The Escapist

Thomas M. Jardine

© Copyright 2024 by Thomas M. Jardine

Photo courtesy of the author.
Photo courtesy of the author.

Our move to Benjamin Grove was not without a smidgen of angst. We were leaving a two-story, 5- bedroom, turn-of-the-century ( nineteenth ) farmhouse that was sitting on 7.5 acres, and going to a 2-bedroom, 900 square foot unit in one of a dozen quads. A community that targeted seniors, though being one was not a prerequisite.

It was not just leaving our lovely old home that was causing my wife and I grief. Sandra had been in the house for approximately ten years before we met. So while there was more sentimentality in the place for her, I knew I would miss the old money pit. And we would both miss the privacy and largesse of it . . . the gardens, the open fields, and outbuildings.

Plus, living for the last 7 of the past 25 years at our old house with me, Sandra had taken to breeding English Springer Spaniels as a way of taking up her time that, up until 1998 had been spent as a Junior High School teacher. It was in that year when her immune system had been compromised by molds in the school where she taught, one of the many old ’sick’ school buildings in our province.

Springers are a special breed. They are lovely dogs, very intelligent, great with children, and completely devoted to their owner(s). In 2007 she had purchased a three-month old male from a breeder in British Columbia. We called him Cammy after the city, Campbell River, where he was born.

Then she began the love-labor of whelping and raising pups for sale to adoring buyers. Over the years, our pups have gone to owners in most provinces, several states in the U.S., and even mainland China.

When it came time for our Cammy to retire, we kept him and his favorite mate, Fiona, purely as pets for a number of years. Fiona died when she was twelve and two years later, the year we moved to the Grove, we had to put Cammy down for health reasons. He was thirteen. It was certainly the hardest thing I have ever had to do, no matter how necessary it was.


For several months afterwards, we hummed and hawed over the pros and cons of getting another dog. Then in early November 2020, we finally decided that our lives were just not complete without a dog to have around us. There is something about the unconditional love of a pet dog that pulls at one’s heart strings.

When we saw an ad online for a Biewer Yorky, we acted quickly, drove to the breeders in Bathurst, New Brunswick, 560 kilometers away, and picked up our new little guy. He was quickly dubbed ‘Clancy’. It was something about his attitude.

Biewer Yorkies are a little bigger than the regular models, reaching an adult weight of approximately 20 pounds. Also, we were told their three colors of grey, white, and caramel, as compared to their two-toned black and brown cousins, are due to a recessive gene.


Now from the moment we brought him home, Clancy was immensely inquisitive about his new surroundings. He rarely barks, unless he happens to see other dogs on our television, or when nature calls and he needs to go outside, which is a good thing. Or when he wants to play, or when he gets hungry or thirsty. Yeah, when he wants a cuddle, or when he feels it’s time to go to bed.

Okay, he’s not totally quiet. But at least his bark is not a constant, nagging yap that a lot of small breeds seem to have. Just one bark, loud enough to get your attention, then he gives you a look with his head cocked to one side, and you’ve got several options to figure out what he wants.

When we do take him out, he loves it, and our neighbors, for the most part, adore him. They all say ‘hi’ to him, when they meet us on our walks around the Grove. They rub his ears, and let him do his sniff thing with them. He’s a real tease too, so it didn’t take him too long to become well and favorably known in our community. They know him as The Escape Dog in building 42.


I think Clancy’s escape excursions leading up to the incident can be blamed on his size, his quietness, and even his color (he has the exact tones as the fabricated floors in our unit, not to mention our new sofa and chairs). All this, along with his intense curiosity and love of the outdoors, had resulted in a number of times when he got away from us.

On those occasions, it was simply a matter of him sneaking past Sandra or I when we would open one of our doors. You wouldn’t hear or see him until it was too late. Then it would take a lot of cajoling, begging, and outright cleverness to outwit him: Sandra holds a door open while I toss his favorite chewy from the back yard into our unit; one of our neighbors sees the commotion and coaxes him in to their unit; reverse psychology sometimes works (“see ya Clancy, we’re going for a drive . . . ”, start the car and leave the passenger-door open until he jumps in).

These moves, however, are now old hat, and he quickly disregards them for the ruses they are in favor of allowing you to get within one foot as he sits there, daring you to try to grab him. Then he’s gone like the wind!


There’s a rise in the street leading into and out of our community. It goes down over a fairly steep hill, a distance of a good three-wood hit, where it meets the deadly county Number 1 Highway, easily the busiest stretch of road between the two main towns in our area. Any night or day, cars, large trucks, and motorcycles are constantly speeding by our surprisingly quiet setting.

On a few occasions, Clancy has shown a strong curiosity to get down over that dreaded hill. It has been the cause of great distress on my old heart to think of him ever breaking free and reaching that stretch of highway.


Last week, we were invited to take in a local concert a few miles away from our place. Knowing it was only going to be a maximum of two hours, we decided to leave Clancy in the care of our next door neighbors. In hindsight, we coulda/shoulda taken him to a local pet-sitting service.

Our immediate neighbors, however, are a lovely couple. John and Betty, though in their 80s, were well acquainted with the little guy. Betty especially loved him, and frankly, sometimes we wondered if Clancy might prefer the tickles and belly rubs that she provided over ours.

