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Thanks to Nicki is the second book about Nicki Fleming.

Characters

See Also: Minor Characters in Nicki's Stories
  • Nicki Fleming
  • Adam Fleming
  • Sprocket
  • Becca
  • Kris
  • Joan Fleming
  • Mr. Fleming

Chapter By Chapter Summary

Chapter 1: Explosion

Sprocket walks into Nicki's room, and Nicki allows him on her bed, just that once. She thinks about how smart he is, and how his intelligence is the reason she will lose him soon. Mom comes into the room, now very visibly pregnant, asking if Nicki is ready for school- tomorrow is her first day of Fifth Grade. Nicki says that she hopes she won't have to write an essay on what they did over summer vacation, as she would write about Sprocket and have to think about giving him away. Mom tells her that they're not giving Sprocket away, they're turning him over for what he was always intended to do- help someone who needs him more than they do. She also adds that Nicki could write something about her new friend, which makes Nicki feel worse; she hadn't told Becca that she'd been hanging out with Kris; Becca had been away all summer at her grandparents' house to earn some money, so Kris and Nicki had started hanging out at Kris's beautiful house.

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Sprocket begged with his eyes to join me on the bed.

After Mom leaves, Nicki works with Sprocket on the "Leave It" Command, to get him to ignore things on the ground. She puts treats around him and tells him to leave it; this makes Sprocket look very sad, but he does leave the treats, so Nicki eventually gives them to him. Kris calls, and explains that tomorrow will be her first time starting a school year from the beginning in a long time, as her family has moved around a lot, but she's excited to be starting the school year with her new Best Friend. Nicki thinks a lot about Becca, and how she'd been her closest friend since Kindergarten, and she'd missed her so much over the summer. She finally tells Kris that she hopes they'll be in the same class, and that they'll find out tomorrow when the class assignments are posted at school.

She hangs up and sits down with Sprocket, petting him while he sleeps. She wonders if she can make her two best friends hang out with her together, so they can become a trio. She writes in her journal about her worries about Sprocket leaving and her two friends having to like each other.

Chapter 2: First Day

Nicki wakes up early the next day to help Dad with chores before she goes to school. Dad offers to look after Sprocket while she's gone so he doesn't miss her; he adds that she's done a great job training him over the summer. She thinks that really, they're not giving Sprocket enough credit for being such a good learner. Nicki goes inside to spend time with Sprocket before the bus comes, deciding to take him for a quick walk; she sees his "star-eyes" when she tells him this. They walk across the ranch before Nicki and Adam board the bus.

At the next stop, Becca boards and sits by Nicki; she mentions that she had to do a lot of chores over the summer, and then asks about Sprocket. Nicki gets upset again, and Becca realizes what she's said and mentions that at least she had something to do over the summer; she probably didn't have time for much else. Nicki finally tells her that she'd been hanging out with Kris, after she dumped Heather and her friends after what they did to Nicki. Becca gets jealous, asking if she likes her as a "best friend"; even after Nicki denies this, Becca makes it clear she doesn't like her and she thinks Nicki should dump her now that she's back. The two of them stay silent for the rest of the bus ride.

Chapter 3: Twenty-one Days

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Nicki and Becca go to the class assignment sheets, and see that they're in the same class, along with Kris. Becca is mad that she's in class with Nicki's new friend, and storms off. Kris runs up, very excited that she and Nicki are in the same class, but is disappointed to hear that Becca is hurt that Nicki hung out with her and saddened that she thinks Nicki regrets the time they spent together. She does, however, notice that they have a new male teacher, Mr. Thomas. Nicki remembers that last year's fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Vaughn, had gotten pregnant and had apparently decided not to retire. Nicki is worried that it would be embarrassing to have a male teacher that year, as Fifth Grade is when they get the "puberty talk", which she already got from her Mom and doesn't want to hear it from a man.

Nicki finds class very overwhelming, as Becca and Kris keep staring at her and she finds Mr. Thomas odd. She's just happy he didn't make them write a Summer Vacation essay.

When Nicki returns home, she finds Mrs. Tate already there. She at first panics that she's already taken Sprocket, before she remembers that her car's still in the driveway. Mom and Mrs. Tate tell Nicki that Sprocket will be ready to go to advanced training in three weeks. Nicki notices that Mom is cheerful, but Nicki is devastated. She realizes that if Sprocket does not pass advanced training, she will get to keep him; however, she knows that he really could help someone. After Mrs. Tate leaves, Nicki takes Sprocket outside and sketches while he naps.

