I am, I think, one of those people who are hard-wired to offer to help whenever I am aware that I might be able to do so. Graham often despairs of this trait, even as he applauds it. Last week, Laura and Higgins arrived to stay at Les Terraces for a while. They had had a long journey and were jet-lagged. After supper, we went for a short walk: a stretch of the legs and the opportunity to give them a brief orientation to Sainte-Foy-La-Grande. I explained that they were welcome to join Brin & me on our morning sortie along the towpath the following day, if they were so inclined. Laura thanked me and said “she’d see.”
Tuesday morning dawned fair, and as Brin and I prepared to set out we were delighted to be joined by Higgins. Off we went, quite happily. Sticks were found, rabbits were chased. We visited the ponies at the equestrian centre and headed on to my morning breakfast spot, which is finally emerging as the Dordogne’s levels slowly fall. There was a fine mist rising from the river, which I thought might make a nice photo, so I slipped (quite literally, as it happens) down the river bank and took a couple of shots.
Brin and Higgins had stayed at the top of the bank, with Higgins apparently having a nose around while Brin waited, stick in mouth. When I scrambled up the bank, Higgins was nowhere to be seen, so I called for him. Brin looked daftly at me when I asked her where he’d gotten to. Which way had he gone? Up-, or down-river? She said not a word. I gambled on up-river, and so we continued, calling out every so often to get his attention. At the end of the path, there’s a new narrow bit that goes up onto the Le Fleix road. Had he gone up there? I didn’t think that it was likely, so we backtracked and began retracing our route, calling all the while. There was neither sight nor sound of Higgins. No way of knowing where he might have gone. By the time that we’d reached the paddocks, panic was setting in. Where the blazes had he gotten to, and why wasn’t he responding to my calls?
Heart in my throat, I separated Brin from her stick, and attached her lead. We headed up to the very busy min road, though what I expected to find there, I know not. I decided to flag down a passing car and ask for help. A driver stopped, and I explained my quandry. My question as to whether he might have seen Higgins was answered in the affirmative – “yes, straight down the road.” I thanked the driver, and Brin and I headed in the direction he’d indicated. But I didn’t know how far down the road, so I stopped another car and asked for help. The driver was happy to accommodate my plea for a lift down the road. We drove over a somewhat gruesome carcass of a recently dead animal, and into thickening fog. After about 5 minutes, when we could only see a few metres ahead and I was convinced that Higgins couldn’t possibly have made it that far, I thanked the driver and he dropped us off. Brin and I turned and headed west once more, calling all the while.
By now, I was frantic. Beside myself with concern. How COULD this have happened? I was only a couple of minutes, really I was! We continued to walk, look and call. We’d walked about 5 (extra) kilometers searching. No joy. Finally, my heart leaden, I realised that I needed help. I rang Emmy & Vincent, who live close by. Their phones were off. I called Graham, “Hi. I’ve lost Higgins.”
“Yep. This is what I’ve done, and this is what I need you to do…..” I outlined a plan.
“OK, I’ll throw on some clothes and be right over.”
I rang Trevor, a friend who Brin & I see most mornings on our walk, and enlisted his aid – he was further to the west of us, near Port-Saint Foy, and he promised to keep an eye out. Emmy finally answered her phone. She & Vincent arrived to help too.
So, 4 people and 8 dogs hunting for Higgins, plus Graham by car. It was a good try, but what was I going to tell Laura? I was mortified. What a terrible way to start a rental! Nothing to do but search, and search, and search until I had no choice but to admit defeat. Trevor arrived. No sight of any strangers on the tow path
My phone rang. It was Graham. “He’s here.”
“What!!! Where?” Total disbelief and relief.
“Walking up the road, just outside the house.”
“Oh, thank God for that. Thank you, darling. See you soon.” I called off the search, and everyone was happy. Trevor kindly drove me and Brin home, so that I could face the music.
I couldn’t get into the front door: there was a key in the inside of the lock. I rang Graham, “Can you please come down and let me in?” He did, and we had a whispered conflab in the hallway about what had transpired. “So he just went in through the door, and that was it?” Graham nodded. “OK, I’ll hop out and get the croissants I promised for breakfast.” I kissed him and headed back out to the boulangerie.
I returned home, knocked on the apartment door and let myself in, croissants in hand. “Good morning!” I said cheerily. “Did you sleep well?”
“Yes, thank you.” We chatted a bit, and then: “Um, Higgins has been looking at me a bit funnily. Was he naughty this morning?” (Oh, horlicks, how do I answer this?), “Did he run away?”
Nothing to do but confess….. I told Laura the whole terrible story of how I’d lost her beautiful dog and what had transpired. I’m very lucky. She was very understanding. And Higgins is one awesomely smart dog!