Monday, 1 April 2013

Thoughts on a lost dog


Anybody who follows me on twitter (@JPicardie) will know that we have been searching for Bill since he went missing on Saturday afternoon. I had taken him for a walk -- although that seems the wrong phrase to use, given that it was Bill who taught me about the footpaths around Tillypronie; a loyal companion in the (nearly) four years since I first started coming here. Anyway, as I say, we went on a very familiar route -- down the top drive, cutting through the woods to the bottom drive, and then back up towards the house together. He rarely stayed at my heel, as was often the case -- like many cocker spaniels, Bill went off on his own adventures, chasing the scent of rabbits, disappearing through the snowy undergrowth and then reappearing as if by magic again; never gone for long, never less than joyful, always faithful. I crossed into the garden, and he was still within sight -- albeit on the other side of a fence, in a next door field, running fast, and then he vanished. Bound to run back up to the house, I thought, presuming Bill would be taking the swiftest route to return to his beloved master, my husband. But he was not there, and has not been seen since.
I have retraced my steps so many times since then (and as you can imagine, I feel terribly guilty, as he was lost on my watch). Bill loves (can't yet use the past tense) my husband with every fibre of his body; and they have been the very best of companions for well over a decade. One of the reasons I love Bill is because he loves the man I love, with complete unselfishness; with such dogged devotion that he also accepted me.
So, we walked and called and whistled and looked until after darkness fell on Easter Saturday, and then from dawn, just as the sun rose, on Sunday. The snow is still deep on the ground here in the Highlands, but it is no longer silent; we have heard the cry of birds, and the sheep as they shelter from the icy weather; we have seen the sun rays dazzling in the daylight, and the sky turn bright blue, then fading again, streaked with sunset pink; and then the dusk falling.
Today I went out again, following the path of our Good Friday walk; up through the snow-covered heather, to the hillside that Bill knew so well. We had walked along this track three days ago -- Bill running in front, my husband striding ahead, his footsteps making a path through the snow that I could follow, close behind. Half way along, we reached a stone known as the Laird's seat -- the place where Philip's father used to sit, looking at his favourite view across the mountains. We talked of the past, and of the future; of the trees that Philip's father had planted before his death, and how tall they had grown; of the trees that might need to be felled later this year, and of the planting that we had done, after our wedding here last summer.
Then we continued, along a track I had never taken before -- cutting across the hillside, to avoid the snowdrifts, and back down the house again. Bill had been happy -- just as he always was. This was his land, as much as his master's; this was his territory, where he had grown up...
A lost dog... such a plaintive, sad phrase. We have sought sightings of him, via twitter and email and the local radio station; registered his details with the police and elsewhere. Others have joined the search for Bill -- neighbours who were fond of him, and knew him well.
Now we are in limbo -- still hoping for the best, but fearing the worst. As I have walked, I have seen his paw-prints everywhere; clear in the snow, seeming to offer clues, yet apparently leading nowhere. If we do not see him again, then perhaps he may see us, sensing his master, yet running free as the wind; up on the hill, higher even than the Laird's seat, at the summit, where a cairn was built as a memorial for my husband's father. Up there, it seems closer to heaven; the mountains all around, the moss soft between the heather, the sky high and clear, the curlews calling, the lapwings soaring... just the place for a lost dog to find peace.

30 comments:

Cornflower said...

I'm still hoping all will be well, but I know how you must be feeling.
All good wishes.

The Scrivener said...

Either way it would, of course, be better to know.
Willing him home...

Eve said...

Hoping he is back with you soon Justine. Perhaps he has gone on a big adventure and is gathering strength before his return. X

kairu said...

Still hoping he will be home, soon. Much love and best wishes to you all xoxo.

Lilac In May said...

I've been checking on Twitter, hoping for some good news, a horrible state of limbo for those who love him, hope you get some news soon XX

enid said...

How sad I do hope he finds his way home and is safe. Love to both you and Philip

enid said...

Just to say the March Harpers Bazaar is superb. I love that it is so large and so full on interesting things I am enjoying it so much Thanks

homemade said...

Thinking of you and willing Bill home. I can only imagine how awful it must be for you and your husband. X

Karen, Surrey said...

I am so very sad for you all. I have a loyal companion of my own and would be devasted as you so obviously are from your sad post. I do hope that he does turn up. It must be agony. I hope you get some good news soon. x

dovegreyreader said...

Oh Justine, I am so sad for you and Philip and for Bill. I do so hope Bill turns up at the door. And I know so well the way that Cocker Spaniels go off on that long run, ours heads off out of sight , meeting us several fields down and we just trust that he will find us because he always has done, so I understand you expecting him to be there waiting for you after that walk.

Meg Rosoff said...

Dogs sneak into your soul and under your skin. I hope he comes home. No matter what happens, his life sounds a perfect one. Who, besides a dog, can say that?

Sebastian Tarnowski said...

Beautifully written. Thinking of you both...

Justine Picardie said...

Thank you to everyone for your kindness, compassion, wisdom and understanding. We've continued the search for Bill, but there is still no trace of him. Tomorrow is my husband's birthday, and I can't help but hope for a miracle...

Justine Picardie said...

Given my tendency to magical thinking, I couldn't leave the number of comments at 13. So me again... still hoping with all my heart.

kairu said...

Oh, happy birthday to your husband! I hope there is a birthday miracle.

