Please meet Anastasia Pickering. She is a six-year-old philosopher who uses her out-of-the-mouth-of babes wisdom to influence the characters in her life. Her innocent process always concludes with a cleansing, colorful rain that leaves hearts mended and emotions soothed.
Today is a very special day, for it is Anastasia’s sixth birthday and the day she gets her very first dog! A trip to the local animal shelter provides the perfect pet, but as the family leaves the shelter, their new dog, Rufus, seems frightened. Rain starts to fall as Anastasia ponders what will help her new dog feel better. Through the guidance of Patience, a ponytail-riding, blueberry-snitching fairy, Anastasia patiently gives her new doggie time to adapt. Practicing patience turns the raindrops into twinkling colors that magically help Rufus trust his new best friend. As the family drives home, a double-tiered rainbow blankets the sky. . .is that a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?
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The sound of the bright yellow alarm clock on Anastasia's bedside table shatters the quiet of the morning. Within seconds, she slams the OFF button and jumps out of bed. Moving so quickly she is almost a blur, Anastasia pulls her nightgown over her head and drops it to the floor. Rushing to her bedroom chair, she steps into a pair of shorts and yanks her "Dogs Rule" t-shirt over her head. She shoves her feet into a pair of flip-flops and dashes towards her dresser.
For a moment she stops and looks in the mirror. "I may be the only six-year-old kid in the whole world without a dog, but I'm going to change that today!" she assures her reflection. Anastasia yanks a brush through her long blonde hair and ties it with a ponytail holder.
She reaches into a birthday bag on her dresser and retrieves a new blue collar that she slides over her wrist. She reaches in again and pulls out a new blue leash, which she wraps around and around her waist.
Picking up speed again, she rushes towards the umbrella stand beside her bedroom door. Hastily shuffling through a rainbow-colored collection of umbrellas, she grabs a bright blue one and tucks it under her arm.
"Doggie day at last! YES!" Anastasia yells as she leaves her room and runs down the hall towards the bathroom.
In the bathroom she pretends to call her dog-to-be: "Here, Spot. Come on, Buster. Fetch, Sam." Hurriedly, she smears toothpaste on her toothbrush and brushes her snaggle-toothed grin. She spits, then splashes her face with water to wash the sleep out of her big blue eyes.
Anastasia dries her face and rushes down the steps covering two at a time. "I'm too excited to eat!" she yells from the bottom of the stairway.
"Slow down, Anastasia Pickering," her mother calls from the kitchen.
"Yeah, where's the fire?" asks Dad with laughter in his voice.
Anastasia charges into the kitchen, "I've waited my whole life for this day. Can we PLEASE go? Right NOW?"
"MAY we please go?" her Mom and Dad correct.
"Hold your horses, Pickles. The shelter doesn't even open until 9:00. Sit. Eat." Dad says as he points to her place at the kitchen table.
At 8:45 they are waiting at the door of the animal shelter. Soon, two other families arrive.
They hear the sound of a lock turning, and then the sound of barking piercing the walls of the shelter. "Listen, Mom. My new dog is calling me!" Anastasia says excitedly.
A young man with a large handlebar moustache opens the door. "Welcome everyone. Come right in," he beckons. Anastasia and the other children rush inside.
The mustached man looks at Anastasia and says, "I think your family was here first. Are you here for our skunk?"
"A skunk?" Anastasia squeals. "No way, I'm a dog lover!"
The mustached man laughs in a jolly way, very much like Santa's Ho, Ho, Ho. Anastasia likes him right away.
"Well then, you've come to the right place. Follow me, my dear, and we'll see what's behind the big red door."
The mustached man unlocks the door and everyone steps inside. For a second, all the dogs stop barking and stare at the people. Soon, the barking begins again, but the sound is happier.
The first kennel is full to the brim with a huge black dog. He looks more like a small pony than a dog, but he wags his tail and grins. Anastasia places her hand flat against the kennel door and he does the same with his paw. "Good grief, your paw is as big as my hand," she laughs.
The black dog can't contain his excitement. He jumps against the kennel door and every side rattles!
Anastasia is startled. She jumps back and falls on her bottom. "You are just too big for me!" she proclaims. A tall boy dressed in a blue tshirt approaches the dog's cage, so Anastasia moves on.
At the second kennel, a little girl with curly brown hair admires a poodle. The pup is whining to get out of the cage. When the mustached man unlocks the cage door, the poodle runs in circles around the little girl. Ten, twenty, too many times to count! Finally he crawls onto her lap and curls into a ball. Anastasia turns to her parents and says, "Those two make a nice match."
Anastasia moves to the last cage and peers inside. Her heart jumps. She sees a medium-sized dog about as tall as her knees. He is white with brown spots. The hair on his face and ears is wiry and sticks out in all directions.