Mom and Dad congratulate Nicki over dinner for being such a good trainer, but Nicki can tell that Adam is just as upset as her. Everything that happened over the day finally overwhelms Nicki, and she yells, asking how her parents could do this to Adam. When her parents are confused, she yells that they're acting like it's nothing to give away the dog they've grown to love. She storms to her room, and Sprocket follows. Nicki calls Becca, crying, and Becca listens. After they hang up, Nicki writes in her journal: Only twenty-one days left.

Chapter 4: Off to School

A week passes, and Nicki is to take Sprocket to school for the morning, to train him to enter buildings and businesses. She puts the gentle leader and cape onto Sprocket, and Mom reminds Nicki of everything, while Nicki blankly acknowledges that she knows and that Sprocket will do well.

While the kids wait for the bus, Nicki practices "Side" with Sprocket, having him transfer from her left to her right. Adam says that he wishes they'd take Sprocket away now, so that they could get it over with; Nicki responds that she's glad they still have twelve days. When Becca boards the bus, she smiles at Sprocket, and Nicki remembers that while she has been listening to her, she is still sore about Kris. Becca asks if she can help, and Nicki informs her that there's not a lot she can do, but she will ask her for help if she needs it.

When they get of the bus, Kris is waiting for them; her parents drop her off. She runs up and asks to pet Sprocket, and tells Becca that that's what to do; Becca coldly responds that she knows that, and she's going to help Nicki today. Kris looks upset, and Nicki adds that they only talked about it on the way to school. More kids come up to pet Sprocket, and Nicki can tell that today isn't going to be fun.

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Sprocket let out a howl that felt as though it came all the way out of the ground beneath him.

Nicki is popular on the playground, as everyone wants to greet Sprocket (even Heather, who still doesn't like Nicki). In class, Mr. Thomas has Nicki give a presentation on Service Dogs and training them. After her speech, they all split into teams to learn Geography Facts. At one point, Mr. Thomas compliments Nicki on her training of Sprocket.

During the last hour of the morning, the school nurse comes in and begins giving the children the Puberty Talk. Everyone is quiet as the Nurse shows them diagrams, and the embarrassment is heightened by the boys and girls being together. However, in the middle of the Nurse's talk about body odor, Sprocket suddenly lets out a howl. Everyone starts laughing, which lightens the mood a lot; however, Sprocket was not supposed to do that, and Nicki can tell that he's getting anxious. As the class is dismissed, Sprocket starts chewing on an eraser, and Nicki has to make him leave it. On the way out, Sprocket grabs a potato chip bag and Nicki has to take it from him. As Nicki waits for Dad to pick up Sprocket, she realizes that she's now very hopeful that Sprocket will fail training and she'll get to keep him forever. However, when she gets home and mentions this to Mom, she says that Sprocket is close enough to perfect to surely pass. Nicki realizes that she trained him too well.

Chapter 5: Secrets and Surprises

Nicki, Becca and Kris are spending more time together, which helps Nicki forget about Sprocket, but unfortunately gives Becca and Kris the opportunity to argue. While eating lunch, they start arguing about Halloween, as Becca wants to go trick-or-treating in town, as they do that every year, and Kris says her parents think trick-or-treating is too dangerous and they get just as much candy through parties, saying that she'll probably have her own party. Nicki doesn't add input, knowing that they'll be mad at her no matter what she does.

That evening, Mom tells Nicki that the Doctor says the twins will be due in eight weeks. Mom says that she knows their gender through an ultrasound, but she wants to keep it a secret.

Nicki works on the "roll" command with Sprocket, so that he will be able to roll over for grooming, health checks and belly rubs. She helps him do it a few more times, knowing that she's getting close to the end.

Dad and Nicki work on the pig parlor ventilator that was acting up, and the two of them go for a ride on their horses. Nicki loves Jackson, but she knows that he can't jump on her bed or be there for her like Sprocket. Nicki starts crying, and Dad comforts her, before asking if she knows any good twin names, as Mom wouldn't tell him their gender, either. They joke for a while before Dad rides back, but Nicki stays out late so she can get used to not having Sprocket around.

