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An excerpt from "Mrs. Maloney's Garden"

As I stepped onto the porch, I noticed that Stitches wasn’t tied to the maple tree any longer and that Trevor wasn’t in the tree. Although Josh was still sitting on a branch – I could see his red hair through the leaves – Trevor had climbed down from the tree and was standing with Stitches in the little garden with the white picket fence.

Nearby, the compost bin was open, the lid up. That was weird, for the lid was usually down, to keep animals out, so I figured Trevor had taken something from the bin to tempt Stitches with it. Sometimes bits of meat get thrown into the bin by accident. My dog loves meat. He must have thought something smelled pretty good because he was clawing and sniffing in the garden, with Trevor standing over him, egging him on.

Despite everything that had happened the night before, Trevor was more determined than ever to find out what was buried in the garden.

When the door slammed behind us, his head jerked up, and then he put on the biggest show you’ve ever seen. Instead of encouraging Stitches to stay in the garden, he urged him to get out of the garden.

What a big faker! The biggest!

He yelled at Stitches like you wouldn’t believe. “Get out of there you ugly mutt, or I’ll kick you so hard you’ll never be able to sit your butt down again!” After swinging his leg back as far as it could go, he drove his humongous foot forward, fast, as if he were kicking a pop can down the street.

Did he kick Stitches? I don’t know. He might have been putting on a show, trying to scare my dog out of the garden so he’d look good.

Trevor the hero.

Trevor the creep was more like it.

He wasn’t my friend anymore, and I never wanted to see his ugly face again.

Stitches went crazy. He hates when anyone yells at him. First, he shakes all over, and then he runs off in all directions until he finds a spot to hide.

That day was no different. Stitches leapt over the white picket fence and ran around the yard searching for a place to hide, then flew around the side of the house and headed to the front yard.

I’d never seen him run so fast. His paws hardly hit the grass. He’s just a little dog, but he covered a lot of ground. Dropping the water bowl on the grass, I ran after him.

“Stitches come back!”

All the commotion had brought Mrs. Maloney to the backyard, and she started calling Stitches too.

He might have heard us but was so crazed I don’t think he realized that we weren’t mad at him for digging in the garden, just scared.

Rob was just behind me as we raced to the front yard.

Stitches was pounding the sidewalk, his leash trailing behind.

I hoped with all my heart that he was heading home. My house was just a few blocks down the street. Stitches had gotten loose before and had found his way home. Although I’d looked everywhere for him, he’d wandered home on his own. I’d found him sitting at the top of the front steps, his tail thudding madly, his head cocked to the side, as if he were wondering where I’d been and why I had been gone so long.

Rob and I ran down the sidewalk as fast as we could go, gaining on Stitches. He had just slowed down enough for us to catch up to him, when Trevor, close behind with Josh, hollered his head off, “Stitches, come back, boy!”

Knowing Stitches, he’d never go near Trevor again, so just hearing his voice was enough to make my dog take off again.

Stitches didn’t see the car. It was bright red, a small car – but it seemed as big as a bus when it barrelled down the street towards us. It had turned the corner at the lights on Forest Avenue and was roaring along Greenway Drive in our direction.

Without looking, Stitches darted right in front of it!

Diving for his leash, I hit the cement sidewalk and slid across the gravel to a stop, like a ball player making it “home” before being tagged out. My right arm hurt so much I thought I was going to throw up, so I quickly stuck out my left and grabbed the leash, yanking it back.

But I was too late!

Tires squealing, the small red car slammed into Stitches, tossing him high in the air – and my dog came down with a sickening thump!

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