Our ancient companion has gone missing.
Yesterday morning when I got up and went out to get the paper, I noticed that our old English setter, Lefty, wasn't in his dog house. For some reason this made me nervous, although he usually goes on patrol around the house and yard at this time of day.
I walked around the yard and couldn't find him. So I went inside, rousted Prairiewolf out of bed, and we both started looking for him in earnest.
Lefty turns 16 next month. (This photo is from 4 years ago.) He's blind with cataracts, totally deaf, can hardly walk and he's been acting as if he's in heart failure. But on his good days, he still gambols like a puppy and it's a rare day that he doesn't want all the petting he can finagle.
Given his physical condition, our first thought was that he'd gone off somewhere to die. However, since he can't walk or see well, we figured that we'd be able to find him nearby. We walked all over our property, checked the neighbors', drove the roads slowly with binoculars, but we couldn't find him.
We walked our property again, drove the roads again, then printed up a few flyers and left them on the doors of the neighbors who weren't home.
By mid-afternoon, I'd had a terrible thought: what if he'd been taken as bait for dog fights? Prairiewolf scoffed at the idea, but once it crossed my mind, I couldn't get rid of it. It made a sad situation even worse.
This morning arrived, and still no Lefty. Prairiewolf, however, discovered obvious signs that we'd been visited by other canines during the night - fresh "markings" around Strider's kennel. Now the most logical theory - and one that makes me feel infinitely better, for some reason - is that Lefty followed some roving dogs, possibly including a female in heat. Now, due to his failing senses and physical incapacities, he's lost.
We expanded the number of flyers we put out this morning, and continued to drive around looking for him.
When we got home, we'd gotten a call from a neighbor up the road that seems to verify the "lost" theory. The neighbor said he saw a muddy white dog hobbling around yesterday, ironically only about 1/4 mile away from our house. Knowing this gives us both hope and frustration: he was obviously still alive and nearby yesterday but how frustrating to have him so close, yet be unable to find him.
Prairiewolf is out walking the creek and pasture again. I'll be joining him shortly. Hopefully, one way or another, we can bring our old boy home again. The yard feels empty without him.