Since our little incident in which Maya disappeared during a walk down the trail behind our house, a couple weeks back, I’ve been fairly careful when it comes to walking her sans leash. For the first few days, I only walked her on a leash. However, walking all of the dogs on leashes is a time-consuming business, because I either have to walk them in groups of one and two (taking twice as long), somehow convince the wife to join us (hasn’t happened yet, except for excursions to the state forest, where they run around without leashes anyway) or I would have to try and walk all three at once, (which just seems inadvisable on a number of fronts). So I have returned to walking them down the trail without leashes just so everybody can get a good run in and I don’t have to mess around with multiple trips. On these leashless jaunts, I have usually carried Maya’s leash, just-in-case, but have just kept an eye on her and if she strays too far I call her back. Mostly she sticks close to me while the others wander afar. It’s worked fine, so far.
Yesterday, after the dogs had been cooped up in the house all day, I finished up a bit of work and decided they deserved a walk. I just caught a cold, so I bundled up, took them out to the edge of the wireless fence boundary and we all went through the motions of the polite fiction that I have some personal control over whether the barrier is “up” or not. This amounts to me making the dogs all sit within a few feet of the flags, then they have to wait as I back up through the barrier, and, when I think they’ve waited long enough, I point to one of the flags and say “flag.” Then they dash through and down the trail, leaving me to go fetch my walking stick from the wood shed. I’m pretty sure that Sadie and Moose know full well that this is a bullshit ceremony, but they placate me cause they get to go on a walk. Maya does not yet know that it’s bullshit, and she takes the barrier very seriously.
After fetching my stick, I started down the trail and saw the dogs were all up ahead of me. Then, after looking down to check the ground for dog mines for a few seconds, I looked back up and saw Sadie disappearing into the weeds and brush off the right side of the trail. There was no sign of Moose or Maya, though could hear doggy sounds in the weeds on either side of the trail. After a few seconds I tried to call them all back, but they didn’t turn up. I continued down the trail, then up the hill on the other side and around to the clearing. No dogs.
For about ten minutes, I just waited in the clearing, calling Maya and clapping my hands–which, at our house, is the international audible signal that Pa wants dogs back in formation right now. No dogs.
I started back down the trail toward the house, calling for Maya. Mid-way back, Moosie showed up. Then Sadie. No Maya.
Having Sadie and Moose run off for lengths of time during our woods walks is no longer worrisome to me. They’ve done it dozens of times and always come back, usually before I can make it back to the house. I know they know their way home. Maya, though, is still green to the woods. And while she came back after running off before, I’m less confident in her not running afar and getting in a road somewhere.
At the time, my guess was that she had sniffed out a deer and was in pursuit. This close to hunting season, they’re absolutely underfoot and it’s a rare day that passes that I don’t see at least three. So I wasn’t initially worried that she had run off after one.
After making it all the way back to the yard with no Maya, though, I texted the wife just to let her know the situation, and then turned to walk back up the trail, calling and clapping some more. No dog.
Fifteen minutes passed as I stood around on the trail, clapping and calling, Sadie and Moose running through the brush all around, making false hope Maya’s back sounds. I decided to go ahead and text the wife about the situation. If prayer was needed, I’d rather she was involved as I suspect her connection is clearer.
I returned to the house, but saw no Maya. I put the other dogs into the house and then hopped in the car. Once again I made the trek down the highway and to one of the intersecting roads that Maya could have reached from the trail. I drove up and down it, calling and clapping through my open window. While I was driving, the wife called to get an update. I explained my theory that Maya had run after a deer. I’d passed five of them in a field during my drive along the road. And as I looked out at that moment, I saw a flock of wild turkeys and added them to the pile of things Maya might be chasing. Maybe she would bring one home.
On my way back to the house, I stopped at the humane society. This time I went in and asked if anyone had seen a St. Bernard running by. They hadn’t, but said they’d keep an eye out.
I motored on back to the house, feeling down. I pulled into the driveway, hoping against hope that she would be waiting there, but she wasn’t. Sadie and Moose were going nuts in stairwell window, but there was no sign of Maya to be had. I climbed out of the car and, mostly on a just-in-case basis, clapped half-heartedly and called “Maya…” I waited a few seconds, then turned to head toward the front door. Then, from behind me, I heard a slight jingle of tags on a collar and turned to find Maya slinking up. She looked concerned that she would be in terrible trouble, as if she expected me to scream at her. I just smiled, patted her on the head, and said, “hey, sweet girl. Where’ve you been?” She brightened at this and wagged her way beside me into the house.
Days since last accident = 0