Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Seven Hours On The Run

If you read my blog and follow our life with the dogs in the Nordic wilderness, you already know that there is NEVER a dull moment here. I can´t remember ever sitting down and thinking "gosh, I am so bored".

Yesterday´s adventure night started quite innocently, just like all of them do.

We got mushroom picking basket and a number of jars to pick berries, took Krtek, Mouse and Sparky, got all the doggy-necessities such as leashes and pockets full of kibble and headed out to the woods.

We stopped to check on the blooming Fireweed, St.John´s Wort, Tansy and other herbs we´ll soon need to collect and dry for the winter, while the dogs ran full speed over the trail, then made a few loops across the meadow and off they were into the forest.

Nothing special, nothing unusual, nothing weird. These are their ways.

And then, within a split second I saw them separate - Mouse ran forward, Sparky to the left corner of the forest and Krtek returned back toward the house, then hit the right corner of the forest, running in circles with her nose up. I called them all immediately. They ignored me. I saw Sparky doing the same circles in his "area", sniffing frantically on the ground and in the air. Not good. This meant only one thing. A FRESH animal track. 

And so the adventure began.

We were lucky to re-call Sparky within minutes (he is, after all, a very special Siberian. I have been blessed to share my life with two dogs like him - Kipp, the dog who gave our kennel it´s name and philosophy, and the most special dog in my life, Granite). 
Mouse came surprisingly fast too. She already did have her little adventure earlier this summer, and luckily sticks with us a bit more since then. 

But Krtek was gone. The first time ever. We brought the other two in the kennel, kept calling, then drove around with the car, checking a few places around Vedjeön, that made sense in terms of the direction she went. Nothing. Too early for this effort, in my experience. The first hour they´d chase and track and wouldn´ t be willing to give up on their adventure just yet.

So we went back and stayed close to the forest, while calling, waiting and killing time by picking raspberries. 

The first hour passed. It was time to take more action. And so our night adventure began.

We drove around in the truck, on the ATV and walked through the high wet grass. We tried to go see places that made sense to check while it was still light. By 10:00 pm it was getting dark, not really the winter black darkness, but dark enough to not see a little black dog or spot any kind of slight movement in the meadows or between the thick brush and spruce trees.

We returned, quickly ate instant noodle soup, checked the map of the area and created two road signs that read "Drive slowly, lost dog in the area, next 10km" and placed them outside Vedjeön, each on opposite direction, just between the area that we suspected she could be, could get into given the time and calculated with her full night travel. The entire "secured by the signs" area where she could get out of the woods onto the road, are also the places where we train our teams and which the dogs know very well.

I have been searching for lost dogs so many times in my life, that at one point I caught myself doing things automatically.  Knowing what to do and also knowing how long the dogs are usually gone gave me certain comfort and made me calm. 

One of the ATV "safaris" Jachym made during the night.

He took this picture during one particularly rough ride in the truck, when we were almost catapulted on a hidden bump and had to give up while driving an uphill so steep and muddy that even the 4x4 truck gave up. Backing up in the darkness was a real test of my driving skills and at one point I nearly drove the pickup into a ditch. Luckily this adventure within adventure ended well.

Hello, will you give me a lift again, please?

Despite driving on all the forest roads and trails in the "pitched area" we could access, we saw nor heard any signs of Krtek. Once Jachym spotted two surprised eyes on a dark trail, when he shone his freshly charged headlamp beam through a meadow like a searchlight of marshals who are after a runaway prisoner. 

It turned out to be a very surprised little young fox. We met our night companion once again about an hour later. The owls guided us along the roads and once we had to stop for a sleepy grouse before she woke up fully and brought herself from moving off the trail.

But the most plentiful and somewhat cheerful company were the toads. As it rained slightly, they came out and "greeted" us on the driveway every time we headed home to call and check if Krtek might have made it back. It was actually pretty funny. I was the chauffeur and Jachym got off the truck and walked in front with the headlamp. He collected or chased off the toads. Few minutes later, as we were heading out again, he had to repeat the process. They were not willing to give up their plan of crossing the driveway to the other side :) We repeated this process the whole night. So at the end I suspect Jachym carried and relocated between 60 and 100 toads. Ok, most of them were the same toads. Some of them even looked like they were thinking "hello, it´s you again, give me lift". Some started to jump away by themselves after the third, fourth time into the process. They already knew what was coming. Fast learning critters! Haha. 

I swear they all looked like they had a party out there in the dark. Playing some kind of secret toad games. Or maybe my mind was already getting tired and my fantasy was rolling in. Must´ve been. Because I heard Jachym telling me: "Look, this one already crawled onto my hand to get the lift. It´s the same guy as last time. He was waiting for me here. He is looking me in the eyes".

But then again, maybe he was. The picture doesn´t lie! Weird stuff happens in the woods at night.

After talking with the toads and giving them lifts, and not getting a word out of the shy little fox, we decided it was time to take a short break. It was time for PHASE 2.

Phase 2 of an organized and effective runaway/lost dog search is to rest and at the same time remain in "contact" with the refugee by keeping calling his or her name, while checking the closest surroundings.
Over the years we have developed an effective way of doing this. Each person sleeps for two hours and then goes out of the house, calls the dog, checks with a headlamp (if applicable) and goes back to bed. The guards take turns, so every hour is covered, without needing to sleep only an hour at a time. It proved effective when Babeli got lost in the thick fog, when Babeli got lost wihout the thick fog, and when Delia got lost for 5 days and nights.

And so on one of my shifts, I went out of bed, switched on the autopilot, got out, called Krtek, whistled, checked the area with headlamp and went back in. I went to get a glass of water in the kitchen and fought my tired brain to decide weather I should check emails or go back to bed. I opted for the bed but intuitively opened the door one more time. 

And there she was. In all her beauty, the little black dog, totally soaken wet, a bit muddy and terribly tired. She was just approaching the stairs as if she wanted to knock on the door.
In her tired expression I could read a clear relief: "Gosh, I am glad to be back home." "That definitely makes two of us", I whispered into her coat as I hugged her.

Two large wet and dirty towels, a proper drink of fresh water, check for wounds and injuries and a bit of kibble later, Krtek and I were ready for bed. 

She is still snoring as I type. She looks as though she ran a tough leg of a long distance race. As a matter of fact, with her seven hour journey, she pretty much did.

1 comment:

thecrazysheeplady said...

Wow, what a night! LOVE the toads :-D.