The girls started to sing, over and over again.
‘Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to Claire
Happy birthday to you (me)!‘
Inspired by their singing, Hairball decided to join in: ‘OWWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!’
Suddenly, from three different directions, people came crashing through bush and arrived at the crossroad flushed and out of breath. First came Dave with a big smile on his face and a large bruise on his forehead caused by his fall. Then came Mim, bubbling and babbling with joy and relief as she spied her daughters. Finally, Grandma arrived with Popsy who was carrying Louis in his arms. Louis took a quick look at Hairball and growled low in his throat. Although he was ten times larger than Louis, Hairball retreated, whimpering and trembling in terror behind Claire who ruffled his fur. Everyone joined in a very long, group hug.
‘Well, you had better introduce us to your new friend,’ said Mim.
‘Of course,’ said Gemma. ‘This is Hairball. We don’t know his real name, but Hairball seemed to suit. He found us in the bush and has become a faithful friend, especially to Claire. There is a phone number on his collar, so we can call the owners when we get home. They must be worried.’
‘I think it is time we all went home,’ said Dave.
‘Good idea’, replied Grandma. ‘But why don’t I take a picture of us all first?’ She fumbled with her camera before taking a shot.
‘Grandma,’ said Gemma. ‘You are holding the camera the wrong way. I think you just took a photo of your eyeball!’
‘I wonder if there is a café open somewhere,’ said Popsy. ‘I could use a strong cappuccino’.
‘Popsy!’ cried Claire. ‘It’s the middle of the night. Nothing’s open!’
‘Let’s go!’ said Mim. ‘I’m exhausted.
At home at last, Gemma decided it was time to call Hairball’s owners.
‘Hello. My name is Gemma. I’m sorry for calling so late. We have your dog with us. He found us in the bush during the night and has followed us ever since. He has been a great friend to us, but I am afraid we don’t know his name. I’m sorry, but we have been calling him Hairball.’
‘Thanks so much,’ said the voice on the other end of the phone. ‘What a relief! And no need to apologise. His name really is Hairball! We’ll come and pick him up in the morning. But we would like you to feel free to visit him and take him for a walk whenever you like.’
‘We’d love to!’ cried Claire, giving Hairball a big cuddle.
Following the phone call, the family spent time debriefing on the events that had happened and discussed ways to ensure that it did not happen again. ‘The important thing,’ said Mim, ‘is that we learn from our mistakes. You girls (and we too) made some errors but you also made some great decisions. I think we are all wiser for the event.’
‘To celebrate our family reunion,’ said Dave with pride and excitement, ‘why don’t we have some of the beautiful biscuits I baked?’ As he handed the biscuits around the group, he noticed that everyone hesitated to take a bite. ‘OK. I’ll go first. Ow!’ he cried, wincing in pain. ‘I think I broke my tooth!’
‘Dad!’ shouted Gemma and Claire at the same time. ‘Didn’t Mum say we were supposed to learn from our mistakes?!’