It's the Amazing Pet Contest, and the winner gets to go on Mr. Lizard's Funhouse . . . on TV! Katie's got a singing parrot. David's got a gross rat. And Nancy's got Chocolate Chip, her soccer-playing puppy. . . .
But Chip won't do her trick. Something's wrong, and Nancy's afraid she's sick. She also thinks it just wouldn't be fair if Chip doesn't get to go on TV because somebody played a dirty trick on her!
"I put her in the yard," Hannah said. "She can't cause much trouble out there."
Nancy led her friends outside. Chip was tied to a tree with a long leash. She was lying in the shade. Someone else was in the yard, too -- Brenda Carlton.
"What are you doing here, Brenda?" Nancy asked.
Brenda flipped her dark hair over her shoulder. "I'm writing a story about the Amazing Pet Contest for my newspaper.
The Carlton News was Brenda's own newspaper. Her father helped her type it on their home computer every week.
"You have seen the latest issue, haven't you?" Brenda asked the girls.
"Yeah," Katie whispered to Nancy. "At the bottom of Lester's birdcage. "
"I heard that, Katie, " Brenda said. She turned to Nancy. "By the way, Nancy, what trick did you teach your dog? What's her name -- Oatmeal Raisin? Cherry Vanilla?"
"Her name is Chocolate Chip," Nancy said as she unhooked the leash from Chip's collar. "And we were just about to practice."
"Mind if I watch?" Brenda asked sweetly. It was a fake kind of sweet.
Nancy shrugged her shoulders and picked up a soccer ball from the ground. She stood in front of the goal she had set up, looked at Chip, and called out, "Stay." Then Nancy kicked the ball to her puppy.
Chip nuzzled the ball. She flipped it in the air with her nose and bounced it on her head. When the ball was high, Chip rolled on her back and kicked the ball with her hind feet. It flew into the net.
"Goal!" George cried.
"Totally awesome," Katie said.
Nancy turned to Brenda. "Will we be reading about Chip in the Carlton News?"
Brenda forced a yawn. "A stupid dog trick does not make a good story. But if Chip fails and makes a fool of her owner," Brenda said, "now, that's a good story."
Nancy glared at Brenda. "That will never happen."
Brenda flashed a mean smile. "Anything can happen."
"What type of tricks are the other pets doing?" Bess asked.
"I heard Orson Wong is bringing a flea circus to the contest," Katie said.
"No way." Nancy giggled.
"Uh-oh. Speaking of insects." George pointed over Nancy's shoulder. "Look who's coming."
Nancy turned and saw Jason Hutchings and David Berger enter her yard. They were famous for playing jokes on all the kids at school.
"What's so funny?" David asked.
"We were talking about Mr. Lizard's Amazing Pet Contest," Nancy said."
"David has a pet in the contest, too," Jason said.
"What kind of pet?" Nancy asked.
"A rat," David said.
"EEEEeeeeeewwww!" the girls all screamed at once.
"His name is Skeevy." David made crawling movements with his fingers. "And he stands on his hind legs and begs for cheese."
Jason laughed and picked up Chip's soccer ball.
"Put that down," Nancy said. "That's part of Chip's trick."
"So what? Chip's not going to win anyway. " Jason held the soccer ball over his head. "Skeevy is."
Chip barked and jumped at the ball. It was too high for her to reach.
"Hey, Jason, throw it here! " David yelled. He was jumping up and down next to Nancy's house."Okay, you asked for it." Jason threw the ball to David -- hard.
Nancy held her breath as she watched the ball sail over David's head and crash through the living room window.
"You two are in big trouble! " Bess shouted to the boys.
"We're outta here," David said as he and Jason ran from the yard.
Then Chip bolted toward the house. When she got close, she yelped and leaped right through the broken window.