Second Chance Soldier

By: Linda O. Johnston


Since I have been well trained by my dogs so far, and not so much vice versa, I want to thank everyone who advised me about dog training. That includes the Hollywood Dog Obedience Club and its wonderful officers, trainers and members I’ve met. They have shown me what pet dog training is all about.

I have also watched several demonstrations of police K-9s in the Los Angeles area, which have proved to be fascinating and useful, and I have additionally been privileged enough to have had discussions with some K-9 officers. I particularly want to thank the Glendale Police Department and its K-9 unit, most especially Officer Shawn Sholtis and his K-9, Idol.

Thank you all!

Of course, Second Chance Soldier is a work of fiction, so if anything seems incorrect that’s because I’ve modified reality to fit the story.

Many thanks also to my wonderful editor, Allison Lyons, and my fantastic agent, Paige Wheeler.


Was this demonstration going to be as unimpressive as all the others had been so far?

Amber Belott could only wait and watch—and hope that, finally, she and her mom, Sonya, had found their answer at last, a skilled person who could take over training potential police K-9s and other dogs, as well as additional trainers, now that her father was gone.

Evan Colluro was the eighth person who’d come to the Chance K-9 Ranch, just outside Chance, California, to perform a demonstration. A tryout. An audition of sorts.

Evan had just arrived. At least he was right on time, unlike most of the others, whose excuses tended to be how remote this place was. At the top of the driveway near their house, he exited his black sedan along with his dog, who was, unsurprisingly, a German shepherd.

His résumé had described his extensive work with dogs, particularly in the military, but nothing had prepared her for how good-looking he was. He was tall and slender with broad shoulders, and the fit of his charcoal knit shirt implied strong muscles beneath. He wore black slacks and new-looking athletic shoes, somewhat informal attire, yet he looked ready for both a job interview and a critical dog-training test session.

Again unlike some of his either more formal, or more sloppily dressed, predecessors…

Amber, on the other hand, wasn’t dressed particularly to impress. Neither was her mother. Both wore casual blue work shirts tucked into jeans. Amber didn’t care what Evan thought of her, except as a potential employer.

She approached the man with short black hair who now stood beside his car, his dog at his side. “Evan?”

“That’s right. And you’re Amber?” Though he stood facing her, he didn’t quite look at her. He had a hint of dark beard stubble on his long, angular face, a cool expression in his deep blue eyes that gave no indication at all as to what he was thinking or feeling. Maybe he was watching her mother. Or looking at their black Labrador retriever, Lola, who stood beside Sonya.

“Yes. Welcome. And who’s this?” Amber gestured toward his dog, wanting to approach to pet him but recognizing that was a bad idea with a trained K-9 without asking permission.

“This is Bear.” There was a note of pride in Evan’s voice. “He’s been with me for a while.”

Which suggested he might be a former military K-9.

“May I pet him?” Amber asked.


While she stroked the apparently pleased dog’s head behind his ears, she next asked, “Would you like to come inside for a cup of coffee?” That would mean a chat about Evan’s background, which Amber already somewhat knew from their online conversations, or the job, which he’d learned about the same way. “Or just start with the dogs?”

“The dogs,” he said with no hesitation.

“Fine.” In fact, that was good. Talking with the guy now wouldn’t tell her what she needed to know.

Watching him in action would.

“First,” she said, turning away from Bear, “I’d like you to meet my mother, Sonya, and our dog, Lola.”

Lola, though restrained by a leash held by Sonya, had leaped forward and now traded nose sniffs with Bear. No animosity that Amber could perceive—a good start. Whatever his background, Bear also appeared well behaved.

“Hi.” Her mom stepped forward. She held her hand outstretched and Evan grasped it but didn’t look straight into her eyes, either. Amber wondered once more what was on this guy’s mind.

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