"Not again!" Elsie exclaimed. "That's the third time this week the Graham's dog has been over here. Just look at this," and Elsie bent down to pick up a half-dead petunia. "Those people are just not going to be satisfied until Barkley has destroyed my entire garden."
Elsie grabbed a small garden trowel and knelt down by the flower bed, next to her back door. "I wonder what treasure he has left me this time," she thought to herself. She pushed the trowel into the soft earth, stopping when it hit something hard. A little more digging and Elsie found her prize... a cell phone.
Leaning back on her heels, she let out a big sigh. "Well, so far that's a cell phone, a camera, several CDs, a watch and one of those hand-held computer games the kids play. I'm beginning to have quite a collection here."
Elsie got up and popped her new acquisition into the box in her garden shed which held the other items Barkley had left. She knew that everything in the box belonged to the Grahams. Twice, Elsie had tried to tell them what Barkley was doing but both times, Mrs Graham had hung up the telephone before Elsie had fully explained. The moment Elsie mentioned Barkley being on the loose, Mrs Graham would hear no more.
"When they start accepting responsibility for their dog, I'll return their belongings," Elsie muttered as she closed the garden shed door behind her.
Entering her house, Elsie wondered if another call to the Grahams was in order. "They do say the third time is the charm." She picked up the phone and dialled the number. "Hello, Mrs Graham? This is Elsie Peabody from across the road. I've just seen your dog over in my garden again, burying things, and was hoping..."
"I don't know why you insist on blaming us every time there's a dog in your yard," Verna Graham spat angrily, cutting Elsie off. "It can't have been Barkley. I haven't let him out all day. And even if it was, who cares? We can't be expected to know where he is all the time. None of the other neighbours complain. You're the only one making trouble!"
"Actually, Mrs Graham, it is your responsibility to know where Barkley is and to keep him..." Elsie heard the unmistakable click of a phone being hung up. "Oh, that woman is infuriating!" she cried as she hung up her own telephone.
Just then, there was a knock on the door and Elsie's old friend, Tom, popped his head around the corner. "Elsie, are you there? I've come to put a lock on that garden shed of yours."
"Oh Tom, you're a godsend. You know where the shed is. I'll pop the kettle on. I made a batch of those peanut butter cookies you like so much, yesterday. There will be a plate waiting for you when you're done."
Elsie puttered around in the kitchen while Tom worked on the garden shed door. Tom had offered to install a lock as there had been a rash of break-ins, recently, in the neighbourhood. So far, the thieves had restricted themselves to unlocked cars but an unlocked shed might prove equally enticing.
The kitchen door opened and in came Tom declaring, "I believe I'm ready for some of those cookies." He made himself comfortable in one of the kitchen chairs. "Elsie, I have to ask. What's that box of stuff doing in your shed? I didn't even know you got yourself a cell phone. You do realise you're supposed to carry it around with you. You don't just leave it in a pile somewhere."
"Believe it or not, I do understand the concept of a cell phone, Tom. The thing is, it's not mine." Elsie told him all about the Graham's dog and his habit of burying items in her garden. "They allow that dog to roam the entire neighbourhood, never accepting any responsibility for what he does."
Tom could barely contain his laughter. "Let me know what happens, huh? If you end up in jail for theft, I'll come bail you out. I may be retired but I still have friends down at the station."
"It can hardly be considered stealing. Barkley brings the items to me. I'm not taking them. Besides, the Grahams can have every single one of their things back if and when they let me finish telling them exactly what Barkley has done. Here, have another cookie," and she pushed the now half-empty plate closer to Tom.
Early the next morning, Elsie stepped out her back door to find the little bed of petunias newly dug up again. Bending down to inspect the damage, she spotted the corner of something leather. She pulled out the latest gift and discovered it to be a man's wallet. Elsie smiled to herself. This was the proof she needed. The wallet would turn out to belong to James Graham and there would no longer be any doubt as to whose dog was digging up her yard.
Elsie opened the wallet and let out a small cry of dismay. Returning to the kitchen, she picked up the telephone and immediately called Tom.
That evening, Tom came over to visit Elsie and fill her in on the latest details. He sat down at the kitchen table with a cup of tea and a plate of cookies. "So you see, those things that Barkley buried in your garden didn't belong to the Grahams at all. Verna and James Graham are responsible for the recent car break-ins. During the last six weeks, they've broken into dozens of cars. They were after the sound systems but if they found anything else of interest, they'd take it as well. It turns out the Grahams had a whole stash of stolen goods in their basement. Barkley was getting into the loot, taking the stuff and burying it like he would a pile of bones."
Tom paused to eat another cookie. "once you found that wallet, everything fell into place. It had been reported stolen in one of the thefts. The fact that you knew Barkley was responsible for leaving it in your garden connected the Grahams to the break-ins."
"And to think I was storing stolen goods in my garden shed," Elsie murmured. "You know, I never really liked the Grahams. They were so inconsiderate and rude." She shook her head, "but I would never have guessed they were criminals."
"No one knew what they were up to, Elsie. That is, no one but Barkley." Tom chuckled, "it's almost as if the dog knew those things should be kept hidden. And, had he dug up his own yard instead of yours, the Grahams might have gotten away, scot free."