When you’re dog goes missing, even for a short time, it is terrifying. The what ifs run through your head as you try to stay calm and think of the best course of action. It happens to most of us at sometime and is usually quickly resolved. A friend of mine recently lost her dog for 5 hours and she told me afterwards that all the time the dog was lost she thought of Trouble and it gave her hope. So here is Trouble’s story just in case you need it one day.

Wednesday 30th January 2013 1.30pm
Ian phones from Fleet Pond to say he has lost Trouble. Trouble is a tiny Sheltie, he belongs to Sophie who was 14 at the time. Trouble is very smart, I have lost him on a walk before and he has always found his way back to the car so I’m not overly worried but 2 hours later there is still no sign so I drive to Fleet to help search. Ian then thinks that maybe he didn’t lose Trouble at lunchtime, maybe he lost him on his morning walk at Farnham Park. Trouble likes to jump in and out of the car until the door is finally shut. Ian walked the 7 dogs when it was still quite dark, maybe Trouble wasn’t in the car when he drove away. Ian goes to Farnham to search there and I stay at Fleet, I phone the dog wardens to report him missing and stay til dark, then I go home and break the news to Sophie. I phone Trouble’s breeder Heidi and we arrange to meet at first light. We register with Dog Lost and run off posters until the printer dies. Ian puts an appeal on facebook.

Thursday 31st January
Sophie, Heidi and I start at Fleet Pond and Ian goes to Farnham. We put up posters and talk to dog walkers. Everyone promises to keep a look out. At 9am we get our first sighting, the council has had a call to say a Sheltie was seen running down the road near Aldershot (about 5 miles away). We leave Fleet and head to Aldershot. On the way we get a call to say he’s been seen at Tescos so we head there.

Tescos is terrifying, it’s on a massive roundabout surrounded by busy roads. We spread out and search but the area is so vast it’s hard to know where to start. I go into Tescos and buy a local map and it becomes immediately clear that Trouble was lost in Farnham not Fleet as using the map we can track his progress from the sightings. This was later verified by a call telling us that someone had seen him chasing Ian’s car up the road from Farnham park. By this time offers of help are coming in and a Facebook page has been set up.

Aldershot is surrounded by vast areas of army land but they are connected by long dual carriageways. All we can do is spread the word and hope for a sighting so we walk, talk to dog owners and put up hundreds of posters. There is another sighting, we go to the location and put up more posters and search until dark but no luck.

Friday 1st February
Today we start the search at Goose Green Park in Aldershot where there has been another sighting. I park my van full of dogs in the middle, encourage them to bark and put food underneath the van. Then we spread out and search. People come to help, so many people. There is a long line of dog vehicles down the road. We walk everywhere, talk to people, put up more posters. The residents are fantastic, taking posters, offering tea. An appeal goes out on Garrison Radio and Trouble is mention on the Military Wives page. Despite all this we have not a single sighting and again as darkness falls we go home without him.

Saturday 2nd February
Today we are running a show at Pachesham. We debate cancelling but decide it’s just too complicated and it only takes half a day so Ian and Sophie search and I stay behind and run the show. Ian has put an appeal for help on Facebook and the response is overwhelming. The sheer volume of people helps cover a much wider area, putting up posters and spreading the word. Just before the show starts I get a call to say Trouble was spotted at 1.30 on Friday at Burger King. This is a relief because now we know he’s still alive but I bought tea at Burger King on Friday at 12.30. So close. With only 5 dogs left to run in the show I receive another phone call – Trouble has been seen about an hour ago running down the Basingstoke Canal. I phone Ian, finish the show, and then with half the competitors in convoy behind me set off for the canal. En route I get another call about a sighting on the canal. We have so much help at this point that we are able to cover the canal from all directions so we are sure he will soon be found but darkness falls and no sign. The Basingstoke Canal runs quite close to our old house and with the theory that maybe he was heading home we go there hoping to find him on the doorstep, but no sign so we leave posters and go home.

Sunday 3rd February
Ian rallies the troops again and they meet at the Basingstoke Canal Centre. Again the response is overwhelming. People come from over 2 hours away to help look and spread the word and we think that over 700 posters went up on Sunday alone. At about 1pm I get a call to say some canoeists have seen a dead animal in the river. I had been existing in a state of numbness, driven to continue the search by all the people who were still looking and still believed we would find him, the thought that he had stopped for a drink and exhausted fallen into the river and drowned was devastating. I passed the news on to Ian was only minutes away from the scene and waited – it was a fox.

Monday 4th February
Ian has to go back to work. Up until now he has masterminded the whole operation and taking over is a daunting prospect. I have messages from people saying that they are still out searching but without any sightings since Saturday it is hard to know where to look. I start again by calling the vets and the dog wardens. At 10.30 I get a call, a lady says she has seen Trouble at the skateboard park in Ash. I ask when and she says “Just now”. I phone Ian, text the other people in the area and set off for Ash which is about 10 minutes away. We arrive simultaneously, like a scene from a film all these vehicles converge on the carpark throw open their doors and people jump out and rush in different directions calling. I search but find nothing so I return to the car park and a lady says “He’s got him” and there is Ian walking towards me holding Trouble. Ian was searching and noticed a tiny movement in the bushes he called “Troub” and a very excited Sheltie rushed out and jumped into his arms and started licking his face.

I took him home (Trouble not Ian) and he rolled around on the carpet for a bit and then fell asleep. When the kids got home from school he could still barely keep his eyes open. You would think you would be so careful after going through all that but you turn your back for a second and they’re gone. He got lost again a couple of years ago. Luckily we had walked from home. As I searched I kept telling myself if he could survive 6 days in Aldershot in winter he would be ok, I went home to see if he’d returned and he had, bringing with him a large dead pigeon that was roughly the same size as him. He was so proud and not impressed when his treasure went straight in the bin.
The most important part of this story is all the people who made this miracle possible. It was a massive team effort by not just the agility community but by dog people in general. They put up posters, set up a facebook page, phoned the radio, the dog wardens, the rescue centres, the microchip company, the vets, printed posters, delivered posters to my house, walked and walked, quite often without dogs for fear of scaring him, stopped people in the street, climbed through brambles, helped run our show and covered my classes at work so that we were free to search. Trouble was found because of these people and the posters they put up. The agility community is an amazing machine. We will always be grateful.