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Katy Werling's parents think she's spending the night with a friend, unaware their child is lying severely injured at the bottom of a ravine. A crisis in their marriage consumes them, preventing them from focusing on anything other than their crumbling lives.
Neighboring families, all facing their own catastrophes, are equally oblivious to a black dog's attempt to capture their attention.
Will any of them look past their individual struggles to discover the dog's urgent message and save the child?
At ten p.m. on the night after the last day of school, ten-year-old Katy Werling rushed down Emily’s driveway in her pajamas and onto the steep moonlit blacktop road. She turned left to trudge up the forest-lined hill, her backpack stuffed with still-clean weekend clothing slung across her back. Two hundred and fifty steps to her own driveway.
“Monique? Here, girl. Come.” Katy called happily for the dog, trying hard to ignore the shadow-filled forest and the yawning blackness of the ravine on the far side of the road. Her heart pounded; she could feel it in her head. She pushed a strand of dark hair off her face and behind her ear.
An owl hooted.
“Come on, girl. I’m coming home!” She aimed her voice toward the ravine, where the owl sound had come from. Daddy said raccoons and skunks and possums and all kinds of other critters lived down there. It was the kind of place dogs loved. And Monique would be no different. Katy was certain of that, just as she was certain the black stray she had insisted her family adopt earlier today was the same black dog who had been in her dreams—the one who would save her life.
Down in the ravine, a dog barked.
“Monique? Where are you?” Katy peered at the shadowy trees. Patches of moonlight flickered into the ravine, reflecting off rocks and tree bark. She didn’t like to go down there this time of year. The spring rains had fed too many sticker vines and bushes, not to mention all the ticks and mosquitoes. But there was sort of a path. If she found it, she could go down a little ways so that Monique could hear her better and find her way out. “Monique?”
Seconds later, when the dog barked again, Katy was certain the animal was in the ravine. She could see the rocky path; bits of it glowed white in the moonlight. “Monique? Here, girl.” Her nose tickled, probably from that pollen she was allergic to. She rubbed her nose and sneezed once, twice, three times.
Katy hurried along the steep path that dove through the trees. She held her Cuddle Bunny stuffed rabbit close. The plastic soles of her house shoes slipped on wet leaves, but she caught herself and plunged on.
Another few steps. This time, when she slipped, she fell forward, off balance.
Katy tumbled. She screamed as spiny brambles caught and sliced at the skin of her bare arms and face. She gasped when thick bushes slowed her fall, and then screamed again when they released her. She plunged deeper, down toward the rushing stream at the bottom of the rock-strewn ravine.
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