So now it is back to normal. Mabel, my 13 year old English Bull terrier is home and safe and sound and being told off as usual (well a little bit anyway). Just over a week ago, Z and friend (combined age of nine) from next door left our front door open and as the adults were slightly inebriated in the garden, Mabel got out.
Mabel had been out on her own before and never got very far, usually off eating apples in someone’s garden or horse poo up the lane. By the time we realised, she’d been out for a few hours. Mabel is not the smartest dog in the world and is quite frankly ‘directionally-challenged’. Every day I walk her 100 yards up the road and every day Mabel acts like we are in uncharted territory. So I searched and I searched. I drove and I drove until it was very dark and I couldn’t see much more. Mabel was nowhere to be seen. I was worried and went to bed a bit drunk and a bit worried (I know I shouldn’t have been driving but it was only along tracks where I could have only injured myself). Mabel, not being like other dogs, would be unable to cope on her own and would be scared. The next morning I searched the woods all over, by foot and by bike. Mabel is slow and lazy and I thought she wouldn’t be far away and wouldn’t have ventured off the paths. More searching, lots of others helped searched too. No sign of Mabel. By night fall I was very worried.
Day three and I checked new places, knocked on doors, double-checked places I’d already checked. No joy. Posters went up everywhere and flyers were dropped. I was feeling guilty for not being able to find her, thinking the worst and horrible visions of her stuck in some well or marsh (a problem of living next to a wood and a Victorian model farm). Day four and more looking and despite trying every avenue (literal and metaphorical) and despite people coming from 20 miles away to help, Mabel could not be found. I was exhausted, physically from 8 hours of searching per days and mentally from the lack of news; no one had seen her at all. We were convinced someone must have taken her. Holly was convinced we wouldn’t see Mabel again but it was hard to stop searching even though it felt hopeless. The next day we tried to convince ourselves that was it but I still had this feeling Mabel was alive. Holly had a feeling Mabel was close by. Oddly we searched the house again in the vain hope but it was more like a ceremony of acceptance that Mabel had gone.
Then at around 6pm I came home form taking M for a walk in the woods (which was really a search for Mabel) to find three answerphone messages. The first was from a guy from the Royal Forestry Society who had seen Mabel trying to get a drink near the Poultry House (a victorian house for fowl with a pond in front), and could I please take down my posters including drawing pins. What? Mabel is alive. OMG. Next two messages from a couple staying in the cottage next to the Poultry House; Mabel was in the pond and drowning, Eek. Next message was they had Mabel and were taking her to the vets. Holly was out with Z at swimming class, trying to get some normality in our lives. I caught them on the way back and told her the news. Tears all around and a dash to intercept the Poultry House people en route to the vets. We met them just in time to see mabel in the back seat, looking very scared, skinny, scratched and very dirty. Their little boy had seen Mabel in the pond and dad had gone in knee-deep in mud to rescue her. What a bunch of heroes. We were so relieved that it was inappropriate hugs and kisses all round.
A night in the vets on a drip and Queen Mabel was home safe and sound and being made a fuss of. She is doing really well and getting lots of treats. The cliché that ‘you only miss something when you haven’t got it anymore’ is inevitably true but something we never take enough notice of. So many people were really concerned for her (and us) and helped search it was heart warming and humanity-affirming. The flip side is we’ve had some idiotic phone calls from kids and losers (one even reverse charging the call and pretending to be Mabel).
I had treated Mabel as a bit of a nuisance since the kids were born and she has taken back seat (or the boot more accurately). Mabel, you are a bark-free, big wuss, mostly unaffectionate, circle walking, poo-eating, dopey, eternally-hungry scavenger and I had no idea how you survived in the woods for five days, but I love you dearly and I’m so glad you are back home.