Written and imagined by Savannah Verdon, RedRover Development and Engagement Coordinator, based on the family’s grant application

At RedRover, we believe that pets are family. If you’re like us, you might say that your pet is like your child. So for children, a pet can be like a sibling and a very important part of growing up. Here’s a Happy Tail you made possible not just for a rusty and speckled six-month-old Catahoula named Charlie, but also for Shelby and Ryan’s seven-year-old daughter, whom her mom says might now be a “future veterinarian and animal rescue gal.” 

I was almost seven. Me and my puppy Charlie were playing in the yard –  we love playing together. Sometimes we go for walks, or Charlie will run next to me when I ride my bike. He’s my brother and he’s my best friend. Mom and Dad picked him out of a big box of puppies on the side of the road last summer. They gave the farmer some money and he came home in the car with us. Now we sleep together every night.

I was excited for my birthday. We had moved into a camper at Grandma and Grandpa’s house so Mom and Dad could save some money. I didn’t have my own room but I was happy that all of us were together, me, Mom and Dad and Charlie too. Mom and Dad said they weren’t working right now and we could spend more time as a family for a little while. It sounded like it was going to be a lot of fun but sometimes they seemed like they were sad. They said things had been hard but I was going to have a good birthday and Dad’s birthday was the day before mine so we might have cake two days in a row. They said that if I wanted, Charlie could wear a birthday hat too, and I said I didn’t want chocolate cake because it was bad for Charlie and he had to have some. It was going to be vanilla with rainbow sprinkles inside the cake.

So me and Charlie were playing in the yard. Tomorrow was Dad’s birthday and then my party was the day after that! I was spinning in circles and Charlie chased me but my eyes were closed and then I was dizzy, and I didn’t see Charlie running into the street. All I heard was a really loud screeeeeeeeeeeeeeach and then Charlie was making a sound I had never heard before. That’s when I opened my eyes and Mom and Dad were running out of the camper into the street. They told me to stay in the yard but I wanted to see Charlie because he wasn’t getting up and now I was scared. Grandma and Grandpa came out and they told me I had to come inside. All the grownups were crying and no one was telling me what happened to Charlie. 

I looked out the window and saw Dad pick Charlie up and bring him to the car, and Mom came inside and said Dad was taking Charlie to the doctor and he’d be home later. She said Charlie was going to be okay and asked what I wanted for dinner. We had mac and cheese and started to watch a movie on TV with some ice cream. I was thinking about asking for a second scoop of mint chocolate chip when Mom’s phone started ringing and she picked it up to talk to Dad. I could hear him talking about Charlie. 

He sounded like he was maybe going to cry. He said Charlie broke his leg and his hips and he needed surgery to be saved. If he couldn’t have surgery, he would lose the leg, but Dad said we couldn’t pay for that either without at least some of the money,  and because we didn’t have any money, he was going to die. Mom really was crying, but she said she’d call Dad back then jumped up and went to the computer.

I tried to watch the movie but I couldn’t stop thinking about Charlie. I asked Mom if she thought we could save Charlie. She stopped looking at the computer and said that Charlie is just as much a part of our family as any of us people, and that she would ask for help if me or Dad or Grandma needed help. She said now Charlie needed help and she was going to ask for it. 

Mom said I could have one more scoop of ice cream and finish the movie but then I had to go to bed. Secretly I took two more scoops but I didn’t really watch the movie. I had seen it before anyway. Every time I looked back, Mom was on the phone or clicking and typing on the computer. 

When the movie ended, I brushed my teeth and put my pajamas on, then I kissed my Mom goodnight and tried to sleep in bed. I laid there and closed my eyes but I was just thinking about Charlie, and that I hoped we could save him so he could still come to my birthday party on Saturday. I had to pull the covers over my head and put my face under the pillow to sleep, but without him in my bed, even that didn’t help.

I woke up that morning and heard Grandma making pancakes in the camper. I asked if Charlie came home last night, and she said Mom was with Dad and Charlie at the hospital now. Grandma told me about how Charlie was going to come home today. When Mom called, she sounded happy and she thinks Charlie is going to be okay. His leg wouldn’t be fixed yet but they had called more doctors, and some of their friends, and she said they called some kind people called RedRover, and they were going to have enough money to fix him soon.

I called Mom to ask if it was true. She said Charlie was coming home tonight to rest, but he was having surgery tomorrow on my birthday. He was going to keep his leg. We were saving him! He was going to miss my birthday party and the vanilla cake, but Charlie was coming home soon, and maybe in a week or two, we could have a do-over birthday party. I thought it wouldn’t have been a real party without him anyway. 

When I was watching Mom making those calls and on the computer, I didn’t know that people who had never met Charlie or never met us would want to help us. He was our family, but he wasn’t their family. Grandma said the people Mom called, like a veterinarian who said it didn’t have to cost so much, and RedRover who said they would help pay for it, understood what Mom was really saying when she told them about how Charlie is family just like Grandma or Grandpa. I am glad they could help us and help Charlie when we asked.

My birthday was on Saturday. Charlie was at the hospital but I knew he was going to be okay. I had fun opening presents from Mom and Dad, and one from Grandpa and Grandma, and I really liked the cake! Still, I was thinking about how I want to thank those really nice people who helped us with Charlie too. Mom says you have to send thank you cards when someone gives you a present, and they gave me a present too. I don’t know what I should draw on the card I’ll make but I know I’m going to write “thank you for understanding about Charlie” on it. Maybe Charlie and I will write those thank you cards after my do-over birthday party. 

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