Anastasia kneels in front of the kennel. "You look just like me when my hair is full of static electricity," she laughs. Ruff, ruff, he barks and buries his face in his paws.
"Mom, Dad, it looks like my birthday wish has just come true!" Anastasia says to her parents. They smile and give the "thumbs up" sign.
The mustached man opens the kennel door and the dog bounds out. He jumps onto Anastasia's lap. "I think he likes me," she giggles. Anastasia rubs his ears and scratches his tummy. The dog gives her lots of licks in return. He barks a playful hello.
"You sound like your name should be Rufus," she says. "Do you like that name?" she asks as she slips the new collar around his neck and clips the leash to its metal ring.
"We'll take this one," Dad signals to the mustached man.
When Mom, Dad, Anastasia and Rufus leave the shelter, Rufus runs between Anastasia's legs and hides his face against her foot.
"I think he's feeling a little nervous," Anastasia says to her mom. "Is it ok if I walk around with him a little?" "Sure," says Mom. "Dad and I will wait by the car."
The girl with the curly hair and her family step out of the shelter. She's trying to hold the little poodle while he's wagging his tail and licking her face. Between giggles, the little girl notices Rufus. "I don't think your doggie wants to leave," she says.
"He just needs some time to get used to me," Anastasia replies.
Anastasia walks Rufus around the yard. He sniffs all the bushes, flowers and trees. She watches him curiously.
"Rufus, your tail is dragging and your ears aren't perked up like they were when we were inside," she says sadly. "Are you looking for your old family? Did you think they would be outside waiting for you?" she asks.
Sadly, they walk back to the shelter steps and sit down.
Anastasia takes Rufus's face in her hands and looks into his eyes. "Rufus, I wish I knew what to do to make you happy."
Rufus cocks his head and looks at her. It begins to sprinkle.
"I hope you don't mind sprinkles, because I'm always running into them," Anastasia explains. "I carry an umbrella everywhere I go!" Anastasia opens her umbrella. Blue sprinkles bounce on its top, roll down its sides, and fall into the fur on Rufus's back.
"I promise to give you a good home," Anastasia sighs. The blue raindrops change to green and fall a little faster, running onto his back, dripping down his legs, then sliding into cool puddles around Rufus's feet. "I'll take excellent care of you," she assures him.
He prances and splashes until he is drenched.
Rufus lifts his eyebrows. Anastasia notices and lifts her eyebrows too. "Could you be feeling better?" she asks. "Will you let us be your new family?"
Rufus wags his tail, slowly at first, then faster and faster! Laughing, Anastasia says, "Your tail looks like a whirly bird! You are feeling better!" Green raindrops fly from the fur on Rufus's tail and splatter against Anastasia's shirt.
Rufus steps back, turns his head and snaps at a yellow raindrop. Anastasia lowers her umbrella and catches a red raindrop on her tongue. "Rufus, this game is fun! Would you like to play tag?"
She picks up her umbrella and the chase begins! They run around a picnic table, across the lawn and then towards her parent's car. Yellow and red raindrops fly from Anastasia's umbrella like colorful butterflies.
Thrilled with Rufus's change of mood, Anastasia stops and runs her fingers through his wet fur. Mixtures of colored rain drip from her fingertips. Rufus rubs his face against her foot and sneezes.
"I'm so glad you feel better," she says. "I know you will love living with us." Suddenly aware of the change in the weather, she sticks her hand out, palm up. "Hey, Rufus, it's stopped raining!" she exclaims.
As all wet doggies do, Rufus plants his feet and gives a great big shake that starts with his ears and travels down his body all the way to his tail! Raindrops blanket the sky: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet! The colors twinkle and shine like diamonds in the sunlight!
"You're still soaked! Hold still, Rufus, and I'll dry you," Anastasia offers. She twirls her umbrella between her palms and a gentle breeze forms in the air around her. It blows through Rufus's fur and through her long ponytail. Soon they are both dry.
Dad opens the car door for his daughter and her new pet. Rufus eagerly jumps in the back seat. "This day is SO COOL!" Anastasia exclaims. "Thank you so much for Rufus."
"You're very welcome," her parents reply.
The new family drives out of the parking lot and heads towards home. A double-tiered rainbow catches Mom's eye and she points it out to the others.
"Isn't it beautiful? Just like a watercolor painting." Mom says.
Anastasia turns and looks at the rainbow through the back window. "Look," she says, "the rainbow ends right on top of the animal shelter!" "Maybe the moustached man will find a pot of gold," laughs Dad.
Anastasia smiles, reaches over, and twirls a few strands of Rufus's wiry hair between her fingers, "I sure found my pot of gold there."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Anastasia's Rain"
Copyright © 2013 Sheila Kilpatrick.
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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