Saturday, September 1, 2012
A Million to One?
Mike on the Baugh Branch Trail
Beset by household renovations, Katja and I recently left for a five-day camping trip to Lake Cumberland State Park in southern Kentucky. While Katja was taking a nap one afternoon, I decided to take Mike and Duffy, our ten-year-old sheepdogs, on a hike on the Baugh Branch Trail. We drove there since the trail was several miles from our campground and far from human habitation in the park’s 3,000 acres of forest. The sign at the trail head indicated that it was 1.6 miles one way, and I thought we’d do a mile or so, then turn around and come back. Despite a park rule forbidding unleashed dogs, I let Mike and Duffy off the leash after we’d walked a short distance. It didn’t seem likely that we’d see anybody. There was practically nobody at the campground, no cars were in the parking lot, and it looked like things would stay quiet until Labor Day weekend.
The Baugh Branch Trail was heavily wooded and hilly. As usual, Duffy stuck closely to me, sometimes leading the way, sometimes a few feet behind. Mike, in contrast, always lags behind, anywhere from ten to thirty or more yards. I kept a close eye on him, glancing back every twenty or thirty seconds, and he was always back there, plodding along to keep up with us. After half an hour we started to get some glimpses of Lake Cumberland through the trees. It was hot – a little over ninety degrees. I put the leash back on Mike to keep him moving along at a steadier pace.
Finally we turned around, even though we hadn’t reached the trail’s end. I was hot and sweating, and I was worried about the dogs getting dehydrated. Once we’d begun our return, both dogs started moving more quickly, and I took Mike back off the leash. The walk back took a long time. Finally we got to a fork in the trail that I’d remembered was fairly near to our starting point. That was a relief, and I hurried along to get back to the parking lot and the car. Just as we were reaching the road I turned to look behind me, and I was startled to find that Mike was no longer in sight. Thinking he must be right around a bend in the trail, I walked back calling his name. He didn’t appear, however, and I started moving faster, calling, “Mike, Mike, Mikey, Mike!” There was no sign at all of the dog. I started running with Duffy, calling as loudly as I could. We’d gone about 200 yards, back to the fork in the trail, when I realized that he couldn’t possibly have been lagging that far back.
Figuring that Mike had wandered off the trail, we turned around and started running toward the road. I was still shouting at the top of my voice. I wondered if by any chance Mike had gotten back to the car, and we hurried to the parking lot. I circled the car, but there was no sign of Mike. Then I saw something gray and white on the ground at the edge of the road. My heart nearly stopped, and I ran toward what I thought was an animal’s corpse, but it turned out to be a culvert. I started imagining how Katja would react if I couldn’t find Mike in the forest. I headed back toward the trail’s entrance and the forest in an ever-heightening state of panic.
Just then a large black pickup truck came around a bend in the road. I decided to wave the truck down and ask the driver to keep an eye out for Mike. I stepped into the road, waved, and the driver pulled to a stop. The man got out and came over to my side of the car – a stocky, brown-haired, thirtysomething man with a rural Kentucky accent. Pointing to Duffy, I explained that I had two sheepdogs with me, but that I’d lost one of them in the forest. Before I could even ask him to keep an eye out, the man said, “Yeah, I have the other one in the truck.” He pointed to the back seat window, and there was Mike staring out at me behind the dark glass. I nearly collapsed with relief. I grabbed the man ‘s hand and started shaking it vigorously. “You just saved my life,” I said, and I truly meant it. The man explained that he’d seen Mike walking on the road, and he’d stopped and picked him up. He said he’d owned an Old English Sheepdog years ago, and he’d always wanted another one, but they were hard to find. I agreed that they were wonderful dogs. The man opened his truck door, and Mike leapt out. I thanked the man profusely, and he got back in the truck and drove off. I gave Mike a big hug, my eyes tearing up. I couldn’t believe my good fortune.
Back at the campground I told Katja the story. She too was near tears, and she held Mike closely to her. I was still distressed and astonished. I don’t normally believe in miracles, but this had come pretty close. Mike finding his way back to the road by himself, the stranger coming along at that very moment and retrieving him, and then my flagging down the vehicle in which Mike was riding just seconds before I re-entered the forest. What are the odds of all that coming together? Maybe a million to one. Even now, several days later, I still have reverberating emotions when I think about it. My reactions are mostly feelings of ineptness and of anger at myself. When one lets their dogs off the leash, they have to keep track. I can’t believe I failed to do that. Every time I look at Mike I have feelings of relief and gratitude. Mike must be puzzled by the flood of affection he’s suddenly getting. For myself, I‘ve learned my lesson. Always keep a close eye on your loved ones, canine and otherwise – they’re the most precious things in life.
Linda K-C (9-1): And I think happened on the " once in a blue moon " day. Wonder if you know the story of the Lundy family ( I call them that some times ) and after the twins were here for one night I call them Jam and Jam, and that was after I was taking care of them and parents at a movie. Anyway they had gone camping, or maybe a cottage, any way small camp area, no one around, J was driving 25 in 20 mile zone. J in drivers seat, V in car seat behind, K in front, L in his car seat behind K, this was quite awhile ago before they talked as clearly. Of course cop stops J, J rolls his window down, cop comes over leans his head in window. Cop wearing those glasses were they shine back at you and you can't see the eyes. It was reported to me that V leaned up as close as possible and yelled, "you no eyes, I have eyes." Other side of back seat , from L, loudly. "daddy go to jail? Daddy go to jail?” The curious " you have no eyes" slightly worried " daddy go to jail?" The back seat chanting went on and on. Cop. " just go." Hope to see you both soon