I had a horrible moment this evening.
Mum and I took the dogs, Kanga and her dippy daughter, Scally, for a walk as I do most evenings. Half way through our walk, Kanga disappeared. She does this often, charging off on the scent of a feral cat or in the hope of pushing a flock of guinea fowl into the air. And I yell, in exasperation, for about ten minutes and she always reappears looking delighted with herself, and panting hard.
But this evening, though Scally came back, Kanga did not. I called and called and called. To no avail. We walked home hoping to find her there but she wasn’t. I climbed into the car with Ben and we trawled the farm, calling her name and stopping to listen in the hope of hearing an answer.
We heard nothing but the quiet whisper of night fall and the odd agitated shriek of a bird.
We returned home, still no sign of Kanga. I was getting frantic; she has been mine since she was a pup, a constant companion for seven years in that adoring, trusting way that only Labradors can be (so that even when the whole world seems against you, they’re not). Ben offered to ride the farm on his bike and so off we both went again, me in the car, he on his bike, in the dark, calling, stopping, listening.
By this time we had attracted the attention of several of the farm’s night watchmen, ‘askaris’. Had they seen Kanga, I asked (most of them know her after watching us walk the farm every evening for six years). Nope, none had.
In the midst of our search, Anthony called from the Outpost and I promptly burst into tears, ‘I’ve lost Kanga’, I bawled. And with Ben pedaling barefoot around the farm in the dark without a light, I was at risk of losing him too. Anthony suggested I offer the askaris a reward (and reminded me that – at 15 – Ben really was old enough to find his way home).
I put out word of a reward, twice what Anthony recommended. The askaris responded with alacrity; they haven’t been paid for months. I don’t know why they still report for work, but this evening I was thankful they do.
We’ll search all night, they told me. Where did you last see her?
I showed them. And calling her name I finally, finally, after two hours of looking, heard a desperate yelp.
The askaris heard it too. We followed the sound – I was fearful Kanga had been caught in a snare, not uncommon here, and been injured. As it turned out, she’d fallen into a deep, sheer sided hole – made by an ant bear perhaps – and was unable to get out.
The askaris clambered in to haul her up and came out carrying her aloft like a trophy.
I don’t know who was more pleased to see who? Kanga me, or I Kanga?
The askaris deposited her on the back seat of my car and piled in after her; we drove home and I paid them their reward whilst Kanga raced off to find her supper. And then collapsed in an exhausted heap at my feet and I poured myself a large glass of wine.