Ellen said...

Oh, Justine. I do hope Bill reappears. As ever your writing leaves me with a huge lump in my throat.

Unknown said...

He's probably seeking shelter somewhere close by, but starting to become weak from lack of food. Look close too homes under steps. Anywhere you last made eye contact on the day he went missing.

Louise Smith said...

Hi Justine.

I know this is probably obvious but have you searched for him with other dogs? From what you've described my heart breaks for you as bill doesn't sound like he'd run away. I'm worried that he's fallen down a hole and can't cry for help. Its worth a search with doggy friends, they can Help sniff him out even in the snow

Hoping and praying for his safe return xx

Petey said...

My dear Dad's name was Bill, my mother Betty was born in the Highlands and I grew up with blonde cocker spaniels so your plight touches me deeply. Hoping that he has found his way to a warm home and is waiting for you to discover his whereabouts. I have a Cairn terrier myself and would be sick with worry if he'd gone missing. Don't give up hope. I'll ask my angels Betty and Bill to send some help your way.

Justine Picardie said...

Petey, thank you for your very kind words.
Louise, thank you, too, for your kindness. We have searched for Bill with other dogs, who knew him -- and the local community, including farmers and gamekeepers have been looking everywhere, too. He was very close to home when he disappeared, in a place that he knew extremely well, so it is terribly mysterious.

Catherine Halliday said...

This is the third time I've tried to post this, (Im new to Blogger) Just wanted to say that you are a wonderful writer Justine. I don't want you to give up hope in finding Bill. You must be aware on doglost that dogs that have been missing a lot longer than what Bill has, have been reunited with their owners. Take comfort in that. Also is there a possibility that he has been taken? I hope not but it's something you should consider. I pray though that he returns home soon back where he belongs. I'm following him on doglost so I will look forward to seeing him changed to 'Blue'. You're in my thoughts and prayers xx

The Scrivener said...

Keep finding myself thinking of your Bill often throughout the day. I imagine you are finding it difficult to think of much else. Will continue checking here and your twitter for news.
Kate xx

Lazywell said...

This is a wonderful piece of writing, which has moved many, I know, to tears. It is especially poignant for me because behind my pseudonym, as loyal followers of this blog will know, I am Justine’s proud husband and thus Bill’s longstanding master.

Bill has indeed been a peculiarly special friend and an integral feature of my life at Tillypronie for over 10 years, so to lose him so suddenly, without any warning or explanation, has been a bitter shock. We are still totally baffled as to what has happened to him. One does hear encouraging stories about dogs coming home or being found days, even weeks, after they disappeared, but I have reached the stage now that I am tending towards the philosophical.

I have been heartened by the wise and sensitive comments both here and in response to Justine’s frantic tweeting, and I reassure myself that no dog could have had a happier or more fulsome life. Moreover, in the past few years, I know that Justine has brought Bill, as well as me, an extra sense of joy, and her blog is testament to that. I have looked back through the archives, and even when he didn’t quite manage to get into the photograph I know that Bill was never far away, whether on one of Justine’s walks that she always describes so lyrically, or sitting at my feet greeting visitors to the regular Tillypronie garden opening about which she has often written with such warmth.

One of the principal sadnesses of this kind of passing is its very uncertainty: no chance to say farewell; no resting place with the many other family dogs in the row of graves in the garden at Tillypronie. Instead, I shall frame this beautiful piece by Justine and place it in the little church where we married last year; a gentle tribute to a creature, (but so much more than that), who witnessed and shared our developing happiness together.

kairu said...

I have been thinking of you, Lazywell (still can't quite call you Philip!), and Justine, and Bill, all week. I've been checking Justine's twitter when I wake up in the morning, with only one eye open and without my glasses on (by the way I am quite blind without my glasses)...

Deep in their hearts dogs still have a secret, wild place, that ties to them of their ancestors. I think this is why they turn around three times before lying down, though they sleep on carpets in front of fires and not in tall grasses that might hide predators...they chase squirrels even though their bellies are full of the roast chicken stolen off a kitchen table. And sometimes, an open field, a door left ajar, something calls to them in a sweet voice none of us humans can hear, and like a crack of lightning they are gone...I am sure Bill knows he is loved, and I still hope some day soon he will return.

enid said...

Philip you do indeed have a wonderful wife whose writing has impacted and enlarged all our lives. I am so moved by her writing and know that all over the world others are too. I look every day to see if Bill has returned. He is indeed a blessed animal to have known such love. I do hope that he does return.

Jane Odiwe said...

I wanted to contact you to say how much I am loving your book, Daphne, and your wonderfully poetic writing. I can hardly put it down to get on with anything else.
I am so sorry to read this about your dog - it's so heartbreaking when a pet goes missing - I hope he returns very soon.

Justine Picardie said...

Jane -- many thanks for your message. I am so glad you are enjoying Daphne.

Justine Picardie said...

And Kairu: I love your description of dogs...

Cathy said...

Hi, I don't know if you will ever see my question as this post is from 2013 but here goes...
I love your writing and have read several of your books (plus the fact that you are now editor of Harper's Bazaar is the reason I now buy the magazine). But Bill's story left me in tears and has also got me wondering if you ever managed to find Bill or what happened to him. I am still hoping he came home in the end. It's a beautiful story and a great tribute to a wonderful dog.

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