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My New Year's Eve

Happily, Princess Beatrice’s dog Norfolk terrier Max, who was lost in Windsor Great Park shortly before Christmas, has turned up safe and sound. She is delighted to have him back, and apart from having picked up an eye infection, Max is none the worse for his adventure. Over New Year we had our own encounter with a lost dog, though not one with such a posh owner.

On New Year’s Eve we were heading off to a family party. It was very cold, and foggy, so we were luckily travelling fairly slowly, when suddenly in the headlights there was a movement. Was it a cat? A fox? Then suddenly we could make out a small dog in the dim light.

We pulled into the side of the road, and I got out. Despite the cold weather I had decided to wear a very light top and skirt, on the presumption that I would only have to scuttle through the chill from car to house and back again. I even had nice sparkly shoes on; I was not dressed for dog rescuing.

The small dog looked like a Border terrier cross, and was clearly anxious. She ran up and down a short strip of lane, barking. As other traffic approached she held up a paw as if to ask the newcomer to be her friend.

I flagged the traffic down and tried to shepherd the dog onto the grass verge. Following her onto the verge I felt my good shoes sinking into the boggy ground, and I knew it couldn’t be avoided. No pair of shoes is worth more than a dog’s life, and if I left this dog to run free on the road again, she wouldn’t make it to 2009.

Another vehicle pulled up behind mine, and the driver got out to help me. We offered the dog treats, and my new helper shot out her hand in an attempt to examine the dog’s collar. The dog however was having none of it. She snapped at the hand, and then to make her point clear, ran at the woman’s leg, tugging at her trouser leg while emitting a serious snarl.

I attempted a sneakier and slower examination of her collar, and felt her teeth against my fingers as I hastily withdrew my hand.

At that point I remembered a slip lead I had on the floor of the car somewhere. It was left over from some exploring Buddy and I did of ringcraft and showing, but that’s a story for another day! Anyway, I dug out the slip lead, and prepared to lassoo the terrier.

I rounded her up back onto the verge, and told her to sit in a stern but friendly voice. When she did so, I gingerly held out a treat to her, which she took reassuringly gently. She was desperate to find a friend, but everyone she was encountering was a stranger, and she simply couldn’t work out who to trust. I had to show her I was friendly, but that I wasn’t going to stand any nonsense. That was my plan anyway.

I gave her a few more treats, and told her what my plan was. I know it was not actually any help to inform her of what I was about to do, but I was really putting off the moment when I must return my hand into biting distance again.

Finally I made my move. I lowered the loop of the slip lead towards her, while distracting her with a good amount of tasty treat. As she took the treat, I dropped and tightened the loop. It ended up half round her neck, but also round a front leg, but it restrained her effectively, and from that point on she was as meek as a lamb.

She trotted at my heel to the car, and willingly jumped into the passenger foot well (my own dogs were occupying the boot of my estate car). I got in after her, and set about keeping up a constant stream of treats to ensure she remained happy. She seemed relaxed enough, but I was not brave enough to try to take hold of her collar again, so the problem was now how to take the dog back to her home.

One of the good things about living in the country is that everybody knows almost everybody else. The inhabitants of the first house we stopped at were able to make a good guess at where the dog came from, so we set off.

Happily, we soon arrived at the right house, and the terrier’s owners were very happy to have their dog back. We were late, I was cold through, and my shoes will never be the same again. But I hope that if one of my dogs is ever lost some kind soul will be willing to put themselves out and bring them home to me; it’s a deal with the universe, fate, karma, however you like to express it, that if I never ignore a lost dog in need of help, someone will come to the aid of my dogs if they ever need it.

Plus, of course, I couldn’t just turn my back on a frightened, worried dog trying to find his way home.

Her owners were happy, I was relieved, but what of the little dog herself? Having found her home, she was a friendly towards me as could be. And twice while I stood talking to her humans, she ran back to my car as if to say, “Can we go for another ride please? I know there are more treats in here, so come on, let’s go!”

Take care,

Julie x

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