I FEEL I can’t blog any more. I’m so distraught and feel so stupid because the dogs have gone again. It’s hard to write it, but I have to if only to put down the stark fact that if we’d been sensible and kept them on their leads, they’d still be here. To do it once in a week is bad enough – twice is awful. The other thing is that I keep praying for their return – not only to a God I don’t believe in, but to a God who, if I did believe in him, I wouldn’t expect to answer such a prayer. I think of all the people who have prayed for lost and missing children, and feel ashamed to be in this state over two scruffy little brown dogs. But you can’t choose your anguish. And knowing in your head that other people’s must be a thousand times worse, does nothing to assuage it.

But it has taught us something about living in this amazing community. Our lovely neighbours have been comforting and supportive, made us laugh and made us a meal at the end of another agonising day. Lent a shoulder to cry on and haven’t once said, with a pitying (or knowing) look: “If only you hadn’t let them off . . . ” Another neighbour a mile or so out of the village who runs on the hills where the dogs went missing has been out several times over the weekend and kept a sharp eye open. We get the impression, too, that he’s perhaps been out more often than he normally would.

The Swaledale Mountain Rescue people didn’t object to being phoned at 7 o’clock on a Saturday night, gave lots of advice about where to look, and offered to send out a rescue team if we found the dogs stuck down a pothole or a cave. Even the farmer on whose land they went missing called round to see if we’d found them, and said he’ll take Ian out tomorrow on the tractor to search for them again.

Tomorrow I have to post the thank you letter to the kind man who got them back to us last time, at great trouble and inconvenience to himself, and I can’t bring myself to tell him we’ve done it again. We’ve had to cancel Fran from Barkbusters who was coming on Tuesday to do the outdoor training. And we keep asking ourselves why on earth we didn’t wait for that to happen before taking such a risk with our wayward dogs. They’re naughty, vulnerable, trusting, loving – but, ultimately, they’re terriers: wild at heart with a taste for the great outdoors and no sense of learning lessons from previous escapades. Why didn’t we think of that? Hindsight, as ever, is a wonderful thing.


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