Let me start by saying this: everyone is ok. But ‘alls well that ends well’, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will all feel well right away. So here is a recap on how I lost Bailey in an expansive wilderness…
Let me backup by saying that our
sweet angel butt-munch has been really acting out over the past 2 weeks or so. She’s had many episodes
of disobedience and disappearing during walks, hikes, and runs.
|Being scolded last week after running off on a walk.|
It was making me nervous, but she always came back to me in the end, so I just chalked up my apprehension to letting her off leash to my raging pregnancy hormones. Ultimately, I trusted her to always find her way back to me.
When Jillian asked me to bring Bailey along on a new forest walk with her and Angus near Ballater (an hour from Aberdeen), I admitted that the idea of taking Bailey to new territory right now made me nervous. However, since I wanted some girl time with Jill, I decided to risk it, bringing along Bailey’s leash just in case she showed any signs of ‘testing her boundaries’.
I had resolved to play by a ‘one strike and you’re out’ rule on this particular walk, because I didn’t want to be stressing out the whole time. For the first 10 minutes, I was pleasantly surprised. She was staying within 25 yards of us, always in sight, and coming back when called. That’s really all that I ask of her on these excursions, so I think I’m pretty lenient.
I began to relax and figured, if nothing else, Angus’ presence would keep her nearby, and he’s pretty good at herding her back to the trail if she wanders too far.
Once we’d made it about a mile into the forest, she took off through the trees. Jill and I could both still see her, but I was getting frustrated that she was running further and further from me, not slowing down despite being recalled. She got so far away that Angus abandoned ship and came back to us while she continue gallivanting through the forest.
Jill and I could still periodically see her little white head peeking over the ferns from time to time, so I wasn’t too worried, just annoyed, and prepared to put that little rascal on a leash as soon as she finally made her way back to the trail.
Only, suddenly, we lost sight of her. It was like she disappeared into thin air. We waited in that same spot for about 10 minutes, calmly calling her name every 30 seconds or so to try and get a reaction. We sent Angus into the shrubs to fish her out but he had no luck.
After 10 minutes, we decided to climb a nearby hill to get a better vantage point on her location, but we couldn’t spot her. We decided to follow a trail that encircled the area where we last saw her, but still never even caught a glimpse of her.
She’s pulled disappearing acts before, but she’s never been gone for more than 5 minutes (though every time she runs off it feels like an eternity until her return). This time was different. I could feel it. She was nowhere to be found and we had acres and acres of wilderness to search if we wanted to find her.
For a dog who can cover about 6 miles in 30 minutes, we had our work cut out for us. I felt so helpless. I had to entertain the possibility that we just might not ever find her, especially if she didn’t want to be found.
After about 30 minutes of her missing, we decided to head back to the car park to see if maybe she backtracked on the trail looking for us. We still didn’t spot her, but I grabbed my phone out of the car in case anyone ran across her and called the number on her ID tags.
At this point, 45 minutes had gone by, and I really started to panic. I called Jonathan and told him the news. At first he didn’t understand: “She ran away for 45 minutes? That’s awful. I’m so mad at her. You have her now though, right?”.
“No.” I sobbed. “She’s gone. Like really gone. And I just don’t know what to do.”
Sensing my hysteria, he immediately went home from work, printed out a ‘Missing Dog’ flier and started the drive down to Ballater.
We wanted Jill to be able to move on with her day and not be stuck with a hysterical pregnant lady looking for a lost dog for hours on end. My poor friend. She just wanted some relaxing girl talk in the fresh air. Instead, she got me in full on panic attack mode, walking aimlessly through a forest in the Cairngorms with no girl talk to speak of.
She was super supportive and encouraging and, for the most part, she was pretty darn successful in keeping me calm and composed. I held it together pretty well, but as the minutes ticked by without a sign of my pup, it would hit me all over again that I might never see Bailey-girl's freckled snout again, and the waterworks would start.
Again, I just felt so helpless. Jill asked every walker we saw if they’d seen Bailey (they hadn’t) but asked them if they found her to please call the number on her ID tag. I was on the phone with Jonathan explaining driving directions while Jillian asked a lady with a yellow lab pup if she’d look out for a spastic white and orange spaniel running through the trees.
While we waited for Jonathan to arrive, we decided to make one last round in the forest. By this point, we had walked and jogged 7 miles in a 3 hour timespan.
Things weren’t looking good. I started accepting the fact that I’d truly lost her. I started blaming myself for not listening to my instincts and keeping her on a leash from the get-go. And then I’d think about her lost and starving in the wilderness, and I would call out her name in increasing desperation. Nothing. Not a sign of her.
I knew that the best I could hope and pray was that someone would find her and hold on to her for me. I called the Scottish Forestry commission and had them send out a missing dog notice to all their rangers, in case anyone reported Bailey to them first.
Right around the *3 HOUR* mark, my phone rang. I figured it was Jonathan saying he’d arrived, but when I looked at my phone, my heart jumped at an unknown number. When I answered, the first words I heard were, “I have your dog.” I felt such a relief, but my mind was so frantic that I couldn’t possibly translate the unidentified woman's Scottish accented directions into any intelligible sense so I handed the phone over to Jillian, who figured out how to get to the house of Bailey’s guardian angel.
We sprinted back to the car and figured Jonathan would meet us in town. As we started driving into Ballater, we were about 4 miles away from our starting point. There was just no way Bailey traveled all that distance by herself. Finally, we arrived to retrieve her and discovered that our saviour was the dog walker with the yellow lab pup. On her way home, she spotted Bailey near the car park area, and decided to bring her home until I could come and get her. What an angel!
I couldn’t be more grateful that she was considerate enough to call after my dog. She even said that Bailey still kept running away, but finally, was enticed enough by her lab to come near enough to be leashed up. She even commented that she couldn’t wait until her pup calmed down like my Bailey girl and complimented Bailey on being so well behaved…Um, the dog that disappeared for 3 hours, and still wasn’t done running wild through the forest? I wouldn’t necessarily call that “calm” and “well-behaved”, though I will admit that the girl does have a sort of charm about her.
If she didn’t, we would have dropped her off at the pound ages ago.
So, very long story short…Bailey is safe and sound…and grounded for life. No more off leash walks until she can earn back my trust.
|She slept the whole way home...I hope her last hoorah was worth it!|
Which is super disappointing because it’s much more relaxing for me to have her off lead during our daily walks and jogs, plus she gets much more exercise out of that than lamely walking beside me at my pregnancy snail pace.
So by punishing her, I really feel like I’m punishing myself. The last thing I need is a rambunctious dog pulling on the lead while I’m trying to maintain balance and get a bit of relaxation. But I’d much rather that than the alternative of helplessly looking for her in a never-ending wilderness.
The incident taught me a lot of lessons. I plan to write more about how this experience has affected me in the coming days, but for now, I just want to crawl under the covers and nurse this emotional hangover with chick flicks and dark chocolate. See you tomorrow.