Some time ago our hiking club was asked to help search for a lost dog. Usually, we are asked to help search for lost people, and we can be pretty good at it. When two young women went missing in a forested valley for more than five days, it was our club that found them and brought them to safety. But we had never been asked to find a lost dog, and the turnout of volunteers was small. It might have been even smaller, except that the owner, accompanied by two tearful, broken-hearted young children, had appealed over the local TV station the evening before.
We met with the owner at the trailhead at about 10 A.M. and learned we were looking for a small, brown and white Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Buddy. I’d never heard of the breed, but with a mouthful like that, it had to be a pretty special dog. We gathered around a topo map, divided the area of search into four sectors, and assigned a two-man team to each. The owner would make a separate search, and he and two mournful kids watched as eight of us marched off into the woods.
Initially, we made lots of noise. Calls of “Here, Buddy! Here, boy!” resounded through the forest, as we hoped the dog would hear us and respond. As the trail wound its way uphill and around gulches, we relied on our small hand-held radios to maintain contact, as we spread out to cover as much ground as we could. Lunch time came and went, no dog. Two hours of searching after lunch, still no dog. At 3 P.M. our teams began calling off the search and going home. By 4 P.M. my partner and I were the last team in the field, and we, too, decided to leave.
On the way out we passed a deep gulch with a sharp rise on the other side. I knew that a small, brush-covered plateau lay above. On the way in, none of us had been anxious to go up there, but now I had a feeling about it. My partner declined to check it out with me, and continued on his way. There was no reason not to, we were in familiar territory. Reaching the top of the plateau, I pushed through the tangled brush, stopping often to listen. Silence. I called the dog’s name. Nothing. Circling around, I poked into gullies and thickets. Nada. Dejected, I made my way back to the trail and headed out once more. So much for having a feeling.
Since the trail was a familiar one, I was pretty much in my zen mode coming out. About 5 minutes from the trail head, I heard a noise behind me and turned. It was Buddy, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, wagging his royal tail. I have no idea how long he had been following me. At the parking lot, cheers from my compatriots and shrieks of joy from the kids greeted us as His Majesty bounded into their arms. Everyone crowded round, offering praise, and wanting to know more about my dog-finding skills. Modestly, I declined to expound on my success.
Sometimes, when we seek something and can’t find it, it winds up finding us.