Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

A Dog-Gone Happy Ending

I’d had a good day yesterday. I did a book signing at the General Store in Westlake until 2:00 p.m., and then stopped by Bethel Church on my way home to get some more pictures of the cemetery. The day didn’t turn horrible until an hour later.

John wasn’t home when I arrived, but he came home shortly after. The dogs, he reported, had vanished. He’d been cutting wood by Standiford Creek on Smith Farm. Maggie and Harley had been running and playing in the creek. Then they were gone.

He waited for a while. Nothing. No sign. Harley is a Catahoula, bred to run fast. A few years ago, he’d run wild through the area for at least three weeks before I did an “off-road adoption” and enticed him into my kennel. I once clocked him running at over 30 miles hour. Maggie has never been wild, never spent a night outside of kennel or house, never been out of sight for more than 15 minutes.

As soon as I heard the dogs were missing, I jumped in my truck and took off. I called and called. Nothing. I drove down the road to where Standiford Road crosses Standiford Creek. I had the sense they’d been through there. Probably they’d been running a coyote. I never saw a trace of them.

I figured I’d have to spend the night at the farm while I waited. While John was searching the area, I called my animal communicator friend, Karen Wrigley. No answer. I left a message.

While John waited at the farm, I went home to feed. A message was on my answering machine: Karen. I called her. She gave me some info: they were chasing something, had gone through a small area of woods and into a field. That was logical: on the other side of our woods is a hayfield. But the area is filled with woods interspersed with fields.

They were headed down the creek toward the lake, she said, check Rt. 905 and 1111 area. Something like a business down there. A reddish building. Water. Boats. But they were on the move, fast. Maggie wouldn’t leave Harley. Harley wanted to stay out. She’d give them a message to wait for me in a field and listen for the sound of my truck, or to follow the creek and go back to the farm and find John’s truck.

I drove back to the farm and collected John. He drove while I navigated and looked. Nothing. No sign of them. The sun was setting.

Back at the farm, John went home to eat while I called Karen again. They weren’t ready to be found yet, she said. They were OK. They were still together. Maggie had a scrape on her leg but was OK. Maggie’s message for me: “Go home and go to bed.” Harley’s message: “I’m smarter than you think I am.”

They’d been on the move a lot. “I can tell you where they’ve been,” Karen said, “but they won’t tell me where they are now.” They’d been through some cows, they came to a place where there was bare ground. Maggie said they’d crossed a river; it was much bigger than a creek. Karen and I figured it might have been a cove. The dogs weren’t ready to end their adventure yet.

They’d be home probably Sunday morning, Karen said. Maggie has a strong sense of direction; she can find the way home. Karen had a feeling about Kemp Ford Road. She also got the feeling of chickens.

While John stayed at the farm for another hour, I went home. I slept outside in the truck so I’d hear them if they came home in the night. I had a strong mental picture of Maggie running to the truck and jumping in. At midnight, though, I drove the back roads again. (Note: You’d be amazed how many possums are walking along otherwise deserted roads at midnight.)

I was worried about them having to cross Route 40, a heavily-traveled highway. They’d have to do that to get home. Maybe I could find them first.

Early Sunday morning—a few hours ago as I write this—I went to the Minute Market to gas up my truck and put up a “lost dog” poster. I stopped along the road to post a few more. By the time I got to Union Hall, John was in the woods chain-sawing. He figured they might hear the noise.

I drove up to the cabin where I’d left Maggie’s favorite ball. Nothing. I got a sense that they hadn’t been there last night. Then I got a strong feeling: Drive out Kemp Ford Road! Now!

I left the farm and turned left onto Kemp Ford. I’d gone about a half-mile when I saw a black and white border collie and a gray and black catahoula in a field in front of some woods. They were headed in the direction of home. They stopped and looked at me. I stopped my truck and motioned the guy who was behind me to go around. I was afraid my dogs would run in front of him, but they didn’t. I dropped the tailgate.

“Maggie, come!” I yelled. And she did. Followed by Harley. On my command of “Load!” both dogs jumped into the back of the truck. I closed the tailgate. They were safe. Their incredible journey had ended.

I stopped by the farm to tell John that I had them. I also gave them some food which they wolfed down. I started for home—past some chickens that were in a field with cows.

I think they're glad to be back in the kennel. They seemed glad to have breakfast.

Maggie has a scrape on her right hind leg and is limping very slightly. But she’s OK. Half of Harley's tag is snapped off. They’re both dog-tired, but they're OK. I’m OK now.

Karen Wrigley is better than OK at what she does. She’s doggone good!


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Blogger Amy Hanek said...

You have to love a "tail" with a happy ending!

I am glad they were okay and have an adventure to tell. That would make a great first person (dog) story for a child. It could become a series of short chapter books, "The Border Collie Adventure Series".

My first and third grader would read it!

12:15 PM  
Blogger Becky Mushko said...

The Incredible Journey already did the "animals go on a journey and turn out OK" idea.

The quintessential border collie book for kids is probably Mrs. Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten, written by Joseph Slate and illustrated by Ahsley Wollf. Not an adventure book, but a lot of fun.

The "border collie journey that turns out OK" book for adults would be Nop's Trials by Donald McCaig. I read that and Nop's Hope when I was adopted by my first border collie.

I plucked Jon Katz's A Good Dog out of the remainder bin at Books-a-Million a couple of weeks ago because of the border collie face on the cover.

I'm just thankful Maggie and Harley didn't get shot. I hope Maggie was busy enough herding Harley that she wasn't side-tracked into any freelance cow-herding.

The last time today I checked them in the kennel, it looked as if they were sleeping off a drunk.

4:40 PM  
Blogger CountryDew said...

Wow. I am impressed with your devotion to your dogs, sleeping in the truck and driving the roads at midnight. I am glad they are safe.

9:36 AM  

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