany slowly walked down the aisles of kennels to stare at the dogs. Once the dogs noticed people were in the room, they exploded into a frenzy. Some dogs stood at the fence barking wildly. Others jumped at the door of their kennel while some cowered fearfully in a corner. There were dogs that weighed more than Tiffany and dogs that looked smaller than her father's hand. Tiffany was beginning to feel overwhelmed when a young man dressed in an SPCA uniform approached her father.

"Can I do anything to help you guys," the young man asked.

"Yes, actually. We're looking for a family dog," her father replied.

"Well, I can certainly help you with that. Do you have any specific requirements?"

"We're looking for a dog between 15 and 40 pounds and relatively young," her father answered.

"We definitely have dogs that you'd be interested in, then," the young man answered looking thoughtful. "How about you guys go into the yard outside and I'll bring out some dogs for you to meet."

"Sounds great."

The young man pointed to a door on their left.

"Just go out that door and into the yard on the far right and I'll be right out."

Her father called over Danny and her mother, who were cooing at a trio of puppies the next aisle over, and went outside. The yard was small and enclosed by a chain link fence. In the corner, a large oak tree provided shade. The grass was green and springy.

Tiffany bounded over to the yard's gate when she saw the young man coming out of the building followed by a short brown and white dog.

"This," the young man said as he ushered the dog into the yard. "Is Toby. He's a four year old Beagle mix."

Danny and Tiffany crouched down to let Toby sniff them. Toby wagged his tail frantically and gave both of their hands a friendly lick. The dog stepped passed Danny and Tiffany to smell their parents and then flopped under the shade of the tree.

"He's cute," her mother commented.

"Yeah," Danny agreed. "But is he always so…"

"Lazy," the young man finished with a laugh. "Yes, he is."

"I think we might need a dog with a bit more energy," her father said.

"I'll bring out another dog," the young man replied. He called Toby over and went back into the building. He emerged a few minutes later with a white dog that ran ahead of him as far as the leash would allow. The dog, a Terrier mix named Bella, spent the whole time in the yard running in circles yapping.

"I don't think that's the dog for us either," her father remarked, rubbing his ear as Bella was led away. Tiffany was starting to feel disheartened. She just wanted a best friend, but what if her dog wasn't in the shelter? How long would she have to go without a dog? Maybe she was asking for too much. She started to smooth down the hair on her arms when the young man brought out the third dog.

"This sweet guy is Bugsy," he said, unclipping the dog's leash.

Bugsy excitedly bounded up to Tiffany and began to sniff her shoes. Bugsy had oversized black ears that felt like velvet in Tiffany's hands, a short nose, and a stubby tail that he was wagging in delight.

"He's kinda cute," Danny said, bending down to scratch Bugsy behind the ears.

"He's not kinda cute. He's the cutest," Tiffany proclaimed.

"What's his story," her mother questioned.

"Well, Bugsy was surrendered to us less than six months ago. He's a purebred Boston Terrier. He'll be two just before Christmas," the young man answered.

"Someone got rid of their purebred dog?" Tiffany's father asked incredulously.

"Yeah, something about his owner's wife not wanting to care for him or something. I don't know why. He's one of the best behaved dogs in here."

"That's just cruel and a waste of money," her father replied.

"People suck!" Tiffany declared. She couldn't believe that anyone would willingly give their dog up. Especially a guy as great as Bugsy. Bugsy had flopped over onto his back so that she and Danny could rub his belly.

"They do, but he doesn't let that get him down," the young man cooed at Bugsy. He walked over to the fence and fished out a tennis ball from a hanging bucket. The young man offered the ball to Danny. As soon as Bugsy saw the tennis ball, he jumped up and stared at Danny expectantly.

Danny threw the ball to the other side of the yard and Bugsy flew after it. He was running so fast dirt was flying out from beneath his paws.

"Does he do well in the car," her mother asked the young man.

"Yeah, I've only taken him out for a car ride twice, but he was fine. He just stuck his head out the window," he replied.

"What does he need to go in the car for," her father asked.

Her mother shot her father a flat look.

"Between taking the kids to school, driving Danny to baseball and Tiffany to art class, and picking up your dry cleaning I feel like I spend half my life in the car. I'd like to have some company."

The more the family played with Bugsy in the yard the more Tiffany became convinced that he was the one for their family. He was the perfect size, age, and energy level. Bugsy was just like Tiffany too. His old owners had cruelly given him up for no good reason just like some of the kids at school were mean to Tiffany without cause.

Danny threw the ball for Bugsy until the dog tiredly laid down beneath the Oak tree. His tongue lolled out of his mouth as he panted.

"What do you guys think?" the young man asked.

"I love him," Tiffany yelled.

"Me, too," Danny agreed. "He's just what we're looking for."

Danny started to massage his shoulder and grinned down at Bugsy.

The young man looked at Tiffany's parents. Her mother regarded their father while chewing her lip.

"We really like him, but I don't think we can take him home today," her mother said after a beat.

"Mom," Tiffany whined.

The young man put his hands up in a placating manner.

"A dog is a big responsibility. If you need to think about it some more that's fine."

When the young man took Bugsy back into the kennel, Tiffany felt tears begin to prick at her eyes.

"Tiffany, I did warn you," her mother said. Tiffany ignored her mother and stomped out to the car. She didn't say a word the entire ride home.

Tiffany was still upset over Bugsy when her mother picked her up from school on Monday. She slid into the backseat and ignored her mother's greeting. Her mother rolled her eyes and stopped any attempts at conversation. When they pulled up to their house, Tiffany saw her father's car in the driveway.

"What's he doing home so early?" she asked.

Her mother broke out into a huge grin. Tiffany's heart jumped into her throat. As soon as the car stopped, Tiffany jumped from the car and burst into the house.

Sitting in the middle of the kitchen, begging her father for a piece of his turkey sandwich, was Bugsy.

"Bugsy," Tiffany cried, sinking to her knees on the linoleum floor. Bugsy bounded into Tiffany's outstretched arms.

She couldn't believe it. Bugsy was her dog now. They would be able to spend every day together. Before she knew it tears began to fall from Tiffany's eyes.

"Are you crying?" Danny asked in disbelief from the doorway.

Tiffany's parents started to laugh. In her arms Bugsy wriggled around and started to lick the tears from Tiffany's face. She didn't think it was possible to be any happier.