It was the right decision. Without a qualm or concern, just determination in every step, she made her way to the base to offer her assistance in the ongoing search. Some thought her a flake “oooh the animal whisperer”. Others had been brave enough to come to her with questions regarding their beloved pet(s).

Annabelle never thought much of her gift. She’d always understood animals and they, her. It wasn’t something she could explain, she simply read them. She watched carefully and understanding came quickly and she understood what their concerns were.

Many thanked her, offering her gifts of every sort. Unwilling to say no to their gracious gifts, her office was filled with some pretty unique items (some of which) she wasn’t sure about – were they works of art or were they useful? She wasn’t sure.

The fire was growing; the plumbe of smoke was indeed larger and nearer. There was concern regarding a family of four that lived in its path. Their pet collie had shown up in town, without them, and frantic.

As Annabelle approached, the leader of the team looked sideways, spotting her, the look on his face said it all. He’d already heard of her and thought her a quack. Stiffening her spine, she walked toward him anyway and introduced herself. He stood ramrod straight and turned toward her. “I understand the Johnston’s dog showed up without them.”

“Yes.” Vince’s answer was extremely abrupt. “I don’t have time for this, I have urgent work to do.” His tone wasn’t even condescending, it was dismissive.

“I realize you don’t understand or recognize what I do, but none-the-less, I’d like to see the family’s dog. What can it hurt? If I’m a quack, five minutes won’t make a difference…”

Jake sighed and looked over her head at his team who raised questioning brows. “Five minutes! That’s it!” He motioned to Martin who stepped forward and then showed Annabelle the way to the dog.

He was skittish and tied with a rope to a post pacing anxiously. When he saw her, he blinked. She advanced toward him without a word and everyone watched as he settled immediately. When she was dead in front of him, she squatted and gently ran her hand over the top of his head and down his neck. She stared into his eyes and he moved subtly toward her to lick her hand and then placed his nose gently on the side of her cheek as if in recognition offering her a kiss.

Annabelle stayed with the dog for the full five minutes allotted then rose to walk toward Jake.

With a smirk of derision he asked, “So what did you find out?”

“The parents didn’t make it, but there are two children alive and in need of help. You’ll find them due east of the fire. He led them away from the fire, and away from the town since he assumed it would head this way given the heavy winds. He can lead you back or you can send your men five miles east of the fire. You’ll find them huddled together under a blanket.”

Uncertain whether to believe her or not, more importantly the dog, he couldn’t risk the possibility they were indeed alive. He spoke into his handset and sent five men due east of the fire while the rest continued on their original course. It was a waiting game now. It would take the men a good hour to reach the location she’d suggested.

Asking if she wanted a coffee, he offered her a chair. Under the circumstances he couldn’t be churlish enough to send her on her way without an answer. He desperately wanted it to be true even though his mind said it was clearly an impossibility.

He gathered a couple of local police officials to his side and they went over the map as he made suggestions regarding which areas to close off completely.

Before he knew it his hand held crackled. “Jake! Come in Jake!”

“Jake here, what is it?”

“We found them, they were huddled under a damp blanket but they are safe and sound. We need to airlift them out. There’s an area further east clear enough for a helicopter landing. We’ll head that way.”

Jake immediately agreed as he pointed at a map before motioning to the helicopter crew who were at the ready. He gave them the location and they raced to the chopper and were air-born within minutes.

When the excitement settled down, he looked over at where the woman had been sitting. She was gone. He looked for her and saw her in the distance, making her way back to town. “Damn!”

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