Dog stories are always good, especially when they have a happy ending.
On Friday morning there was a call from one of the Sugar Hollow neighbors, good friends, thirty year friends.
“Danny is missing, didn’t come home last night. Keep an eye out for ‘im.”
Danny is a twelve year old Yellow Lab. A lover, a great dog; a bit down in the hips. Not as quick and agile as he once was. Still, he has a reputation as an escape artist. Not that he wants to run away from home, you understand. He has a great home, and he knows it! He does, however, like to make the rounds in the neighborhood, there might be treats out there somewhere. When supper time approaches, Danny comes home.
His domain comes complete with a fenced-in five plus acres that feature a network of trails. (Plus other assorted lawns and gardens.) Don and Martha both walked the trails,
several people walked the trails. Walked the road ( gravel ) in the immediate neighborhood.
Friday evening: no Danny.
This is serious. Had somebody picked him up? We don’t have much traffic on our part
of the road. But still, that nagging thought is there. Did coyotes get him? That has happened more than once in our little haven. Did he go into the underbrush and make himself a bed in which to die? Animals do that, you know. We once had a Dachshund who did that.
Saturday morning I ran a road race, the Bele Chere 5K; didn’t check in with Don and Martha until the middle of the day. Still no Danny. They were resigned to the worst, and still wanted to know what had happened and where he was.
“Can I come and do a walk-through?” I asked. “Put a fresh pair of eyes on the underbrush.”
The first part of the search was on the well kept paths: nothing. Now it was down to bush-whacking, getting off into the briar tangles and Rhododendron thickets, along the fence lines. Nothing.
Danny had been missing for some forty hours now. There was one last area to search. A deep ravine filled with downed trees and limbs left from the Christmas day ice storms two years ago.
Then: from half-a-football-field distance, up the ravine came a howl, a big dog howl, followed by three diminishing yelps. We called. No response. Whistled. Nothing.
We worked our way up the draw, circled the worst of the tangled mass of fallen debris. No barks, no howls, no yelps. But, was that heavy labored breathing, panting. Or was it wistful thinking?
We called Martha. “Maybe we’ve found him. Tell Don to come and help us call. Maybe he ‘ll answer Don’s call.”
We lost the phone signal before she could get Don on the line.
By the time we had worked our way partially down into the tangle, help began arriving. A couple of landscaper guys were next door working for Diana. She sent them over in response to Martha’s frantic call. Still, it was a full minute or so narrowing down the source of the now evident panting. In the midst of the effort to get Gene, the landscaper, to quit running about and shouting, what? … where? we spotted the bright yellow of Danny’s shoulders and back in the deepest part of the pile of logs and limbs.
How he had ever gotten there is hard to imagine. But, I think, he tried to turn to get back out and his hip dysplasia reached out and grabbed him. He lost his footing on the big log and fell into the depths of the tangle. Probably his efforts to extricate himself just resulted into his slipping deeper and deeper into the mass of rotten limbs.
Diana brought water. The big yellow dog drank two 16 oz bottles straight-away, before we even tried to move him. The first efforts to get Danny up and out weren’t successful. He made feeble efforts to help with his front legs. They only trembled, quivered. Finally it was just pick him up and carry him out. Even then, it was one person on the rear-end, another
at the front, move the him two feet up the steep incline, get a new foot-hold and move him another two feet. Maybe twenty of those lifts getting him up to the trail.
Shawn (landscaper) was sent to fetch a canvas tarp from which we fashioned a stretcher. With one person on each corner, we carried him the two hundred yards back home. More water, Gatorade!!, and high protein food (a little at a time.) Within an hour the vet ( a friend ) was there with intravenous fluids. Refusing to pee in the house, by
4:00 PM he was asking to get outside!
Did he hear us prior to that howl in the early afternoon? Did he know that one of the little Australian Terriers was close by, did he hear her? Was it luck, fate, did the Gods smile on him? Were his angels in the neighborhood just then? Whatever, that howl saved him. Don and Martha will not forever be left wondering.
And Danny? … The last I heard, his next get-away was thwarted just this morning even as he was being led to the car for a trip to the vet and a complete check-up!