In the UK today it is Remembrance Sunday, commemorating the end of the first World War and remembering those who died in action serving their country. They mark it with Remembrance services and a two minute siIence across the country at 11am. I've never been in a war and have never lost a comrade in battle. I do know, however, how lucky I am to be alive.
As a puppy I was a stray, roaming the streets, desperately hungry and lonely, cold and tired and scared. In February 2006 I was caught by a dog warden who took me to a local Ayrshire farm. There I was nursed back to health before I could be transferred to a rescue centre. I was only two months old and was extremely thin. They weren't sure if I would survive. I was only supposed to be there for seven days but the rescue centre was so full they kept me on a little longer. First an older man, then a couple came to see me. As my original owners had not come forward to reclaim me, this couple were allowed to rehome me, once I'd been chipped and the vet said I was healthy enough to leave.
I was so lucky. I was given a warm home and regular meals and toys and a bed all of my own. They spent time with me, reassuring me, training me and playing with me. They had a large grassy garden which I would race around and they took me on walks around the area. I didn't care which county I was living in. I got used to the different accent of the local dogs, eventually picking it up myself. I made friends (and enemies) but always I knew I was safe with a home to return to.
I remember sometimes misbehaving if the walk wasn't long enough or when I got soaked in the rain. I would refuse to come back to my master and he'd get angry with me. But eventually I'd let him catch me and all was still well. I got locked in my cage a couple of times as punishment but they still fed and watered me. They never threw me out. They still loved me.
What brought these memories into sharp focus this week was an experience I had on Wednesday night at Barshaw Park. It was after eight on a cold but dry night and there was a pack of us dogs and owners walking round the park in the dark. When we were passing the golf club, I wandered away, as I do, in search of foxes and/or discarded food. Soon I was racing across the fairways up the hill and into the woods following a fox. My collar light had grown faint with both distance and low batteries so I couldn't be seen from the park. I eventually lost the fox trail but sniffed and searched the woods, spending some time leaving my scent and acquainting myself with the location. I hadn't been up this far before. It wasn't until I returned to the golf club car park that I realised my master and the pack hadn't waited and were nowhere to be found. They were gone.
In human terms I was lost for twenty minutes. In dog time this felt like over two hours. When it sank in he was gone, my heart started beating faster and faster as panic gripped me. The night air seemed colder, the park much bigger and darker. I ran blindly, searching everywhere. I followed one noise to the pond and another across the mini railway line, running towards shapes that weren't my master.
Why hadn't he waited? Where had he gone? What if I didn't find him? I didn't want to return to the life of a stray. I had to find him!
I was so pleased when I heard his whistle call and saw his bright torch scanning the putting green. My tail was spinning so hard as I rushed towards him I thought it would turn into a propeller. I scurried around his legs bouncing against them to confirm he was real and leapt to lick his face. He crouched down and hugged me to settle me and clipped on my lead, then scolded me in a relieved fashion. I think he was equally frightened. He was puffing, out of breath himself, from running around the park, an exercise his body wasn't used to. We marched back towards the car, where the remainder of the pack had gathered, having split into search parties to cover all corners of the park. Everyone was pleased to see me and laughed in relief that I'd turned up. Typical figbane! They all wanted to know where I'd been (and so did the owners). My master thanked everyone for their help. Eventually everyone went on their way and I was taken home in the car. I still got a Bonio and lots of tickles.
I like living here. I don't want another life. I wish every dog could share my happiness and this king size bed. Every dog deserves this.