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Jul 10, 2010
“Come on.” Clarence climbed out of his truck. The dog jumped down and picked her way across the gravel drive. Clarence reached for the doorknob when the growl started. He glanced at the little dog, standing stiff beside him, focused on the backyard. A large squirrel perched on his ceramic birdbath. Erma B.’s window was empty. A slow smile spread across Clarence’s face. He whispered a hoarse, “Get ‘em.”

The beagle launched herself into the backyard. In an acrobatic leap, the squirrel twisted and landed six feet short of the maple tree in Erma B.’s yard, racing up the tree one stride in front of its attacker. The dog sang out a noise like nothing Clarence had heard before. Not a bark and not a howl, it wavered long and loud, while the squirrel retreated higher up the tree.

Clarence rubbed his ear and grinned. He walked over and picked up the dragging leash, ignoring Erma B. as she burst through her back door in a blur of fuzzy pink bathrobe and curlers. He gave a light tug on the leash and walked into his house, his new dog at his feet. He could almost feel Erma B.’s glower sink between his shoulder blades. He chuckled.

“Come on… Singer.” He smiled at the name. “You just earned yourself one of those fancy dog biscuits we bought.” After giving Singer her treat, Clarence dropped into his chair. He noticed the half empty bird feeder.

“Singer, do you think you can keep those squirrels away from that?” He asked, pointing out the window.

Before he could stop her, Singer jumped up onto Lydia’s chair. He opened his mouth to scold her, but stopped. She sat perfectly still with her nose pointed at the bird feeder. A small house finch came into the feeder and he watched as Singer’s ears rose and her head cocked to one side. Another finch joined the first and her nose tipped up, as if trying to catch their scent. Clarence spent the rest of the morning with Singer, watching the birds.

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