"It's not that our dog doesn't like us. It's not that our dog doesn't care. It's not that our boy does his best to annoy -- it's because he can't turn down a dare."

"It's not that our dog doesn't like us. It's not that our dog doesn't care. It's not that our boy does his best to annoy -- it's because he can't turn down a dare."

This is the sort of thing that runs through my mind when my husband and I are outside shouting our dog's name. Two minutes ago he was right here, casually sniffing the pachysandra by the back porch, and in the time it takes to run inside for a jacket, he's gone.

That sounds like magic, doesn't it? All that's missing is a puff of smoke and a poof. In fact, Pip's disappearing act lacks only a deep bow at the end. A scent finds his nose and just like that he takes off, lured away like a cartoon animal following an aroma's beckoning finger.

Pip wouldn't describe it that way, of course. In his version, he's on the trail of something big, something vital, something that cancels out mundane rules about staying home. In his mind, expecting him to ignore whatever's caught his olfactory attention is like expecting a person not to run for help when the house is on fire because he's not supposed to cross the street.

But that's dogs for you. They live in the moment. We wish Pip would give living just couple of moments ahead a whirl. Not an hour, not a day. Just a second or two, enough to remember how much he dislikes being scolded, however mildly, and how much he likes the praise he gets when he zooms home when called.

He doesn't think ahead to these things, though. He was born without the thinking-ahead gene.

"He'll follow the call of a bunny. He'll follow the call of a squirrel. He'll follow the call of the soybeans in fall like a boy will follow a girl," I think while shouting myself hoarse.

He'll come back, my husband says grimly. And he will, or at least he almost always has. One second he's still missing, and the next we'll spot him ambling across the yard just as if he hasn't been gone for most of the afternoon.

I no longer rush off to report his disappearance to the animal control officer. I did that once, and when I told him that Pip had been gone for an hour and a half even I could see him mentally stop taking notes. Telling the dog catcher that your dog's been missing for 90 minutes is like calling the police when the mailman is late.

The difficulty is, neither of us can relax when the dog isn't home. We miss him, for one thing. We like having a dog around in case we want ears to scratch or a belly to rub. For another thing, we know the phone is likely to ring, as it did earlier this week. On the line was a neighbor, who had looked outside to see who was tripping his driveway alarm. No doubt he expected Jehovah's Witnesses or college students selling books, but instead he saw a black and white dog.

Luckily, Pip carries ID, both around his neck and under his skin. His dog tags bear my husband's name and our telephone number, and within a quarter hour, Pip was in my husband's truck. He should have been feeling chagrined, but of course he wasn't. Riding in the truck is Pip's paws-down favorite thing to do, and if he connected wandering away to the neighbors' house with an unexpected truck ride, his conclusions were nothing that could be described as a lesson learned. On the contrary, if anyone came away feeling like a post-surgical dog with a plastic cone around his neck it was my husband, particularly when he decided carrying Pip to the truck was preferable to letting him do a perp walk on his own four feet. A walk was too likely to end with another irresistible smell and a second dash into the soybean field.

"He embarrasses us pretty often. He embarrasses us every day. You'd think he was trying to be noncomplying but he simply was born just this way," I think as I listen to my husband describe this episode.

Pip is, to put it nicely, a mixed-breed animal. He looks like a border collie manufactured by someone who was a little hazy on the details, or who perhaps didn't have all the right parts and had to improvise. His ears are too floppy, his nose is too rounded and his eyes lack a border collie's gleam of intelligence.

"He might be as sharp as an eagle, tracking down all that's bad and illegal," I think. "Border collies are clever in every endeavor. But what we have here is a beagle."

I guess that's why it's called doggerel.

Write to ThisWeek News copy editor and columnist Margo Bartlett at mbartlett@ thisweek.com.