We have two neighbor dogs who show up from time to time even though our dearly departed Maggie hadn’t been off her own leash in the yard for more than two years before she died.  It only takes one mad senior citizen on the other end of a telephone line to ground a beagle for good.   By the time it happened, she was really too old and too blind to be on her own, anyway. Even so, I never really forgave the neighbor for busting her for being a beagle. For one thing, on a scale of really annoying things neighbors have to put up with,  treeing a squirrel in the middle of the day and telling the entire county about it seemed pretty mild. But that’s just my opinion.

Our two neighbor dogs are both big Labs who don’t have as many restrictions placed on them in the neighborhood since they go about their business quietly.  One is a big brown blockhead  of a Labrador retriever who would play chase-the-ball-down-the-driveway-and-bring-it-back twenty four hours a day if we would.  She is broad-shouldered and stocky and sweet.

The other one, Lola, is shy when she happens to see us outside.  She always has a guilty look on her face.  She has three quite adorable human children to keep her busy so she doesn’t ask us to play fetch.  Maybe she gets more than enough of ball throwing in the yard next door and comes over to our house for a break.

This week I was in the middle of painting my laundry room  when I heard frantic knocking on the front door.  This is rare where we live.  I can go weeks without a knock at the door since I’m too old for play dates with the young moms in the neighborhood and too young for carpooling to Silver Sneakers with the old ones.  If it wasn’t for the Schwan Man and the occasional Jehovah’s Witness, I’d never get unexpected guests.

I wiped the paint off my hands and went upstairs to find Lola’s three children standing shoulder to shoulder and knock, knock, knocking like their little hearts depended on it. The brother in the group was holding Alvin, a somewhat embarrassing lawn gnome I received as an anniversary gift from my husband and kids a year ago. They must have decided that nothing marked thirty years of marriage better than a plastic  yard gnome with a bare butt and his pants down around his ankles, mooning Life.

I adore him.

The baby sister of the bunch had one of my less embarrassing, normal,  baby-sized gnomes grasped tightly in her small hand.  Hmmmm.…I thought, as I looked through the window at the trio.  They don’t seem like Gnome Thiefs, at all.  I’ve met their parents.   The big sister piped up.   “Are these your Gnomes?”  Her siblings held my gnomes out to be identified.

“Why, yes.  Yes, they are,”  I replied, feeling an immediate Big Sisterly kinship with her.

“Well, we are bringing them back to you.  Our dog, Lola, keeps stealing them,” she explained.  Her siblings nodded, solemnly.

Lola?  A thief?  Lola, who barely makes eye contact and scurries out of the back yard whenever she sees us?  How could it be?

I smiled and thanked them as Lola, who is apparently both braver and sneakier  than she appears bounded through the woods, oblivious.  The four of us did a little problem-solving and placed Alvin and Baby Gnome in a planter on the front porch when Lola wasn’t looking.  We are hopeful that there will be no more gnomes going AWOL.

But if one of Alvin’s brother’s turns up missing, at least I’ll know where to find him.

Fish gotta swim…Beagles gotta howl.

And Labs? Well…..

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