Miserable morning and I drew the short straw of taking the dog for a walk in the drizzle. We trudged to the local rec where the 9 o’clock club hang out – but only on clement days – and where dogs are free to run off the lead. The same rec where Jasper was scouted for the local flyball team because he’s a) fast and b) small (gets lower fences). Where he’s known by name by most other regular dog walkers owing to his excellent, friendly disposition.
But today, for some reason, was different. Hardly any other dogs, owing to the weather, so we trudged round in somewhat bedraggled fashion – past the memory trees, round by the immaculate bowling greens with their sprinkling of hardy all weather bowlers.
And then it happened. Jasper started to bounce and growl and yap. He’d clearly got the scent of something he wasn’t keen on – fox, I assumed. A shaggy, sort of labrador dog made a beeline for him to play, or so I thought.
And that’s when he bolted.
Yapping with fear he went flat out round the rec with the black dog in pursuit. Hell for leather he ran – I know he’s fast but he went off like a small brown and white guided missile, low to the ground, he’d have outpaced the fastest greyhound. The other dog was nabbed as he sped past but not Jasper. He was well and truly spooked and he wasn’t stopping for anybody. I pounded after him, boots clanging on the path, breath ragged, heart rat a tatting and then leaping into my mouth. Because Jasper ran straight past every other dog and hurtled out through the entrance to the rec. And across the road.
So I’m hurtling after him, heart pounding, breath rasping etc etc. And there’s another dog walker by the gate. I stop and wheeze the words “Have you seen seen my dog?
“Yeah,” he drawls “He went out the gate”. Like he could give a shit about my dog.
I think of my fellow dog walkers as confreres, compagnons – a fraternity of dog lovers who will pass the time of day, feed treats, share balls AND TRY AND CATCH MY FUCKING DOG IF HE RUNS PAST YOU LIKE A BAT OUT OF HELL, YOU GORMLESS IDIOT! “Did you see which way he went?”
So I did my stumbly half run/half walk in my big winter boots about as made for running as a pair of concrete overshoes out into the road. Relief. No small brown and white carcass. Of my 3 options – home, park, beach – I pick park, we always walk home through the park. And as I pound down the path I see him, I’m yelling his name “Jasper!!!” and then I see the lead and the hand and the owner attached.
“Have (gasp) you (pant) seen (puff) my dog?”
No. No dogs had come running through the park that she’d seen. So I went to the beach and had a full blown Fenton moment screaming “Jasper, cooommmmeeeeee bbbbaaaaaaaaccccccckkkkkkk!!!” like a demented, on the point of being grief stricken, prat.
Which was when I discovered I’d left my phone at home. Bugger. Still charging aimlessly from beach to prom, teetering on the very edge of a nervous breakdown, I finally thought to ask at the Sovereign Light Cafe (as made famous by Keane etc etc) if anyone had a phone I could borrow. 3 were produced but a kindly old fellah pointed out that I might like to use his “idiot proof old persons phone – just big buttons” and he was right. I fumbled out the number, my mum answered.
“Have you seen Jasper?
“OH MY GOD YOU LOST THE DOG”
(Yeah, thanks mum, this is precisely why I hate phoning you in these kinds of circumstances because you always assume it’s all my fault)
“He got away from me…spooked…run off…can you just check if he’s at home?”
(door clicks, sounds of jingling dog tags and excited snuffling and “you good little dog!”)
“Yes he’s here, he was on the doorstep”.
I trudged home, counting the number of roads he would have had to negotiate to get home, wondering how long he’d been on the doorstep. I had a quick chat to one of the taxi drivers who adores him. We figured 5 or 6 roads, most of them busy in the way of small towns, grey haired tootlers and boy racers, each knowing he wouldn’t have stopped for a green light and crossed sensibly but had had the luck of the Irish in getting home in one piece.
“It doesn’t bear thinking about” he muttered with a shake of the head.