Becca calls after dinner and asks if Nicki thinks Kris's Halloween party is lame, and later Kris calls and complains that Becca is closed-minded. Nicki refuses to take a side, and Adam comes in saying that he needs help with homework. Nicki refuses to help him unless he asks, and he leaves; after that, Mom makes Nicki do the dishes, and Nicki snaps at her Dad when he takes a break from the Computer to get a drink. Nicki, in anger, takes Sprocket out for a walk, feeling as if she's losing everything.

Chapter 6: Day Zero

Nicki wakes up, knowing that Mrs. Tate would be coming for Sprocket while she is at school. Mom offered to let her stay home, but Nicki refused, knowing she doesn't want to have to watch him walk away with someone else.

She takes Sprocket for one last walk, then puts all his toys and treats in his crate. Dad tries and fails to comfort her, and Nicki rubs Sprocket one last time, before she and Adam head for school.

Nicki can't concentrate in class, and Mr. Thomas asks if she's okay. Nicki responds that it's "girl stuff" to get him to go away. At recess, Becca and Kris ask nicer to each other, and Nicki thinks it's to cheer her up. Kris asks the two of them to come to her house after school, and Nicki likes that idea, as then she won't have to return to the empty house.

However, once they get to Kris's house, Becca is upset by the obvious wealth Kris's family shows off, and Becca and Kris argue over how Nicki should get a new pet to get over Sprocket, as Becca thinks she should get another dog, and Kris says that that would make things worse and she should try to get a cat or a bird or a hamster. Becca says that birds aren't cuddly and hamsters and guinea pigs are rodents, and ranch people don't understand the idea of keeping rodents as pets. Nicki finally says that nothing will help.

Nicki fails to cheer herself up at home, and her Mom refuses to let her call Mrs. Tate about Sprocket. Nicki writes in her journal that she truly hopes Sprocket will fail so she can keep him forever.

Chapter 7: Time

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Nicki starts feeling incredibly depressed, spending more time with Jackson so she won't have to be in the house. She gives him an apple, even though her Mom told her not to, as she's upset to hear Sprocket is doing well.

October comes, and one day Kris asks if they compromise on Halloween plans. She says that they could go trick-or-treating early, before it gets cold, and then return to her house to have a party. Becca and Nicki agree.

Nicki hears on the news that the ski resorts will start making snow, and she remembers how much fun she has skiing with Becca, but then remembers that she used to come and tell Sprocket all about it. Mom asks for her help making chili peppers, and she tries to joke with Adam while he sets the table; however, without Sprocket, neither of them feel like it's fun. While they eat, they don't talk much until they realize that the chili is too hot, and the four of them eat cereal instead. Dad tries to start a conversation about twin names, only agreeing on not wanting names that rhyme or start with the same letter, so that the twins won't feel like toys. Finally, Adam snaps, saying that Sprocket's a good name, and that Mom shouldn't have had them take in a dog only to give him away, and to never take another dog in. He storms off, and Mom says that the best way to get over it is to train another dog. Nicki doesn't believe her.

Chapter 8: Halloween and the Day After

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I held back to let Becca lead the way on her own.

On Halloween night, Becca dresses as a hobbit, Kris dresses like an alien princess, and Nicki dresses like an Irish Dancer. Becca's mom drops them off to go trick-or-treating, and Kris admits that she's having fun. When they finish, Kris's mom drives them to their houses, where the entire house is decorated with Halloween stuff. Everyone has fun, and Becca and Kris even dance together. Nicki notices that people are referring to them as a group, and is happy that they're now a threesome. She has such a good time that she momentarily forgets about Sprocket.

The next day, everyone talks about Kris's party; unfortunately, after school, Mom tells Nicki that Sprocket completed his advanced training, and was partnered with a girl in Denver who has a wheelchair. When Nicki fails to respond, Mom mentions that she knows she grew attached to Sprocket, and Nicki replies that she loves him. Mom offers to let her train another dog, and Nicki reacts horribly, stating that she never wants to do this again. The next morning, Nicki feels sick and stays home from school, realizing later that she's heartsick. Mrs. Tate invites them to attend a graduation ceremony for Sprocket to hand him over to his new owner, but Nicki refuses. After school, Becca and Kris call to ask her if she's alright, but Nicki can tell that they know what happened due to the way they talk to her. She notices that it's getting colder, and it will eventually snow, and maybe skiing will help her forget.

