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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Girl’s Anxious About Starting Middle School

Natalia Brown knows she’ll spend her first day at Canfield Middle School stuffed inside some eighth-grader’s smelly locker.

Her baby sitter warned her. If the big kids don’t like her, into a locker she’ll go. If they do like her, they’ll pour ice down her back. It’s enough to make the little girl gulp her Wyatt Earp Slurp fast enough to get a headache.

“I think middle school is harder to start than high school,” Natalia says. “It’s the halfway point that divides the little kids from the big kids.”

Natalia, 10, probably is suffering as much as any kid about to enter the Twilight Zone of middle school. Everyone has warned her: The easy life is over.

She’s heard that her safe circle of friends will divide like a cancerous cell. Natalia says she expects one friend with family problems to take up drugs; she anticipates losing other friends because she won’t take drugs. Half of Natalia’s friends have older friends who smoke.

“It’s really hard because I’m different from everybody socially,” she says with no trace of regret. “I’m just not into the stuff they’re into.”

Still, she doesn’t want to be the middle-school loner her mother was. Natalia frowns and says she’s like her mother - the friend everyone calls when other friends are busy.

“But Mom says I’m smart, so I’ll be OK,” she says.

For the first few weeks, Natalia plans to ignore the tough social scene as much as possible and concentrate on schoolwork.

“I’m going to try to get down my 11- and 12-times tables before school starts,” she says. “I’m not that socially capable. Grades are all I have.”

Despite her worries, Natalia says she is prepared for middle school. Her fifth-grade teachers spent four days teaching students their way around a combination lock. They assigned two-page reports, just like sixthgrade students do. They cracked down on homework.

“It’ll be fun,” Natalia says with an uncertain laugh. “I’m not really worried.”

Doggone shame

Judy Thurlow’s 85-year-old father has Alzheimer’s disease and recognizes only Pugsly, his dog.

Judy, who lives in Post Falls, carried the compact white pug mix with her on every visit to her dad until Aug. 12.

Judy went on vacation that day, and the 10-year-old Pugsly disappeared from her home during a potty break. She’s called veterinarians and the pound. She’s advertised and offered a $100 reward.

No Pugsly.

Her father asks for his dog. Judy doesn’t want to break his heart so she says her brother is caring for Pugsly.

Pugsly has a curly tail, floppy ears, short legs, pug nose and big eyes.

Call 773-7856 if you see him.

‘Shoot’ those kids

Last spring’s whooping cough outbreak in Bonner County showed that people pull together pretty well in an emergency.

The Panhandle Health District was so impressed with Bonner General Hospital and the Bonner County School District for their response in the crisis that it gave them appreciation plaques last month.

Here’s why: School nurses sent children with symptoms home; hospital nurses worked overtime and helped at the health district lab; schools didn’t close so nurses could catch children’s symptoms early.

Sounds like Bonner County gets an A+ in cooperation.

Amazing comebacks

A car crash left Kellogg’s Pat Rummerfield paralyzed and near death 20 years ago. Since then, he has regained full use of his body and has finished several triathlons. Now he’s working on a career racing cars in California.

What setbacks have you overcome, and how did you do it? Did you lose 150 pounds? Or run a marathon after an organ transplant? Unlock those stories for Cynthia Taggart, “Close to Home,” 608 Northwest Blvd., Suite 200, Coeur d’Alene 83814; or send a fax to 765-7149 or call 765-7128 and inspire me.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo