There are two things that dog owners fear the most. That their dog might run away never to be seen again, or that it might be dognapped.
Around 11.30am this morning I left our house in Norfolk to go to Cromer for a round of golf. Fifteen minutes later, I was driving past Waitrose on the outskirts of North Walsham when my phone rang. It was John. "Oh God," I thought to myself, "what have I forgotten or left behind?"
I picked up on hands free. "Dude's gone," he said. "I can't find him. He's nowhere in the house or garden. He must have escaped." A chill went down my spine. As I walked out the door, I did wonder where Dude was as he usually comes bounding through the house if he hears the door open, but I didn't think anything of it.
"I'm turning round," I immediately said, and raced back to the house in Lamas. In those ten minutes all sorts of things were going through my head, as you can imagine. I started crying. "Pull yourself together," I thought to myself. When I got home, John's car wasn't there. Bubba, our miniature schnauzer looked totally perplexed. I went into the back garden and shouted Dude's name at the top of my voice in case he was nearby. The horses in the field over the back wall of the garden looked a bit mystified. If he had been in that field, they probably wouldn't have been so calm.
I decided I'd get into my car and drive around the area, which is what I presumed John was doing too. At that moment his car drew up by the house. "No sign," he said. We agreed we'd cover different areas. I drove around for 10 or 15 minutes but still nothing. As I drove back to the house I met our friend Ali, who was also out searching, having been alerted by John. I then drove to the shop in the nearby village of Badersfield (formerly the site of RAF Coltishall) to ask them to give me a call if anyone reported a white and brown Jack Russell had been found. The lad behind the till suggested I go onto the local community 'Next Door' sites to advertise that Dude was missing. I rang John to tell him it might be more productive if I did that rather than driving around aimlessly. As a conoisseur of these sites John instantly saw the logic.
So I went back to the house, plonked Bubba on the couch beside me, opened my laptop and started crying. Uncontrollably. Pull yourself together, you idiot, I told myself. I was just about to log onto the local Next Door site when John rang. "He's been found," he said. "And he's fine."
A tremendous sense of relief and love overwhelmed me. Needless to say the tears started again. Meanwhile, John remained as cool as the proverbial cucumber.
Apparently he had been found about 200 yards up the road from where we live. A young girl had found him and knocked on the nearest door. The lady who lived there said he wasn't hers but she would take him in as she had dogs of her own. Dude didn't have his collar on, because he never normally needed to. Our garden is enclosed, or so we thought, and in seven years both dogs would go into the garden, unsupervised at their leisure. However, it seems that during our five and a half month Covid-enforced absence, some sort of hole had developed.
Anyway, the lady kindly took Dude to the local vets in Aylsham, around 5 miles away. They accessed his microchip and rang John and asked if by any chance he had lost a Jack Russell. Apparently, when they saw his name was Dude in the microchip, they said "Hello Dude," and he immediately looked at them and wagged his tail. We're so grateful to them.
So all was well that ended well. But it could have been so very different.
John has obviously rung the lady who took Dude in and tomorrow she will be getting a very expensive bottle of bubbly. It serves to remind us all that there are still some lovely people in the world.
Finally, if you are a dog owner, and your dog isn't microchipped, please do go down to your local vets and get it done. I wouldn't want to put my worst enemy through what John and I went through this morning.