December 2019

The bus creaked to a halt and made a scary noise, but he stood firm, brave. Two kids got off, but neither of them was Emily. The doors closed and the bus rumbled off down the puddled street. Where was she? She always came home on this bus. Was she gone forever? Maybe she needed help.

Letting out a small whimper, Oatmeal’s ears drooped back down in disappointment. He stood up and trotted the opposite direction. He followed along his favorite route for Walks, searching for Emily’s scent. He sniffed all the way to The Park — their favorite place to go together — but she wasn’t there either.

He laid down in the grass and watched his friends play with their humans. Some were playing Ball — Oatmeal was good at Ball. Ball was Oatmeal’s favorite. But now wasn’t the time for play. He needed to find Emily. He stood up and continued his search, further than he and Emily had ever gone together. He sniffed down new streets, with lots of new smells. People gave him strange looks, and some humans yelled at him for sniffing. They chased him away and called him Bad. But he was looking for Emily, how could that be Bad?

He wanted to go home, to cuddle up with Emily on the couch, and eat food together when Mom brought it. He couldn’t give up until he found her and made sure she was safe. When it got dark, Oatmeal realized he didn’t know where he was anymore. All these new smells were overwhelming, and the rain made things worse. He crawled under someone’s porch, turned three circles to check for angry vacuums, and laid down to sleep.

In the morning, he awoke to another human yelling at him, chasing him from his sleeping spot. He continued to wander through the town, checking every scent. Oatmeal hoped Emily would know how to get home, but he worried, because sometimes it seemed like she wasn’t a very good smeller. She might have a hard time by herself. What if a vacuum came for her? He wouldn’t be there to scare it away.

By midday, Oatmeal was very hungry. After being chased away by more strange humans, he caught a familiar scent, and realized he was near The Park again. He passed through it (still no Emily) and continued home. Maybe Mom could help. As he scratched his paw against the front door, he heard a voice inside. Could it be?

The door opened and there she was. He jumped up on her and licked her salty wet face.

“Oatmeal! Where did you go?” She said, giggling and wiping her face and nose with her sleeve. “I need to tell you all about my new school!”

Oatmeal didn’t know what any of this meant, but it didn’t matter. They were together again.