Missing Grace

Published in 2010; author Elizabeth McDavid Jones; illustrator Jean-Paul Tibbles


As the hot summer drones on, Kit finds another exciting story for her column: one night, a fire broke out in her family's home. Her basset hound Grace alerted everyone, saving them and the house from being damaged too much. The column has been so well-read that people take time out their days to stop by and the hero dog. Grace loves the attention, which makes it that much harder for Kit to make Grace sleep outside when a finicky boarder insists she can't stay with a dog in the house. Her family needs the money, so Kit fixes up a bed on the screened-in porch for Grace, and sadly makes the dog stay there.
But in the morning, Grace has disappeared. Someone broke part of the screen and opened the door. Was it Kit's bully of a classmate, Roger, or his friend Butch? They were mocking Grace the day before; maybe they took her as a prank, and Butch is often lonely at home--his mother is dead and his father travels on business, leaving his son in the care of a housekeeper. A search of the surrounding neighborhoods provides no dog, but some potential clues. A young boy was seen leading a basset hound on a rope, and a family brought a newly-acquired basset hound into a pet to get supplies for it, despite not appearing to have much money at all (worn clothes, the wife very pregnant and possibly sick). Kit, Ruthie, and Stirling are able to determine that the family has been living at the hobo camp and visiting the soup kitchen, but lately no one's seen them. A trip to the hobo camp reveals that the family got a job shortly before the baby was born. The trio is able to track them down, but they explain they wouldn't think of getting a dog; their young son (not the baby) is allergic. But just after they hurry Kit away, a Cadillac pulls up and a man in fancy suit enters. Wait...didn't a Cadillac like that drive past Kit's house the day before Grace disappeared? And doesn't Butch's father own a Cadillac? Are all three cars the same one?
Whatever's going on, Grace isn't the only basset hound to go missing. Four others, all show-dog quality, have disappeared from the area in the past week. With the help of Ruthie's aunt's policeman fiance, Kit finds out that the Cadillac that went to the poor family's home belongs to show dog kennel out in the country. Was the family hired to steal dogs for the kennel? Ruthie's aunt offers to take Kit, Ruthie, and Stirling to the kennel. There they learn that the owner is selling one last litter of pedigreed puppies before shuttering the place. Between the hardships of the Great Depression and losing his wife, he doesn't have the heart to keep it up anymore. They also learn that a former employee named Flint was planning to start his own kennel in Canada. Kit starts to understand: Flint is stealing the dogs born to the old kennel's winningest basset hound to start his own kennel in another country. But why Grace?
Kit rushes back to the family that acted so evasive before. She's able to convince the son to talk with her, and he reveals that Flint offered his family a job and paid them upfront. Then he made them steal dogs under the threat of going to the police about the money. He had specifically looked for a desperate family who would spend the cash advance quickly, and then be trapped. Kit looks up Flint in the phone book, and the boy goes with her to his house. There, they find false registration papers partially filled out. He's going to pose as the stolen dog's owners and sell them for hundreds of dollars to fund the starting of his new kennel. There's also a newspaper clipping with a picture of Grace on which he's written a note indicating he believes Kit's rescue dog might be the missing puppy the old kennel believed to have been abandoned.
With the help of the boy's father, the police set up a sting operation to take place during a dog show, the next planned theft. Kit and Ruthie go too, and see Flint with Grace, getting ready to sell her. They try to intervene, but it's the word of a respected dog breeder against a couple of kids. Unwilling to give up, Kit calls for Grace to come, and the dog breaks free of Flint's grasp and bounds to her. The next few moments are a blur of wagging tails, barking, sirens, and chasing. The police catch Flint red-handed, knowing Grace to be stolen, and the fake registrations are in his car. The dogs will be back in their own homes.

Looking Back

During the Great Depression, many people had such a hard time feeding their families that they couldn't take care of pets. A great number of companion animals were abandoned when people had to make the heart-wrenching choice between a pet and a person. Those who could keep pets were grateful for the companionship, and for useful things a pet might do, like a dog guarding a home or a cat catching vermin. Some people entered their dogs in competitions, ranging from small neighborhood affairs that offered momentary distractions to high class events like the Westminster Dog Show. Of course, a pedigreed show dog is a lot of work, and one had to have disposable income for that.


This book is dedicated to "my husband Rick--life partner, friend, father of my children. Without his support and long hours of childcare, this book could not have been written."

When Grace has to sleep outside, it's described as the first night she and Kit haven't been side-by-side. Must be the first night in Kit's house, because she's spent the night at other places since finding Grace: her great-uncle's, his neighbor's, Aunt Millie's...

I have to say, the way the kennel owner talks about the dogs sounds like he's an excellent breeder. He's kept tabs on all the puppies sold, he cares about each animal, he made sure sure all the dogs were healthy. That's the sort of person you want to look for if you want a purebred dog. (There are also breed-specific rescues around, but of course it would be hard to get a show dog that way)

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