A branch from a large pine tree which was weakened by Hurricane Irma suddenly fell, knocking down a portion of fence at the edge of the woods past the barn. I didn't notice the gap beside the pile of vines and small limbs and ran some morning chores after feeding the horses and these two loving fellows. My "Horse Lady" went to visit a friend and when I returned, the two mischief makers weren't standing at the gate, tails wagging, and they usually do upon my return. Looking around closely to find the reason, I found the gap in the fence and realized how they got free. Even with an opening, they usually remain at home unless something in the wood piqued their interest. Perhaps it was deer, hopefully not the occasional back bear, but in any event, they were gone.
Since the side and rear of our homestead property is wooded, I initially wasn't concerned. I just figured like on other rare occasions when they got out, they would return within twenty minutes or so, but they didn't. I made a cursory look along the entire property line at a good, brisk walk and called for them. Receiving no response within a few minutes, I next took a short drive down the adjacent country roads looking for them. I also put out a notice to nearby friends to be on the lookout. No one had seen them and, alas, I didn't on my drive around as well.
I decided it would be best to stay on the property until my wife returned, knowing that if they returned with no one home, they might again stray away. They really don't like it when someone isn't here with them. They are wonderful people dogs who usually sleep during the day and guard the property at night. I guess when we're home they feel more secure, be it day or night, awake or asleep. Or maybe they just got bored in the crisp winter air when their energy level is high.
When the "Horse Lady" returned I told her I was worried. It was nearing late afternoon and I wanted to find them before dark. So, I took off on the road, riding around the woodlands and peering into the darkness. The country roads were empty and it gave me the chance to slowly scan the swampy forest as a I went. Suddenly, deep in the wet and often boggy woods I saw motion and two nearly unidentifiable white forms moving through the brush. They resembled small polar bears on the hunt from that distance. Bingo, it had to be them.
I stopped, walked over to the barbed wire fence next to the nearly full drainage ditch and called them by name. Val, the slightly older but smaller dog, stopped, looked and slowly made his way through the brush. Sal, bigger and more stubborn, just ignored me, but I knew if Val came he would soon follow. He's really a big marshmallow inside but he likes to tease.
As Val reached the fence, he crouched low and crawled through, losing just a small tuft of fur on the wire, then he wade through the water and trotted up the slope, shaking the much and more off. He was panting and drooling profusely with his tail going a mile a minute. I didn't mind being "slimed" in my old working jeans, I was just glad that he was safe and, turning to look for Sal, here he came, repeating the same action. Excep with Sal, the drool and muck was much worse. But I was truly relieved.
There was no way I could get the two gentle giants into my small car, so I called the "Horse Lady" and she showed up in the pickup. And a kind neighbor also drove up to assist. And while I kept Val close at hand, they pushed Sal, the big boy into the back seat of the truck. Then the same was done for Val and home they went.
Arriving back at our landlocked "Ark", I made a temporary fix on the opening problem and watched as the dogs each drank about a gallon of water before eating two full bowls of food. And they both wanted to stay close to us, their way of letting us no they had made a mistake and they were glad to be home.
Now I'm sure to most of you reading this, you are thinking to yourself what is the big deal? But if you're a dog owner, whenever and for whatever reason they turn up missing it's a real concern. And not only that, with these two loyal guardians of the farm, we'd be overrun with coyotes and other varmints looking for fresh chickens if they were gone. So, I'll just redouble the effort on securing the perimeter and life will return to normal. Or should I say, normal until the next mini-crisis strikes. Life goes on and so do the issues when you live rural, but we love it.
But we thank God for these two big oafs everyday. Dogs: They are a gift from God and worth whatever is required to maintain them. They are truly members of the family and we value what they do to add so much spice to our lives. Have a wonderful day.