Toad in the hole

Today Bert went missing for three hours. Well, I was pretty certain where he was, but there was no way of getting to him.

It all started off lovely – a bright sunny morning and Graham was up early to go to the Dyfnant Forest and do some bird ringing. So Bert and I headed out, taking his ball and thrower, for an early walk – the usual: up the lane, into the field and down to the woods. Where the badger sett and foxhole are…

Bert, as usual, was heading off for a rummage around the holes and tree bases, when I spotted some rather splendid Birch polypores, so went to get some photos. I called Bert, to make sure he knew where I was, and vice versa. He stuck his head over the small rise between us, I said “Good boy” and turned my attention to the fungi. For three minutes. I know this, because of the times recorded on the photos.

The offending article...

The offending article…

I finished taking pictures, took the five paces up and over the rise and there was no Bert anywhere to be seen.  I called. I called and called. No sign. I walked our usual walk through the woods, out the other side, across the field and up the hill, to where he usually finds a squirrel to chase, just in case he’d gone on without me, but I knew, with a sinking heart, that that wouldn’t be the case. He would’ve come back to find me. He always does. I knew where he was.

I went back to the badger sett and called some more. I went home
in the vain hope that he might be waiting at the door, but no sign.
I deposited camera and the now rather-pathetic-seeming ball and thrower and, leaving the door ajar, went out again. I got to the
badger sett, I crouched down at the foxhole and called, then I did the same at every other hole in the sett. There was no sound, no sign.
I went back through the woods and searched the tangled overgrown areas in case he’d got stuck somewhere. I searched the boggy, sticky areas in case he’d got stuck there. No sound, no sign.

I headed back home. This time when I got back there was still no Bert, but Graham was home, in the middle of making a delayed breakfast. That was soon abandoned, half-done toast in the toaster, half-drunk cup of coffee on the table. I retraced my steps for the
second time. Lord knows what anybody who might’ve come to visit would have thought – the front door propped open with a muddy wellie, a half-eaten, half-cooked breakfast in the kitchen, and
nobody to be found. It was like the Marie Celeste.

“He can’t be down the hole,” said Graham. “You would’ve heard him. If he was stuck, he would have whined, he would have barked. He’s gone off chasing something and got lost.”

Much as I would’ve preferred this scenario, in my heart of hearts I knew it wasn’t so. Bert doesn’t make much noise. He doesn’t bark or whine when he wants or needs something. He just looks pathetic and waits for someone to notice. The only time he does make much noise is a) when a car drives past the house, and b) when he’s chasing something. Which is why I knew that wasn’t what had happened.

Nonetheless, I headed uphill, Graham down, and we met eventually, back home, with still no sign of Bert. It was now two-and-a-half hours since he’d disappeared. I was instructed to stay at home, in case he came back, while Graham went off in the car to search the lanes. Half an hour later, as I was updating our details on the animal chipping database (anything to keep me occupied), my heart leapt as I saw something vaguely white trot past the kitchen window.

Yes, it was Bert. And yes, he’d clearly been down a fox/badger hole. He was brown from head to toe and smelt, shall we say, earthy. And, once he’d been showered (which clearly, for him, was the most
traumatic event of the day) it was obvious that he’d had a scrap of some sort. We were so relieved, he didn’t get any kind of a telling off. Though he didn’t get much of a cuddle until after he’d had his shower.

Looking guilty...

Looking guilty…

And once he’d had his shower, he had a hurtle round and round the living room and up and down off the furniture, scattering cushions and throws everywhere for a mad five minutes, before settling down on the sofa. Normal business, it seems, is now resumed.

I cannot pretend to be able to imagine what it must be like for a
parent to have a child go missing, and to not know what’s happened to them, for months or years; to never truly know, never be sure; to never know what they went through; to never have, in that awful American parlance, “closure”.

It was bad enough thinking I’d lost my dog.


5 thoughts on “Toad in the hole

  1. Kids and dogs eh? Glad you got the little man back in one piece! Reminds me of a summer afternoon when yours truly and a crew of firefighters demolished a whack of hedgerow to ‘liberate’ one of Bert’s kinsmen. He could be heard scrabbling away underground and I’m convinced that he was digging in as we were attempting to dig him out. Ha ha, fun times 🙂

  2. Hell that had me in suspense! I thought it was going to have an unhappy ending. Glad he managed to extricate himself and get back to you – I know how awful it must have been for you. Let’s hope he learnt something today! Great polypore photo BTW 🙂

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