Disappearing Act

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Disappearing Act

Sadie at the bottom of the slope

Sadie at the bottom of the slope

WE ARE RUNNING around like frightened hens — separating, coming together - no plan - just reacting blindly. Sadie has disappeared. One moment she was with us and then Black, Miss and Luke run ahead - our attention is distracted, and when we turn round, no Sadie. Volatilized - abracadabra - into thin air.
     We put the three remaining dogs into the camping car and begin searching - for a while, I stay near the camping car in case she comes back. But I can't stand this inactivity - I have to do something, so I start searching too.
     We are staying at a camp site in Néris-les-Bains, a spa town, on our return home after a great, but tiring day at Montluçon International Dog show. We stayed at this camp site a year ago - it is placed at the top of a steep gradient - almost a cliff - which descends to a road and a lake fifty metres below. A walk leads along the top of the slope to some steps to the lake. Above it is a beautiful small park. The camp site is almost within the city and the Spa building is situated right next door.
     Parn retraces our steps down to the lake and I go - to the park at the top of a hill which Sadie had visited when we were staying here a year ago - I think she may have got confused and gone there. I hear Parn calling - I am calling - calling - Saaadie, Saaaaadie. In the distance, I hear the wail of sirens - ambulances, police cars are careering around the streets - has Sadie gone that way and caused an accident? My overheated imagination sees it all. She is dead beside the road - injured people are being taken to hospital, but no-one takes any notice of the poor brown beastie lying there. And yet, inside me, the still small voice of calm and reason tell me this is not possible - she couldn't have got so far and our Sadie cannot disappear like that. She is somewhere - she will be found. We call - we call - Saaaadie - Saaaadie - where are you? Our voices echo from the other side of the valley, mournfully. Back at the top of the slope, I think I hear whining, but it must be the three in the camping car who can hear me calling and what is more, there is a gardener there who has left his engine running and this makes it difficult to hear properly.
     We are frantic and not thinking properly - the people at the camp site call the police and one lady drives along the edge of the lake looking. No news at all.
     We get Black out of the camping car - he's a barker - maybe Sadie will hear him barking.
     We now think she must have fallen down the steep slope and begin looking in groups of trees that scatter the slope - Parn goes down again and looks from the bottom and I peer down from the top. Still no sight. There are culverts which descend the slope to drain water away. These are concrete constructions about a metre deep and the same wide. Now we are thinking more rationally, we wonder if she has slid down one of these.
     Suddenly, the engine of the car that had been running for what seemed like an age, stops - in the sudden silence, Blackie barks and we distinctly hear whining - I go to see if it is the three in the camping car, but they are quiet - the noise saying "help me, help me," is coming from the bottom of one of a culvert. At the bottom of the vertiginous slope, the drain disappears into a sewer which goes under the road. There is no Sadie to be seen, but she must be there in the sewer.
     Suddenly, Parn is crashing down the scree, gravel sliding beneath his feet, dislodging boulders the size of footballs, clinging on to breaking branches for support and to slow his disastrous descent. I am closing my eyes, not wanting to see him fall, tumbling down the steep slope. But he has done his training in the Alps and a scree he can still handle - miraculously he reaches the bottom and the mouth of the culvert and shouts, " Ican see her - she's here." He disappears into the mouth of the drain and suddenly, a white shirt front appears - SADIE. I am shouting - "Is she hurt - is she hurt?" Parn emerges holding Sadie - he manages to lift her out and she shakes herself and seems ok.
     Now Parn has to get out but the concrete slopes of the culvert are ice-like with a covering of green moss and a thin stream of water - he can't get a grip. Suddenly he shouts and falls. At the top of the slope I am frantic - always cursed or blessed with a vivid imagination, I wonder if I am to have an injured man to deal with - usual scenario - he is concussed - can't drive. Etc Etc. I am calling an ambulance in my imagination - I am beside his bed. "Have you hurt yourself - are you alright?" I yell.
     Parn has managed to get out - he is holding his head, sitting in the road, probably cursing under his breath. Sadie, hearing me, begins to try to mount the slope and she is heading for the culvert again - Stay Sadie, stay I yell. I am coping with the idea of Parn with blood pouring from his head and the dog falling in the drain again. At this point, Parn gets up, says he's ok and makes to climb back up the slope. No way, I tell him - go round by the steps - Sadie may have strained something (MEN!!!!) (Dog or man will kill themselves if I don't stop them - it's a woman's lot!!!)
     They disappear down below - the dog seems to be walking fine - she seems to have no problems - the man is still a worry until I've inspected him.
     Black and I wait what seems like an age, then I see Parn walking along the path along the cliff edge. I can see his head and shoulders above the bushes. "Call Sadie," he says. I call - Black barks and she comes, one wet and dirty green collie, safe and sound.She turns around and around me, whining - talking - where were you, you took a time to come - I was calling and you didn't hear. But you see - here I am - none the worse for my adventure. Black barks - don't think he understands what has happened, but he feels the emotion.
     Show me your head, I say sternly to Parn when he catches up - there's no blood - not even an egg, but he's exhausted and dirty too - a big patch of green slime on the seat of his trousers. I'm exhausted too - emotionally and physically.
     We go back to the camping car - wipe Sadie down, feed the dogs and flop down with a cup of tea - the English panacea for all ills and shocks.
     Well you might ask we why didn't look in to the culvert right away: there was the problem of acting like frightened hens and thinking of other more plausible scenarios like her having got confused and retracing her steps - going back down to the lake or up to the park. An unlikely solution if you know Sadie who always sticks around.
     Then there was the noise of the car engine which confused and hid the direction sounds were coming from. Parn must have walked past the bottom of the culvert twice without realising she was in there. Under the road, the drain curves like the U bend in a loo and Sadie was invisible and she herself couldn't get out, there being no way she could get a grip on the ice-like wet moss.
     All's well that ends well and we are home, safe and dry - except for the unseasonable rain which the dogs hate. Only Luke born in the Czech Republic is happy to go out and get wet. The others, used to a dry Mediterranean climate, refuse to get so much as a toe wet unless pushed out of doors!!!

 

Pärn standing at the top of the «chute» — this is where he ran down

Pärn standing at the top of the «chute» — this is where he ran down

The top end of the culvert

The top end of the culvert. Did Sadie slide all the way down?

You can just make out the culvert

You can just make out the culvert on the left

Looking up the slippery slope from the road

Looking up the slippery slope from the road

Sadie was hidden under this covered part of the drain where it goes under the road.

Sadie was hidden under this covered part of the drain where it goes under the road. She couldn't get out because the drain was too steep and too slippery

You can see the thin film of water draining down over the slimw

You can see the thin film of water draining down over the slime

 

Sadie was hidden under this covered part of the drain where it goes under the road.

The drain goues under the road and ends here in the lake 50 metres from its mouth

Sadie was hidden under this covered part of the drain where it goes under the road.

The ducks are quite happy — nothing to disturb their peace

Sadie at the bottom of the slope where she was foundSadie with Dianne at the bottom of the slope where she was found

 

— Dianne Taimsalu

 

Updated 10 April 2007. Copyright ª 2005 Le Clos des Castagniers kennels and Parn Taimsalu.