The family sat in a close, shaking huddle, all of them crying and praying the ordeal would be over soon.
Things had happened so fast. Now they were stuck there until someone gave the all-clear. But as she pulled her children closer, she suddenly realized one of them was missing.
Amelia cuddled her new 10-year-old Dachshund, Poco, in her arms as they watched the news.
Not many people would adopt one so old, but it just felt right. It was important for them to make his last years comfortable. Soon, she would discover just how important he would be to her family.
She loved nighttime. It was the only time her southern Belfast house was quiet. The kids were asleep and Poco was snoring slightly.
She gave him one more gentle pat before heading upstairs. However, Amelia had barely pulled the covers up when there was a sound she hadn’t heard before. It was enough to make her jump out of her skin.
Poco was barking, and this wasn’t just any yip at a loud neighbor. The dog was going completely out of his mind.
In the few weeks they had housed him, he had always been so quiet. Her heart raced as she sprinted downstairs, scooped him up, and flipped on all the lights. What had triggered him into such a frenzy?
There were no animals outside or people walking by. She even made sure to check all the windows and doors just in case.
Amelia stood in the middle of the settled, dark living room and sighed – the panic now replaced with annoyance. “Going crazy in your old age?” she asked him. Soon she would see how wrong she was.
Night after night, Poco would howl and bark without warning. The irritation vanished and all she could feel was worry.
“Please don’t let it be rats.” Their neighbors had vermin problems a few months ago. But there wasn’t enough money to pay an inspector. Suddenly a lightbulb switched on. She had an idea to find out the truth!
The next night, she set up a camera, gave Poco a hug, and then went up to her bedroom.
As the minutes ticked by, and the scheduled chaos started again, it took all her strength not to run down and see what was happening. It would have to wait until morning.
As soon as sunlight filled her bedroom, she threw on her bathrobe and hurried downstairs.
She grabbed the recorder and hit play – eager to know what the fuss was all about. At first, there was nothing. But when the yips started, she noticed movement. It started small and disappeared just out of frame.
The wind picked up and blew a bunch of leaves through an open window. Poco ran in circles.
She rolled her eyes and stared at her crazy dog. Leaves?! Amelia was about to stop the video when something else came into frame. This time, it sent chills down her spine and pulled her stomach into her throat.
The mom bounded up the stairs, grabbed her kids, and then ran to the safety of the family next door.
As she called the police and explained what she had seen, even her neighbors turned pale. The next question, however, made her cry. “Mom, where’s Poco?” Oh my god! She had forgotten him in the house!
Sirens wailed as the police showed up. By then, she and her kids were crying wrecks.
It only got worse when they tried to run in and save their dog, but she had to hold them back. How could she have forgotten him! One officer pulled something out of their home. They all held their breath.
It was a large man. He struggled against the cops all the way into the cruiser. He was massive and angry.
The next cop appeared, and this time he carried good news. Old Poco snarled and barked at the man – ready to bite him down to nothing. The officer brought their dog over … as well as some shocking news.
As the family held their best friend, Amelia listened to the terrifying truth with a wide, gaping mouth.
The man was a wanted criminal and somehow had snuck into their attic to hide from the law. There he stayed night after night, sneaking out for bits of food and water. There was one final revelation.
Theft…or worse. That’s what could have happened if she hadn’t listened to Poco and come up with the camera idea.
It was a strange combination of nausea and relief. She looked down at their scruffy boy as he wagged his tail – already over the situation. There was one thing Amelia was certain about…
Poco wasn’t just any old pooch looking for a loving family to spend his last years with.
When they stood in that shelter, something had nagged at them that he was the one to take home. Now, Amelia understood why. He didn’t just bring joy into their lives. He had, quite literally, saved theirs.