When the dog walker loses your dog

Don’t you hate it when the dog-walker loses your dog? Indeed it’s hugely inconvenient and highly stressful. But is it a sackable offence? I guess that depends on whether the dog is eventually found.

This is the modern, middle-class dilemma faced this week by a friend of mine who got an emergency call at work from her dog walker. As soon as she saw the number flash up on her phone, she knew it wasn’t a good sign. Dog walkers don’t often ring for a chat. “Um, hi, it’s Ben,” stammered the dog-walker, a lovely, laconic guy who sounded uncharacteristically flustered. Alarm bells. “Look, I have a bit of a problem with Buddy in that I, um, can’t find him.”

My friend’s mutt Buddy is a fairly old, smallish terrier-cross who is progressively losing his mental marbles and physical senses. “When we got to the park, Buddy didn’t want to get out of the van because he couldn’t be bothered to come for a walk with the other dogs,” explained Mortified Ben. “He gets like that sometimes when his arthritis is
playing up and so I just leave him tied up in the van with water and, you know, air and everything. But when I went to check on him after about 10 minutes, he was gone.”

My friend, trying to be calm, decided to panic instead. The questions came like machine gun fire. “Where was the van parked when he went missing?” Near a park surrounded by a tangle of big, busy roads. Bad. “What have you done about it since you found out?” Ben had mobilised his network of fellow dog-walkers who had instantly swung into action.
There were now a dozen people combing the area in full Canine CSI mode. Better.

Driven by an urgent need to join the search, my friend quickly scrawled a note for her boss saying “Dog crisis!  Buddy M.I.A! Will check emails later!” and dashed out the door. Fortunately, the boss is also a dog-lover (the kind who has framed pictures of her two Weimeraner on her desk) so this was not a risky career move.


On the way to the scene of Buddy’s mysterious disappearance, she called me in a flap. “What if someone’s stolen him from the van because they thought he was so cute and adorable and then they got him home and realised he was half blind and deaf and demented and so then they just dumped him?” she babbled. “What if he’s wandering around lost and blind in the street and it’s getting dark and he’s confused and he can’t smell his way home!”

I have a dog. I love my dog. I felt her pain. So I went to help look. But after several hours of street walking and calling “Buddy” (rather uselessly since Buddy is deaf but I didn’t want to be insensitive and point that out), still nothing.

A few hours later, my distraught friend called me again. Oh happy day! Apparently, Buddy had escaped voluntarily from the van (I’d thought the “stolen due to cuteness” theory was a bit of a stretch but hadn’t wanted to appear insensitive by pointing that out). Then he’d negotiated his blind, deaf and olofactorily-challenged way across a
dozen busy roads to the local girls’ high school. There, he scabbed dozens of unwanted lunches before spending the rest of the afternoon happily full and snoozing under the headmistress’s desk.

She kindly dropped him to the local vet after school where his microchip was scanned and my friend called to collect him at 7pm. Relief. Being something of a food pig, it seemed Buddy’s still intact sense of taste had rallied to guide him to the place with the highest concentration of sandwiches in a 5km radius. So much for his arthritis making him too lazy to go walking with the other dogs.

Ben, the dog walker was more traumatised than my friend and they ended up bonding over the whole thing. No one got the sack

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