The One That Got Away

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Pepper was sitting in the yard and chewing her squeaky toy when a cab stopped right in front of her house. A handsome young man came out of the cab, hugged her human parents and installed himself in their guest room. He arrived with a large suitcase, which meant he would stay at least a few days or maybe even for a month. Pepper’s terrier brain immediately started dreaming about long walks in the park with him, a game or two of catch and chase, a warm lap to sit on, forbidden treats, and a share of the guest bed at night.

However, she found out to her extreme chagrin, that the man was “terrified” of her. Of her! The sweetheart of anyone and everyone who ever knew her? She could not understand it at all. She kept going through all her encounters with the man, trying to figure out if she did anything to offend him. She went to the full-length mirror and checked herself out – front, side and tail. She still looked cute and lovable. She sniffed her underarms. She still smelt like Mr. Parker’s rosemary bush. And guess what the worst was? Instead of cuddling her and letting her kiss his face, he ran away as soon as Pepper walked towards him, or tried to jump on his lap. Then he entered his bedroom and shut his door!

Pepper had no choice but to sit right by his door all day, trying to figure out what was wrong with him. If the door was open a crack, he would watch Pepper from inside with terror-filled eyes, while she lay on the floor outside, looking at him with her beautiful mesmerizing eyes, willing him to come out and play ball. Yet all he could manage was fear to take over his body and paralyze him. When he went to the bathroom to take his shower, Pepper ran alongside the man just to escort him to the right room, but he ran faster and faster, as if they were in a race. Of course, she waited outside the bathroom door, so she could run back with him when he was done, but he did not like that either, and complained bitterly about Pepper. Fortunately, Pepper’s parents happen to be very sensible, so they just laughed and joked about it.

During meals, Pepper sat right by his chair, pleading with her eyes to “friend” him, but he would not look. She dropped her squeaky toy on his foot, but he trembled as he lifted his feet up on the couch. After that incident, Pepper was deeply hurt, so she barked each time she saw him. In a couple of days he left, and Pepper missed him a lot, but the man probably did not care.

Few months later, there was a party at Pepper’s place. Someone rang the doorbell. Pepper was at the door first, because she was in charge of welcoming all guests with her three-foot high jumps and excited barks. Guess who was at the door, holding a bottle of red, peering at her? She was so excited that she could not control herself. She barked, barked, barked and barked again, welcoming him back to their home. He stood outside, trembling.

Pepper’s aunt came over and picked her up. She held Pepper in her arms, all upside down and belly exposed, with her four legs in the air.

She asked the man, “Are you scared of this little girl?”

He replied “Very much so. She barks at me and chases me around the house.”

“That is because you two are not friends. Come and pet her tummy, she will never bark at you again.”

Very fearfully, he touched Pepper’s tummy with one finger and drew his hand away.

Auntie deposited Pepper on the floor and wagged a finger at her nose.

“Behave yourself,” she said.

Auntie did not have to tell her. Pepper ignored him and went to the deck, where wild salmon and assorted vegetables were just coming out of the grill. As auntie chopped a slice of watermelon, Pepper spotted another handsome and lonely man leaning on the railing of the deck. She stood very close to the new man and gave him her play bark. The man lifted her up in his arms, looked deep into her eyes and smiled. Pepper licked his face. She was overjoyed at meeting someone new at the party. Perhaps they would take long walks, play ball, share a piece of salmon on a candlelit table, then end up on the guest bed….

Pepper led her new man to the couch. He poured himself a drink and made space for her on his lap. Her face moved closer and closer to his lips. Through the corner of her eyes, Pepper noticed the one that got away. Watching.

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