So off we went, leaving him in his kennel with Betty on their back deck. Everyone was happy . . . what could possibly go wrong?

He didn’t even give us a second thought as we drove away. Did I mention John and Betty are in their 80s?


When we returned a couple of hours later, I knocked on our neighbors door, expecting an excited Clancy to be all over of us. Not a sign of him. Eventually John came to the door and invited me in. Sandra had gone to our own unit to get supper ready.

Hey John, how did you make out with Clancy?” I asked, looking around their apartment for him, not seeing him.

Uhh, okay,” John replied, in a rather unenthusiastic way, looking everywhere except in my eyes. I mentioned John and Betty are in their 80s, like the majority of folks here. We happen to be a decade or so younger.

Oh. Where’s Betty? Or Clancy?” I prompted.

On the back deck,” he gestured. “Go on out.”

I saw Betty sort of lying in her lounge chair half-asleep, with a book she had been reading in her lap. In his kennel beside her, Clancy was also lying there, dead to the world. Hearing us, Betty woke up. Then sensing us, Clancy also arose, and when he spotted us, his began wagging his tail in earnest.

That’s a good thing! I thought to myself.

Hey Betty, I guess Clancy tired you out, eh?”, I asked, seeing she was pretty beat.

Hell, you don’t know the half of it!”, she said. “He got away on us, don’t ya know!”

Yeah,” John added, from behind me. “It took a bunch of us to get him!” He swung his arms wide and about to include four or five of the quad buildings around us.

Oh no! What happened?” I asked, with visions of a dozen or so octogenarians trying to round up the escape artist. Clancy right into the game, enjoying every minute of it.

Oh yes!”, Betty emphasized. “Just ten minutes after you guys left, John told me he was going outside to water the flowers. Before I could warn him, Clancy ran and left me in the spare room. I saw him running to John, making a bee- line for the back door that he was opening. ‘John, look out for Clancy!’, I yelled to him, a little too late, I’m afraid.”

Yessir! And lickity-split, just like that,” John snapped his thumb against his middle finger, “Clancy was sitting out onta the back lawn!” Clancy heard the snap made by John and he sat straight up, looking at me. I swear he had a grin on his face, looking quite proud.

I know how he likes to play the game!”, said Betty. “Lord knows how often I’ve watched him training you two out back! So I yelled out to Janey who happened to be sitting outside. Janey had her phone out. That woman, she’s always calling somebody on it. Says it’s her grandkids, but I don’t know. One time, ___”

Betty!” I had to interrupt her.

Right!”, Betty resumed. “Janey called Jim Bishop and he came over.”

Jim’s a good guy who lives across the street, but he has to use a walker, and I was now getting concerned about how this story was going to end. Betty must have sensed this, because she immediately explained further.

It’s not what you think,” she said. “Jim only came as far as the edge of our property. Told us he’d stay there and he’d guard the dog’s egress. Yeah, that’s what he called it! An egress . . . what the hell’s an egress?”

Betty,” again I had to get her back on point.

Frank told me to go above Clancy, to his left__”.

Wait!” I interrupted. “You mean Frank in building 26 was there too?”

Yep, Frank’s ex- military and he quickly saw the situation from his front door. Came down to help, I want you to know! He immediately told John to help establish a perimeter between Clancy and our deck. Janey would cover Clancy’s flank. He said he’d look after Clancy’s frontal position and I was to cover his egress to the side street. What’s an egress?”, she again asked.

I had to cover my eyes, bite my tongue from yelling. Then John came to my rescue.

Thank God for Howard!”, he said. “He was able to net him!”


That’s right!” John was now getting back into the conversation. “Howard’s got one of those telephonic nets, ya know. That are on a pole and they pull apart?”

Telescopic,” I said.

Yeah, that’s what I said!”, John argued. “When he ran circles around the four of us, no thanks to Jim, we figured we’d need some more help. That’s when Janey called Howard,” he said.

Yes,” Betty said. “And George Dickson who lives next to Jim here, also saw what was happenin’, and he joined us. His wife Mary Lou also came down. We finally had the little bugger surrounded!” She looked down at Clancy, grabbed him playfully. “Didn’t we, Clancy?”, and she ruffled the subject’s ears when she noticed him cocking his head and looking at her intently.

I didn’t think Howard was that good at using the net. He showed it to me before, explained how yer supposed to work it, ya know?”, John said, moving his right arm about, swishing an imaginary salmon fishing net.

But by God, he got that little dog, sure enough! Was only fifteen or twenty minutes ago since the commotion settled and everyone’s gone home. How was the concert?”

I had Clancy’s leash on him, kennel all folded up and under my free arm, and was on my way out the door.

The concert was great, folks. Look, I’m sorry if Clancy has given you a hard time . . .”

Betty was walking out with me, then knelt down to scratch Clancy’s ears again.

Oh, Clancy could never give us a hard time, could you, Clancy!”

There was a lot of relief in the air when I left Betty’s place. Also a lot of love . . .


I am retired from the Canadian personal financial services industry. I am a part-time musician, and a full-time wannabe writer living with my wife and Clancy in the beautiful Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. I have not yet received publication on anything I have written thus far.

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