It was late at night. Even the moon had decided to disappear behind a cloudy pillow for a few hour’s sleep. Mum and Dad had retired from staring at their devices; playing online Scrabble. The house gave a quiet sigh and settled into itself, ready to enjoy the rest of the night.
Mum jumped, awoken from her deep sleep by Henry’s loud bark. He stood next to her side of the bed and growled ominously, staring through the gloomy darkness at the bedroom door. Mum felt for his head and gently stroked his soft ears, tensing as she touched his raised heckles down the back of his neck. What was out there that had woken him and why did it feel as though whatever it was could be standing just outside the bedroom door?
She turned over to nudge her snoring husband.
“Wake up! Henry heard something.”
As though to confirm this, Henry let off another round of furious barks. Mum felt the hairs on the back of her neck rise, just like Henry’s heckles! The snoring mass next to her continued to sleep, uninterrupted.
Another shake evoked a groan from the sleeping form and it slowly rolled over.
“What?” came the bleary response.
“There’s something out there. Henry is barking,” she whispered, unconsciously holding his arm.
“He always barks. He probably needs the loo.” Dad slowly rolled over and settled down to sleep again.
Bark! Bark! Grrr!
The ferocity of Henry’s growl pulled Dad out of his sleepy state. He sat up and looked around in the gloom, trying to make out the silhouetted figures of his wife and dog. Both seemed to be staring at him, or was that just his tired imagination?
“What is it?” he asked, his voice loud and gruff in the sudden silence.
“I told you – Henry heard something outside. They might be in the house!” was the infuriated response. “Go and check what it is in case someone’s there!”
Dad sighed heavily and dragged himself out of bed. Henry quickly followed him to the door and as soon as it was opened, he sprinted across the landing to the girls’ room. The door was shut.
Mum followed the two out onto the landing. She could see that Henry was trying to tell them something.
“There’s something wrong with the girls. Quick! Open the door.”
Dad didn’t hesitate. He opened the door and Henry pushed past, leaping onto the lower bunk. A tiny, hoarse voice called out, “Mum! Dad! Please come!” The silent tears that had been flowing from the owner of the voice rolled freely, accompanied by a low sobbing noise.
Henry whined and looked up. This was what he had been trying to tell Mum and Dad. Little Isabelle wasn’t feeling well and she couldn’t shout out because her throat was sore. She had been crying and calling out, to no avail. No-one could hear her. Well, no human. Only a special little pup with long, floppy ears and a persistent bark.