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“What are you two muttering about?” I asked the dogs.

“You,” Jem barked. “You’re looking at pictures of puppies.”

“I like puppies,” I told him. “Don’t you?”

“Absolutely not,” he shot back. “And those aren’t just any puppies, they’re springer spaniels.”

“Just like you,” I said. “Is that a problem?”

“Yep, it is,” he replied. “There are already too many of us.”

“There are?” Ace spoke up. “There used to be four of us.”

“There’s still one too many,” Jem barked.

“Who is too many?” Ace wanted to know.

“Think about it, pal,” Jem growled.

Ace climbed up in his chair and stared at the wall.

“I’m thinking about it,” he muttered. “I’m thinking about it.”

“You know we’re going to get another dog, don’t you?” I asked Jem.

“What for?” he shot back. “You’ve got me, and the genius over there in the chair.”

“Well,” I replied. “You don’t hunt anymore, and the ‘genius’ is going on nine. He’ll only hunt for a few more years. I’d like to think I’ll be hunting far longer than that.”

“Yeah, you’d like to think,” Jem snarled. “You limp as badly as I do. How old are you in dog years again? And now you want a puppy? We’re going to end up in one of those please-adopt-us ads on television when you tip over.”

“I doubt you’ll be around when I tip over,” I told him.

“Don’t be so sure,” he shot back. “You’re no spring chicken yourself.”

“Chicken?” Ace asked, emerging from his stupor, “Where?”

“Out in the yard,” Jem answered. “Hundreds of them.”

Ace leapt off the chair and raced outside barking.

“You know he used to be a puppy,” Jem snapped at me. “Do you really think you need another one?”

“Not like that,” I replied. “Or you either. We’re getting a female this time.”

“So this is actually happening?” Jem asked. “This isn’t just talk?”

“It’s happening,” I told him. “We put down a deposit.”

Jem turned and headed for the door.

“Where are you going,” I asked.

“Outside to hunt chickens,” he said.

“You know there aren’t really any chickens out there, don’t you?” I told him.

“Of course,” he chirped. “But Ace doesn’t. In a few years you might not either. Maybe we do need another dog.”

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