One of our friends is a lady named Belinda who we’ve known since shortly after we originally moved to West Virginia in 2001. She’s a nice lady who loves our dogs and they love her right back. Once in a while, she’ll give us a call and suggest we take the dogs for a walk somewhere. Belinda usually gets to walk Moose, who is easy to control. For these, we often head to the state forest in Hart’s Run, where there’s a nice two mile stretch of dirt road with no car and little foot traffic. We can let the dogs off their leashes for most of it and they have a blast running through the woods.
Unfortunately, our vet put the kibosh on the park, at least for the time being. We’ve still not received any vet records or proof of breeding from Maya’s former owners. (We don’t really care about the proof of breeding, but vet records would have been nice.) We’ve contacted them and they say the records are boxed up somewhere from their move. But they did let us know that she’d had none of her major shots. So in we went to get those from the vet. One of them is her parvo booster, which comes in multiple parts. Until she’s received at least two of them, the vet said she’s not allowed to hang out in places that strange dogs might frequent–which included the state park.
When Belinda most recently called to suggest a walk, I told her the park was out but suggested we could walk the trail through the woods behind our house. It’s not terribly long, unless you take the less-beaten path that runs along a lumber-truck trail and down a very steep hill. But it’s a decent walk and the dogs don’t have to be leashed.
The trail winds from our house, down a gentle slope and then up a slightly less gentle slope before winding around to a large clearing where the former owner of our house has deer stands set up. We had not yet reached the top of the not-so-gentle slope before all the dogs vanished into the brush. I figured they’d be waiting in the clearing, but there were no dogs to be found there. So I clapped for them and called. After a bit, Moosie appeared. I wasn’t worried about Sadie, who had probably just gone off to find some deer shit to roll in. I was more concerned, however, about Maya, who was new to the woods and possibly didn’t know her way home. I called and called and clapped some more, but no other dogs turned up.
Belinda and I started back for the house, which is what I usually do when Sadie doesn’t show up. She usually heads to the clearing, finds me missing and then come storming down the trail after me. And, not long back down the trail, this is what she did, her neck covered in deer shit. (“Why don’t they learn? Why don’t they listen?”) Still no Maya.
I stood mid way down the trail and called and clapped some more. No dog.
We then decided to return to the house, in case she’d wound her way back there–another old Sadie trick. Nope.
I then decided that what I really wanted to do was get in the car and head over to McIlhenny Lane, which runs in proximity to the wooded area the trail runs through. It was not inconceivable that Maya could have made it over there, attracted by the turkey farm or just chasing a deer. I asked Belinda if she could walk back to the clearing and wait for Maya there.
There were no St. Bernards on McIlhenny. While over there, I stopped at the Shriner’s lodge to peer down into the valley beyond it, which is the other side of the hill that the logging trail runs up and along the ridge, and beyond which is the clearing and our trail. No dog.
On the way back home, I took a quick detour over to the humane society’s headquarters, which is just over the hill, about half a mile from our house. Great big field to be found there, which Maya could have made it to with no troubles. There were people around, but I called and called all the same.
“You lose something,” a guy with a shaved head asked.
“Yeah, a St. Bernard,” I said. “We live just over the hill and she’s gone missing.”
He said that she might have been attracted to some goats that were penned up in one of the next lots over. Oh, goats,I thought. So that’s why I’ve heard “bahhhing” on occasion. As I looked in the direction of the goats, I saw what looked like Maya’s tail sticking up above the weeds.
“Oh, wait, there she…” I started. Then realized I was seeing several tails swishing in the weeds and that the tails were attached to at least four deer who were probably running away from me and my clapping. At least they didn’t seem to be chased by a St. Bernard.
Belinda called my cell phone and said she had an appointment to get to. I drove back, depressed that I’d managed to lose the dog and wondering what I would say to Ashley. I decided to call her, if for no other reason than to get someone else praying. She didn’t answer and I didn’t leave a message.
Back at the house, I said bye to Belinda, who was distraught at having to leave me in the lurch. I then grabbed my walking stick and headed back down the trail, just calling Maya’s name. I’d only just reached the slightly less gentle slope when the phone rang.
(I see it’s the wife and answer.)
THE WIFE– I saw that you called a few minutes ago?
ME– Yeah. Um. I’ve lost Maya.
THE WIFE– What?!
ME– Belinda and I were walking the dogs on the trail and then they all vanished in different directions. I figured they would just be at the clearing, but when I got there only Moosie and Sadie came when I called them. I’ve searched and searched and called and I can’t… Oh, wait. Nevermind. Here she is.
THE WIFE– What?!
ME– She’s back. We’re good.
Mid way through my sentence, Maya just wandered up, having come down the trail headed for home. And just like that my emergency situation vanished. I then got to return to the house with all the dogs, one of whom was immediately put in the shower for some deer shit scrubbing.