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Meet Mini. She’s a Jack Russell Terrier mixed with something else I don’t know, and as you can see, she’s rather adorable. For the last two weeks, Mini has been a member of our family, thanks to her owners’ trip to Mexico, and she’s taken to the small village of Combe with heartfelt gusto. This is her story.

Mini arrived at our front door two weeks ago with two leashes, one squeaky toy, a box of poop-bags, a bone bigger than her head, a ball even bigger than the bone, an array of other dog-related appliances, and two kind guardians (our friends who live down the road) in tow. We’d heard she was something of a Houdini when it came to enclosures, so we’d prepared a chicken-wire fence, hoping to keep her within the bounds of our walled-off garden. Since the walls are as high as my chest, and Mini’s about as high as my lower shin, I didn’t think this would be such an issue. Well, it didn’t take long for me to be rudely surprised.

Assuming our garden enclosure to be quite secure, my family did not always monitor Mini’s movements with the utmost diligence. It only took the barking of photoanother dog for Mini to bolt, finding a way under the chicken-wire fence and bounding over a low portion of the stone wall behind. By the time my sister and I followed her tracks, our quarry had disappeared into the overgrown hedges of the neighbor’s property, with only her distant yippings to alert us of her general whereabouts. My mother grabbed a bag of treats and dashed to the car, hoping to cut off our escapee before she reached the next village. “Just great,” I thought, as I scoured the dense brush for a sign of her. “It’s only the third day, and we’ve already lost her.” I imagined trying to explain to Mini’s owners, in two weeks time, that she was off gallivanting through the British countryside (assuming she hadn’t swum the channel to Europe by then, which, given this dog’s energy and athletic ability, seemed entirely plausible).

Just as I was starting to give up hope of ever seeing Mini again, I heard a vicious snarl from a nearby hedge, followed by a terrified yelp. A lanky brown dog more than twice Mini’s size exploded from the greenery, with our little Houdini in hot pursuit. Mini, ears flattened against her baseball-sized head, face contorted in seething rancor, was determined to run down this pathetic creature who had dared to encroach on her territory. As I took off after the speeding pair, I was amazed that a creature with legs scarcely longer than my fingers could run so fast. Luckily, Mini got caught behind a fence, and I managed to catch up. I grabbed her and brought her back indoors (she was remarkably tolerant once I’d caught her), and from then on, we were always careful to keep a watchful eye on the garden. One great escape was enough.

1176272_10153124341075125_36504194_nDespite her unruly escapades, I’ve grown quite fond of Mini during her residency here at House Hawkins. She’s the sort of dog that you can’t really get angry at, even when she’s devoted herself to the utter destruction of your pillow. She kept me from being too much of a lazy bum by prancing into my room at ten o’clock every morning, jumping on my bed, and licking me enthusiastically in the face. Walks were always highly encouraged by our young canine lodger. Her insatiable thirst for adventure was contagious, and I’d find myself exploring overgrown footpaths, dilapidated fences, and sprawling pastures, when all I had intended was a ten-minute walk around the block.

Perhaps Mini’s most remarkable quality was how she played ball. Instead of attempting to describe this phenomenon, I thought it would be most effective to provide a video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4Q6P8-4kug

Unfortunately, all good things must end, and Mini’s stay here could not last forever. When her owners came to collect her, I braced myself for a difficult goodbye. There would be no more unplanned walks, where I’d be unwittingly dragged down England’s scenic footpaths, no more great escapes to engage my tracking expertise. And I certainly don’t expect to meet as fierce a ball-player anytime soon.

Still, for a creature as small as she is, Mini seems to get around. I’m sure I’ll see her sometime in the future, wherever there’s a squirrel to be chased or a smelly adventure to be had.

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