by Mary Grace Mauney

In the morning, they shared breakfast, and Annie was persuaded to partake of some of the bottled water they had, even though it was tap water from the sink and thus could, as she had said earlier, make her sick.

“You’ll be sicker if you dehydrate,” said MiMee. “Come on, just have a little. To keep you strong enough for the boat ride home. Then you can get some filtered spring water to flush it out of your system.”

“Very well,” Annie said, though she still eyed the bottle suspiciously and took but a single sip. After she was through grimacing, she got into the boat, while the dogs pushed it off the sand and into the water. Then they ran into the water themselves and jumped into the boat. Annie jerked back to avoid getting splashed; chinchillas, she had also informed them, should never get wet, hence why she hadn’t helped with this task.

“It took me DAYS to recover from getting soaked in that storm,” she reminded them. “Which direction should we go?” MiMee wondered.

“The current brought us here,” reasoned Sadie Lynn, “So if we row against the current, we’ll go back the way that we came, or close.”

As with before, Sadie Lynn managed the oar on one side, while MiMee and Louey took the other one together. Though the smaller dogs had given up last time, this time they pushed themselves harder, while Annie played the cheerleader, “Stroke! Stroke! Left! Right! Stroke!”

Still, it was hard work, even with the little fluffy rodent encouraging them with all her squeaky might, and they might have given up from sheer exhaustion soon…when, over the sound of Annie’s chirping cheers, they heard voices. Voices that sounded as if they were calling for someone. As the voices got closer, all of the pets realized that they were calling Annie’s name! And Sadie Lynn’s, and Louey’s, and MiMee’s!

The pets all began to call back and, with renewed strength in their little bodies, to row towards the voices. Soon, they sighted another boat on the horizon, coming straight towards them! A big boat full of people and animals, all calling out for the missing pets! Soon enough, the big boat had pulled up next to their comparatively tiny rowboat, and lowered a ladder (specially designed so that dogs could climb it easily) down for the little crew of former castaways.

After they had all climbed up into the boat, Sadie Lynn asked her rescuers, “How did you find us?”

“We told them you were missing!” squeaked a familiar little voice, and Sam the rat emerged from behind the legs of the humans and dogs that were crowded around Sadie Lynn and the others. Miss Blatz followed her, and elaborated, “We were supposed to have tea this morning, remember? When I called again and again and you didn’t answer, I got concerned, and I found out that you’d last been seen renting a rowboat...”

“And then when we came down to the park to ask the rowboat renters, we found these people!” Sam made sweeping gestures with her tiny paws to indicate the other boat occupants, “They’d had someone go missing too---a chinchilla who rented a boat just a few hours before you did! So we teamed up together and organized a search party and here we are! And here you are!”

Sadie Lynn, MiMee, and Louey all turned and looked at Annie.

“A few hours?”

“Well, it FELT like a long time!” protested Annie, putting her tiny paws on what would have been her hips if she hadn’t been so round.

“And what about that tropical storm?”

“There was a very harsh breeze, I’ll have you know!” chirped Annie, and the boat began to make its way back to the shore.