The Thrill of the Chase

For the second summer in a row, Kevin is visiting for two weeks. They are in their new house on Eagle Drive three houses away from a public park. They have adopted Peanut, their new mixed-breed dog. They have a wrap-around driveway that extends from the street up the side of the house and around to the back where there is a three-car garage. Beyond the driveway is their backyard grass, fenced in by a six-foot tall wooden face. A metal-wire gate separates the backyard from the front yard, and it is manual so they never park in their garage or even drive back into the backyard because no one feels like opening the gate or dealing with the dog.

Kevin loves Peanut and has given him the nickname Li’l Pete. He tosses a beat-up tennis ball with him, and he especially loves getting near the ground and having Peanut go wild licking his face. Kevin, Stephen, and the boy have just finished a short football game and are now settling in to play Nintendo. Kevin has brought his down for the two weeks, and they have already played Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt for hours.

As the boy sits on the couch, Kevin stands near the large windows looking over the backyard. “Hey, I don’t see Li’l Pete.”

The boy and Stephen come to stand next to him. They all gaze out past the backyard porch and across the whole backyard. Nope, he’s not there.

“Let’s go check it out,” says the boy.

They all head back outside. Stephen runs all the way around the back and side of the house. Kevin and the boy head over to the gate. The gate connects to the wooden fence, and the fence is planted into a thin strip of grass separating their property from their neighbor’s. Kevin points at the grass–specifically to a spot where the grass is torn up and dirt is scattered around.

“Li’l Pete got out,” says Kevin. “We gotta go find him.”

“He got out, Stephen!” the boy calls.

Kevin unlatches the gate and slides it open. They all start down the driveway and start to separate, scanning the street and sidewalk for any sign of him. They hear booming barks coming from across the street.

The boy looks over at the Olsons’ house across the street. They have two huge German shepherds who stand behind a gate similar to theirs, and Peanut is standing in front of that gate, prancing back and forth while the shepherds roar at him.

“Peanut!” Stephen calls and dashes across the street. They all chase after Stephen. As soon as they enter the Olsons’ driveway, Peanut whirls. He is panting and has a giant smile.

“Come here, boy!” the boy says. Instead, Peanut bolts. He heads to the next house and gets their dogs riled up and barking as well. They chase him to that house, and he bolts again, crosses the street, trots to the next door neighbor’s house, and riles up their dogs.

The boys form a semicircle, and they approach cautiously, all squatted down ready to tackle him. Peanut runs straight at Kevin, and Kevin drops to tackle him, only to have Peanut hop to the side and slip gleefully away. Kevin stands up with a handful of Peanut’s thick fur.

“Dude, he’s quick!” Kevin says.

“And he thinks it’s a game,” says the boy.

Now, Peanut is jogging to the park. They chase after him, and as they draw close, he runs faster, passes the three houses, and runs into the field. The park has a small jungle gym, a backstop for baseball, and a cement court with some picnic tables for basketball. The rest of it is at least five acres of open grass.

“Let’s surround him,” says Kevin.

Peanut heads out to the middle of the field. Kevin stays in the middle of the approach, while Stephen and the boy head to the right and left flanks. For the next ten minutes, Peanut takes turns picking a guy, running right at him, then dodging at the last second, and his face looks as though he’s laughing at them. Finally, he makes a run at Kevin one last time, and after escaping him, he trots out of the park, heads back down the street, walks up the driveway, and parks himself in front of the open gate.

“Seriously?” says the boy when they catch up to them. He squats down and signals Peanut to come. Peanut dashes over and starts licking his face. The boy picks him up, and they walk back into the backyard. With the gate closed, Kevin digs a large rock out of the garden and puts it over the small hole Peanut dug.

It will take only about a week before Peanut finds another place to dig a similar escape hole.

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