We were warned. The previous family who tried to adopt Bertie kept him for two days. They couldn't cope with his "escaping".
But we, of course, thought we knew better. He loves the garden and he explores the edge of Serge's field, with no inclination to head for the middle, keeping close to us and the house, burying his nose into the long grass in the ditch, snuffling in search of small creatures. So Tod said it was alright to leave him off the lead as we all went down to the cottage to close the shutters and keep in the warmth.
I watched the two of them disappear into the hot border, tails up, noses to the ground. And I briefly turned my back. The next I knew, Bertie was half way across Monsieur F's ploughed field with Vita in his wake. But that was fine. The set-aside strip beyond would keep him distracted, he'd lingered over the enticing smells there this morning. So I called him and quickened my pace as I set out to catch up with them.
By the time I got onto the beginning of the set-aside strip, Bertie was half way along it and now moving at a fast trot down to the stream. I broke into a run, if nothing else I had to keep him in sight. Once at the stream he could cross and I would lose him.
Wriggling with excitement, he bounded into the long grass on the bank followed by Vita. I shouted back to the cottage for Tod and kept running. By the time I was at the stream they were disappearing round the curve that edges Philippe's field. By now I was frantically calling both of them, conscious that yelling "Bertie come" meant nothing to him. He was "Spok" at the rescue and heaven knows what other name a few days ago. And with the echo across the valley, how would he know which way my voice was coming from?
I reached the ditch that runs into the stream on the far side of Philippe's field. Vita was coursing up and down the bank looking for him and I thought I heard him in the gloom of the trees on the other side. I ran on, heading for a grass causeway that crosses the stream and up into the woods, trying to see him on the other bank. By now the light was fading and I dreaded losing him in the dark. And still no sign of Tod.
Then briefly, with the causeway in sight, he reappeared in the other side, tail up, hunting. Vita saw him and dashed forwards and both of them were gone. There were so many ways they could have taken, up through the woods, or across the fields, or back along the stream. My calling became more despairing and frantic. I'd now lost both dogs.
Then suddenly, in my despair, realising there was no point in going on calling him (he couldn't and wouldn't understand) I began to make puppy whimpering noises, hoping they were near enough to hear. It worked like magic! Vita raced towards me from out of the woods and as I made a fuss of her, there he was. I kept whimpering and he came up and sat at my feet. With no lead, I swept him up and puffing and panting we all headed home.
Half way back we met an anxious Tod following our steps on the other side of the stream. Vacuuming up cluster flies in the cottage he'd heard none of my frantic calls and only belatedly realised we were all missing.
As I carried Bertie in my arms he looked so pleased with himself. He'd had a great adventure.