The man watched the dog from the porch.

The dog thought she was sneaky. She looked to her left, to her right, then behind her. She walked toward the fence then nudged her nose under a loose spot where grass grew tall at the bottom of the fence.

Her nose slipped through then her head. Then the man sprung forward. "I've got you. I've got you," he yelled.

For a few days, the dog had been getting loose. He'd let her outside into the back yard to do the things dogs do in the back yard. Lately, the things this dog did in the back yard included leaving the back yard. 

Then he'd get a call from a neighbor that the dog was loose. 

Or he'd look out the kitchen window and he'd see the dog trotting down the road, as pretty as you please.

Or he'd hear a bark at the front door to find her sitting at the stoop wanting inside.

Or he'd go to the back door to let her in and realize she was not in the back yard then the search began.

On several occasions, he had to find her. The man wandered the neighborhood streets looking for the dog. He'd find her sniffing something along the curb, or running in a neighbor's backyard, or running toward the main highway. And if she wasn't already running as soon as the dog saw him approach, she would dash away for a few more minutes of exploration and play.

A couple of times, he'd chased her in his pajamas. Once, she had made the break for the main highway, which frustrated the man and worried him. The dog believed she was a queen. On most occasions, he had to hold the door a certain way and stand a certain way before she'd walk into the back yard. The dog had the man trained well.

Having such airs along a road busy with cars and trucks could prove deadly to a queenly pooch. And an old, fat guy wearing pajamas chasing her in and out of traffic during the early morning rush hour.

But he'd caught her then and carried her home, mumbling and muttering, cursing and cajoling under his breath to her upturned face.

Now, he'd caught her, discovering the place in the fence where she was slipping away.

He released her from under the fence and put her in the back yard. Then he went to work on the loose spot in the fence. He worked at weighing it down, battening it down, fastening it into place so nothing could nudge, slip or poke under it.

The man worked with great concentration. Occasionally, he muttered something to the dog, about how he was showing the dog who was boss, or he mumbled something about try getting out now. The dog inspired the man to mutter and mumble often.

His work on the fence nearly done, he said the dog's name while muttering something about her. The dog licked his hand. The man looked up. There was the dog, looking at him from the other side of the fence.

"What? Where? How?" the man sputtered, looking for other loose places along the fence.

He stood, realizing he had again been outsmarted by the dog, and as he stood, he could have swore the dog laughed before looking over her shoulder and trotting down the street.

The man chased after her, muttering as he ran.

Oh, well, at least he was wearing more than pajamas this time.

To Nina Griffin Poling, a fine dog that often outsmarted this old, fat guy. She lived to a ripe old age. She has left an empty spot by the fireplace and an empty spot in a family's hearts.

Dean Poling is an editor with The Valdosta Daily Times and editor of The Tifton Gazette.

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