Oma and Mommy talked about Carolyn, too. “She needs a playmate.”

“Well, the mothers won’t want their children having anything to do with her.”

“I’ve been thinking. It might be good to get a puppy.”

“A puppy?”

“For Carolyn.”

“I don’t know, Mama. A dog is a big responsibility.”

“It wouldn’t hurt her to learn a little. It might make her less dependent.” Oma smiled at Carolyn. “She’s become my little shadow.”

Mommy leaned her head back and closed her eyes. “I’ll talk to Trip.” She sounded so tired.

That night at the dinner table, Daddy, Oma, and Charlie talked about getting a puppy. Daddy suggested buying a cocker spaniel. “Small enough to live inside the house and big enough that it couldn’t squeeze through the fence.”

“You don’t have to buy a dog.” Oma gave a short laugh. “People are always trying to give pups away. Any mutt will do.”

Charlie groaned loudly. “Not a mutt. Can’t we get a German shepherd, Dad?” He’d stayed overnight with a friend whose family had a new television set. “Roy Rogers has a German shepherd. Bullet runs so fast, he’s like a streak of lightning.”

Oma looked unconvinced. “And where’s he going to run? A big dog like that needs space.”

Charlie wasn’t about to give up. “We’ve got a yard in front and a yard in back.”

Dad kept eating. “I wouldn’t have to worry as much with a police dog around. He’d have to be trained, though. I know someone who can give me pointers.”

A few days later, Dad lifted a ball of fur with drooping ears and bright brown eyes out of his car. He handed the pup to Carolyn, who snuggled it against her chest. “Hang on. He wiggles a lot. Don’t drop him.” He laughed as the pup licked Carolyn’s face. “I think he likes you.”

After that, Carolyn spent most of the day outside with the puppy, which they named Bullet. When she went inside, he sat by the front door and whined until she came back out. Mommy would come out and sit on the porch while Oma worked in the kitchen, and Carolyn ran around the yard, Bullet on her heels, leaping, yipping.

...

Whenever Oma went anywhere, Carolyn went with her. Sometimes they drove as far as the strawberry fields in Niles, where Oma talked with the Japanese farmers and bought flats of fruit to make jam. Other times they went to the cheese factory by the bridge over the creek that ran through Paxtown. Oma would take her into the storage room with the old Greek gentleman, who bored samples from big wheels of cheese while he and Oma talked of their old countries. Oma ran all the errands for the family: she shopped at Hagstrom’s grocery store, picked up supplies for repairs at Kohln’s Hardware, and bought clothes for Charlie and Carolyn from Doughtery’s department store. Sometimes Mommy argued with her about that.

Every Sunday, Oma took Carolyn to the Presbyterian church while Daddy and Mommy and Charlie stayed home. Daddy always said he had work to do, and Charlie stayed home because Daddy did. Once a month, Oma took Carolyn with her to the farm in Murietta. While Oma talked with the Martins, Carolyn climbed into the tree house or fed carrots to the white rabbit or watched the chickens. Carolyn slept with Oma when they visited the farm.

Carolyn didn’t suck her thumb when she slept in Oma’s big bed. She curled up against Oma and felt warm and secure. She dreamed about tea parties with the white rabbit that ate carrots from her hand. He stood on his back legs, tapped his foot, and told her he wanted ice cream tomorrow. She giggled in her sleep.

Everything felt good and safe and comfortable.