LOLOB’S GIRL By: Joan Aiken
(1) Some people choose their dogs, and some dogs choose their people. The Pengelly family had no say in the choosing of Lob; he came to them in the second way, and very decisively. (2) It began on the beach, the summer when Sandy was five, Don, her older brother, twelve, and the twins were three. Sandy was really Alexandra, because her grandmother had a beautiful picture of a queen in a diamond tiara and high collar of pearls. It hung by Granny Pearce’s kitchen sink and was as familiar as the doormat. When Sandy was born everyone agreed that she was the living spit of the picture, and so she was called Alexandra and Sandy for short. (3) On this summer day she was lying peacefully reading a comic and not keeping an eye on the twins, who didn’t need it because they were occupied in seeing which of them could wrap the most seaweed around the other one’s legs. Father—Bert Pengelly—and Don were up on the Hard painting the bottom boards of the boat in which Father went fishing for pilchards. And Mother—Jean Pengelly—was getting ahead with making the Christmas puddings because she never felt easy in her mind if they weren’t made and safely put away by the end of August. As usual, each member of the family was happily getting on with his or her own affairs. Little did they guess how soon this state of things would be changed by the large new member who was going to erupt into their midst. (4) Sandy rolled onto her back to make sure that the twins were not climbing on slippery rocks or getting cut off by the tide. At the same moment a large body struck her forcibly in the midriff and she was covered by flying sand. Instinctively she shut her eyes and felt the sand being wiped off her face by something that seemed like a warm, rough, damp flannel. She opened her eyes and looked. It was a tongue. Its owner was a large and bouncy young Alsatian, or German shepherd, with topaz eyes, black-tipped prick ears, a thick soft coat, and a bushy black-tipped tail. (5) “Lob!” shouted a man farther up the beach. “Lob, come here!” (6) But Lob, as if trying to atone for the surprise he had given her, went on licking the sand off Sandy’s face, wagging his tail so hard while he kept on knocking up more clouds of sand. His owner, a gray-haired man with a limp, walked over as quickly as he could and seized him by the collar. (7) “I hope he didn’t give you a fright?” the man said to Sandy. “He meant it in play—he’s only young.” (8) “Oh, no, I think he’s beautiful.” said Sandy truly. She picked up a bit of driftwood and threw it. Lob, whisking easily out of his master’s grip, was after it like a sand-colored bullet. He came back with the stick, beaming, and gave it to Sandy. At the same time he gave himself, though no one else was aware of this at the time. But with Sandy, too, it was love at first sight, and when, after a lot more stick-throwing, she and the twins joined Father and Don to go home for tea, they cast many a backward glance at Lob being led firmly away by his master. (9) “I wish we could play with him every day.” Tess sighed. (10) “Why can’t we?” said Tim.
(11) Sandy explained. “Because Mr. Dodsworth, who owns him, is from Liverpool, and he is only staying at the Fisherman’s Arms till Saturday.” (12) “Is Liverpool a long way off?”
(13) “Right at the other end of England from Cornwall, I’m afraid.” (14) It was a Cornish fishing village where the Pengelly family lived, with rocks and cliffs and a strip of beach and a little round harbor, and palm trees growing in the gardens of the little whitewashed stone houses. The village was approached by a narrow, steep, twisting hill-road, and guarded by a notice that said LOW GEAR FOR 1 ½ MILES, DANGEROUS TO CYCLISTS. (15) The Pengelly children went home to scones with Cornish cream and jam, thinking they had seen the last of Lob. But they were much mistaken. The whole family was playing cards by the fire in the front room after supper when...
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