Sunday, October 24, 2010

October 7th a dog-gone day... literally!

7th October. It is just a normal date of the year. Yet the 7th October is one of those days that I think I will always dread appearing on the calendar now.

Last year, on 7th October, our darling dog Fluffy died.

If you have read my blog over a long time, you will probably have read the blog about her. She was the most beautiful dog you have ever seen. Half Samoyed and half something else that made her black, instead of the customary Samoyed white. She lived up to her name... and beautifully so. Sadly, we had to have her put to sleep after a long battle with cancer. It was an awful day. It also happened to co-incide with the day that many years previously my own Dad had died. What a day.

We planned this year, that we would finally get her plot at the pet cemetery sorted out. We had to wait for all the winter and spring snow to clear, then all the summer mosquitoes to die off. Jake, our younger son, was planning to come home a day earlier, on the thursday, from college, in order to give Fluffy a candle at the cemetery. Fluffy was his life and he still misses her terribly. We thought we would surprise him that the plot was done.

We still needed to finish off varnishing the pyrographed plaque that we had made, so planned to do this and take the plaque up to the cemetery either on the tuesday or the wednesday. For some reason the varnish was taking ages to dry.. so it ended up being wednesday night before it was ready.. we thought we would dash up there on the thursday morning just before Jake arrived and then go back again with him later.

The thursday arrived and that day was naturally a little sombre.. but worse was to come.. much worse. The day turned out to be a day from hell.

Mark, my husband went out for the normal morning walk with Dexter, our remaining dog. He is nearly three years old and a beautiful, vocal, pale blue eyed Husky. He took ages to come home and I was getting a little concerned as to where they could be.

Mark came home, minus Dexter.

Dexter had run off, on a whim. Just before Mark got back home, Dexter had seen a whopping great big white reindeer in the forest and ran head long after it. He ignored calls back and just disappeared into the middle of nowhere, heading in a direction he had never been before. It wasn't like Dex had never seen a Reindeer before either! Mark walked and called him for ages, but to no avail. He came home dejected.

As he was making himself a cup of tea, I said that I would go out in the meanwhile. I trundled until I was on the verge of not knowing where I was.. calling all the time. Nothing. Mark went out.. came home, went out again. He went out on his bike, to cover more ground.

With Dexter gone we couldn't go up the cemetery, so the plaque stayed on the kitchen table. We started to make phone calls to the local police, the daughter of the local dog warden who spoke english and anyone else we could think of. I put an alert out on facebook and very soon messages were being passed around by others, to keep an eye out for our daft delinquent dog! (Thanks everyone!)

Jake rang his Dad to say he was nearly home on the bus. He was told about Dexter and that he would have to walk home as Mark was somewhere in the forest but wasn't sure exactly where! Then I got worried about the whereabouts of my husband! I knew he would find his way back ok, but it was cold out there and I myself didn't know where he was! Of course I need not have worried.. he came home eventually. However, he was hopping mad and seriously upset. Emotionally he was fraught with the torment of being guilty that Dex had run off, of not knowing where he was. He could not bear the thought of losing his dog and not ever knowing what happened to him.

After my cajoling we went up to the cemetery, to lay the candle and add Fluffy's plaque. Although the surprise element for Jake was now lost, it was something we all needed to do. It was dark by then, but we still did it. I felt a little angry with Dexter that he has stolen a part of Fluffy's day, but it was so intermingled with concern too. Where was he? His first time away from us, it was dark and cold and I worried for his safety. He can travel a lot of distance really quickly. By that time, he could have been anywhere!

Fortunately, Dexter is chipped and was wearing a named collar, a yellow reflective jacket and a red dog harness. He was going to be noticeable, if seen.

However, it was a real worry because stray dogs can be shot here in Lapland, especially if seen chasing reindeer. This time of the year is both reindeer round up time and moose hunting season. Therefore there are even more reindeer around the villages than deeper in the forests, more reindeer men and more huntsmen with their guns locally. Dexter was running the risk of being shot by accident or on purpose! On the other hand, the fact that he was wearing the yellow jacket meant that he looked like a hunting dog and other huntsmen might just leave him be. Naturally with him being such a handsome dog, there was always the chance someone might just keep him! So many things were running through our heads...and horrid, worrisome things at that!

During the evening and right through the night, we worked to try and find him. There was no point in going too far afield though, not in the dark. Mark walked the normal evenings walk.. but still no sign of him. I loaded his information on lost and found sites on the internet and Mark texted everyone he knew in Finland - literally!

We made signs to put up around town. I had to learn how to use a particular photoshop programme to do it too! We printed them off and put them in plastic sleeves, just in case the snowing started in the meanwhile. Mark didn't sleep all night.. just stayed up looking out the window on the off chance that Dex returned. I had about three hours. We were both wrecked.

I woke up at about six o'clock to find Mark gone from the home. He was already out and about putting the leaflets in town. He went to some obscure places, spoke to lorry drivers on their way out of town, businesses on the outskirts, went to a particular location that he thought Dexter might have gone to and put all the leaflets out in the postal boxes of houses that way, until he ran out and came home to print more out.

Then we got a break through. It was about 8am and a lady rang to say she had seen Dexter the previous night about 5kms away over by the television mast. Its a huge thing, in the depth of forest and an area Dexter had never been in before. The lady had received one of Marks leaflets in her post box. She had seen Dex at 6pm however and by 8am.. again he could have been anywhere! Nevertheless it was positive news and we were grateful for it.

