I was pulling weeds from the flower bed in the front yard when I realized I suddenly had company.

"Oh, hello there," I said to Louie who was standing on all fours looking directly into my eyes like a total psychopath.

It took a moment or two for my brain to register that Louie was not supposed to be standing next to me in the front yard while I pulled weeds from the flower bed. I had locked him away in the backyard twenty or so minutes ago. Shut the gate. Secured it, I thought. And yet, here he stood, staring, uncontained. A wild animal demanding his freedom.

The moment I started reaching for him he darted away into the neighbors' yard where he stood again, staring, like a total psychopath.

I engaged in all of my usual forms of bribery, offering attention, praise, promises of food. All of the incentives that usually work on me.

He could not be persuaded, nor threatened.

I've seen dogs wander off—great explorers with a curiosity that cannot be quenched. That is not Louie's situation.

He wasn't exploring.

He wasn't sniffing around the yard.

He wasn't trying to go anywhere in particular.

His only mission was to demonstrate to me that he simply cannot be contained. He was making a point out of this punishment. "Try to lock me away in the backyard one more time," his eyes stared at me.

It was at this point I noticed Duncan, my anxiety-fueled angel, standing at the open gate, peeking out at me and lightly whining. His high-pitched exhales seemed to plead, "he's not supposed to leave the yard but I couldn't stop him."

I found a shiny piece of metal nearby—an actual shiny thing, to try to distract Louie sufficiently to let me get close enough to grab his collar. This did not work, and the moment I was near reaching range, he darted again, this time to the next house up the street.

We continued this routine a few more times until he finally managed to run into a dead-end—a driveway, closed off by a garage.

"You've caught me this time," he seemed to be telling me through his bites as I carried the 30-pound monster back home.

"We've got to make sure we shut the gate all the way," I told Skylar later that evening. "Louie isn't like Duncan. He'll run out of the yard if he can."

The following day we repeated the exercise. "I could have sworn I shut the gate," I mumbled to myself as I carried Louie home, barefoot.

Skylar solved the mystery shortly thereafter. "Well, Louie has figured out how to open the gate," he told me, walking into the house with a dog who had clearly tasted freedom once again.

This seemed impossible. The gate includes a latch that you have to raise in a certain way and then simultaneously push the gate open. I rejected Skylar's announcement. That's when he took me outside, secured the driveway area with barriers to keep Louie from running down the street, and placed him in the yard with the gate closed so I could watch.

We don't have a dog. Louie has humans.

Please enjoy this week's Strangerville:

This time in Strangerville, Meg went to Italy, Eli's puppy can now open doors, and Brandt Hill takes the Strangerville Live stage to share a story about his father's decision to become a singer during his retirement.


Music Lessons, by Brandt Hill

Production by Eli McCann & Meg Walter

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