Nicki returns to school, but knows that now everyone knows Sprocket won't return, and keep trying to be nice to her and say nice things. The only one who doesn't is Mr. Thomas, who makes everyone stick to a tough schedule. Nicki realizes that he's doing this on purpose so nobody will talk to her, and she finally feels like she's warmed up to him.

Chapter 9: Birth Day

Two nights later, Dad wakes Nicki up to tell her that Mom has gone into labor and she will be alone with Adam. However, Nicki wants to go with them, so they wake Adam up and take him. They wait in the emergency waiting room while Dad and Mom are inside the room; Adam brought a video game to play, but Nicki is alone with her thoughts, realizing that it's 3:16 AM. She tries to go through magazines and pace the floor, but that doesn't work.

At 5:30AM, Dad tells the kids that the labor will be over soon. At 6:45, Dad informs them that they have two new sisters. They get to see Mom before the Doctors bring the babies back, so they talk about names again; nobody can pick a good name. Dad and Adam don't have any ideas, and Mom is too tired, so she puts Nicki in charge as the Big Sister. The two older kids stay out of school that day and eat lunch at the hospital. They finally get to see the twins, and Nicki thinks they look beautiful.

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After school, Becca and Kris come to see the twins, and the three of them go to the Gift Shop to look through a baby names book. They really like the Arthurian Legend Section, and like Anna and Elaine. However, Nicki decides to name them Rebecca and Kristine. Kris and Becca hug her, and Nicki realizes that they're a circle of three.

Mom, Dad and Adam like the names, so they name the first twin Rebecca and the second Kristine. Nicki holds Kristine, and the pain in her chest that she's had since Sprocket left stops for a second.

Chapter 10: The Visit

One month later, the twins are doing alright, and can almost recognize Nicki. Nicki tells Mom that she wants to see Sprocket, and Mom reminds her that she said no to the graduation ceremony; however, Nicki informs her that she's changed her mind.

Mrs. Tate drives her and Mom out to Sprocket's new home, to meet him and his new owner, Laura. Dad stays with the twins, and Adam has adopted a hamster named Chip. Mrs. Tate takes them to an old neighborhood, to a house that has wheelchair ramps. They enter and go to the living room, where Laura is sitting with Sprocket. Sprocket doesn't move, but Nicki can see his star-eyes. Mrs. Tate introduces her to Laura and she shows Nicki all the things Sprocket learned, like how to open doors and get her things. Laura starts petting him, and Nicki realizes that not only does she love Sprocket, but her star-eyes match his. The two love each other. Laura thanks Nicki for training Sprocket for her, as he's her best friend. Nicki gets to pet Sprocket one last time, and finally says goodbye, letting him go to his new life with Laura.

Nicki stares out the window on the way home, and realizes that it's finally snowing.

True Stories

Nikita W. uses a wheelchair due to a disease that makes it hard to control her muscles, and was nine when her assistance dog Morell, a golden retriever, came into her life. Morell was raised by volunteers, like Sprocket, and helps build Nikita's confidence and independance. He even helps her improve her speech due to her having to give him commands. Nikita had to attend a two-week training session with her mother to learn how to care for her dog. They worked with different dogs, but fell in love with Morell.

Shea M. has an assistance dog named Mercer, who goes to school with her. He helps her retrieve things that she can't from her wheelchair, and Shea thinks that he helps her be more regular, as she's the girl with the dog instead of the girl in the wheelchair.

Two service dog raisers, sisters Celia and Abby B, raised Elan with their mother for more than a year, and the two girls participated in his graduation ceremony. Though giving him up was hard, one week later their loss was eased by a new puppy, Terese. Elan was released from training, but Celia and Abby B decided not to adopt him; they were happy to discover that another family took him in. They keep themselves from getting too attached by focusing on the community service they do by raising their dogs.

Trivia

  • Nicki is the first Girl of the Year to have a second book.
  • Shea M., the girl mentioned in the True Stories section, became an author, writing about the "secret adventures" her service dog, Mercer, would have while she was asleep, called "Marvelous Mercer".

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