Mark also spoke to a lady that I used to do business with and she said she would put the alert out on Lapin Radio, on the missing dog news. Thank you Merja! We didn't even know that existed! We know that many people heard it and about our naughty imp Dexter! :D

I put my coat on and said to Mark that I was coming with him on the next round. We drove to where the mast was and called and called. I went in one direction and Mark in another. I found a pathway that went on for what seemed forever and I walked a very long way in. Again nothing.

Then the mobile went. It was our good friend Minna. Now, Minna recently moved to Rovaniemi, which is 130kms away.. so realistically one would think she could not help much.. but ever the angel.. she did! Behind the scenes she had made calls to her husband, who is a reindeer herder, he had made calls to other reindeer herders.. asking them not to shoot if they saw Dex and to advise if they had. Minna made calls to friends she could think of that lived in our area. One of them was Sanne, whom I had met just a few days prior, whom Minna used to work with.

Sanne had taken it upon herself to call people that she knew, sent loads of texts.... and she was the one that rang Minna to say that she has had a call from another reindeer herder who had seen Dexter at Midnight , closer to Sanne's home area... which is a couple of kilometers back from the although six hours later than the previous sighting he was still fairly local. Then she herself saw Dexter! So Minna was ringing us to say, get to Sanne's road.. you might find Dexter!

Elated, we headed back south down the road we were on, to Sanne's road. It backs on to both forest and swampland. When we arrived, both she and her husband were waiting. As synchronicity would have it, Sanne had a day off with her husband.. otherwise she would not have been there! She showed where she had seen Dexter.. and her husband drove up the road to look elsewhere. Whilst we were with Sanne, he called to say.. I can see Dexter! Mark went dashing up to join him, in our car. I stayed on foot with Sanne. Unfortunately by the time Mark got there, Sanne's husband said Dexter had dashed off again, scared by strangers calling for him.

For a good half hour, we went back and forth up and down that road, with Dexter playing us all for fools! He can run fast that boy! Mark and I didn't see him.. but others were. He entered the swamp area and out again.. into the residential area, over to and into the forest! It was crazy. Then finally, Sanne's husband pointed out of his car, to Mark in his... and Mark saw, for the first time.. DEXTER! Mark jumped out of the car and called his baby.. he expected that Dex would just come over to him, him being his Dad and all... but Dexter would not comply. He was simply so spooked by being chased back and forth by vehicles and people that he didnt know, all calling him!!

Dexter went deeper into the forest. Mark had to bring the car to an abrupt halt, because the forest road just suddenly ended.. and despite having a very poorly ankle, he tried to go after him in a hurry. Dexter just disappeared again.. leaving poor Mark upset and confounded.

Sanne said to me that if Dexter was going over the ridge, that the other side was where the pet cemetery and the horse racing track was... so whilst Mark was in the forest on one side of the ridge, Sanne and I took to the other side. I called Jake at home, to tell him to come outside of our home and across the road.. which is a little further south than the cemetery area.

Sanne and I waited twenty minutes until Sanne said that if he had not appeared by then, he was not going to.. that maybe he would appear at another point along the road. Good grief! Where was this dog? Then my phone rang again.. from someone in my own road! She said she had just seen him and was trying to catch him. I called Jake to tell him to get home.. and also Mark. Mark was deep in forest still.. and Jake was in a bog! :D

We turned Sanne's car around and sped home. There as we drove up my road was this wonderful woman, Eva I believe her name is, holding her dog and MY dog Dexter! I could have cried. Dexter was SO happy to see me! As I was him! He was all over me. Big hugs all round for everyone involved.

I rang Mark and Jake. I told Mark I had him. 'What do you mean, you have him? asked Mark. 'You mean you have him in your hands, literally?' 'Yes, I have him on the lead! He is safe!' Choking back tears, Mark fell to his knees to greet his best buddy who was just as pleased to see him! 'You idiot' he said to Dexter.. 'that was me before!! It was me!!'

It turned out that during this last part, another phone call Mark had received to say that a man had seen Dexter crossing the road near our home. It would seem that from Sanne's husband being in one point, Mark in another.. Jake nearer home and Sanne and I at another point. somehow we had triangulated our positions and given him a scent and sound to follow and get back on track. He was after all in an area that he had never been before.

Such a relief. After which there was so much happy vibes at home, on facebook, over the internet and via texts. Dexter was a mess, was worn out and very pleased to be back home. He had been missing a hellish 24.5 hours and looking for a dog in forest is no easy feat. Without the help and support of everyone involved, it may not have happened! If Mark had not gone out to the places he did, with the posters it might not have happened. It really was a needle in a haystack scenario.

Later that day, we went back up, in the daylight, to Fluffy's grave. Dexter howled like crazy. He actually seemed to be saying.. 'Please don't leave me here! I don't want to be alone!' Mark reminded him, that is was him that had left US not the other way around!!! He slept like a log.. as did we later that night!

Dexter is now back in training. Boot camp style and he seems to be really enjoying it. Mark is going back over every inch of training that he has ever had and is taking him to areas that he has not been to before, to knock the curiosity factor.

Dexter, Mark and I would like to thank VERY MUCH everyone that helped when we needed it.

Fluffy also finally got her grave nice and tidied. Bless her. We really miss our girl 'Fluffstuff - Fluffskus'

Happier days... playing twig-tug-o-war

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