The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Inca huntingWe have just spent a nervous 25 minutes searching the garden for Inca. She is 21 months old and still “our puppy”. We realised that we hadn’t seen her for a while. Danny was cutting up our leftovers to divide amongst the dogs. There was a large gap in the attentive canine audience. Inca, the ultimate foodie, had vanished.

We called into the darkness of the garden. She is obedient and always answers.


“She has escaped upstairs and is lying under our duvet.”
I went upstairs. The bed was empty.
Danny was still calling when I returned to the kitchen.
“Did you lift up the entire duvet?”

I was already reaching for a torch. The first port of call when searching for a lost dog is the pond. It’s reasonably big, approximately 28 feet long. Quito has fallen into it three times and, luckily, we have heard the splosh every time and pulled him out.

Inca is far more nimble but very short sighted. We are deep into the first rat poisoning foray, she could have spotted dying a rat by the pond and slipped in. Our pond is full of reeds and plants.

Danny examined it carefully whilst I rushed to the small newt pond, near the chicken run. This is a still pond and has caught many intrepid dogs as the surface is full of giant lily leaves and looks just like a large round border. When Dr Q was just six months old he nearly met his end there. By now, Inca had been missing for over an hour.

“Perhaps she has dug her way out of the garden and finally escaped?”
200 yards away, an old car’s brakes momentarily screeched as it took the sharp bend on the road in front of the house a bit too fast.

The lost dog situation is rare and the unspoken rule seems to be: never mention the worst. As we walked up the garden, Danny suggested the barn.
“I know that I went in there just before I fed the dogs, to fetch the frozen peas. But let’s just check.”

Inca loves to join us on any foray into the garden. In daylight all Min Pins make up a posse. After dark, It’s just Inca rushing ahead and dallying until we catch up. Companionable and reassuring.

There was a slight resistance when I opened the barn door.

Inca shot out, like a fat black comma. Perhaps she had been sampling the sloe gin. The other dogs would bark if they were locked in but Inca suffers in silence.

The relief was immense.

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  1. Hi Fiona – I’m so relieved she was all right. When I brought Sophia home from riding on Saturday, a flat-capped chappie came up to us, asked us if we had a dog, what sort it was, where it was right now? I answered with a sinking heart that we had a brindle lurcher and that, as far as I knew, he was in the house with Tom, who had just come back from a half-term trip to France. It transpired that the back door wasn’t shut properly and had blown open; Tom was sound asleep in his bedroom and oblivious to everything. Dylan had wandered out of the back door, round the front of the house, out through the gate onto the HUGELY busy road and up a lane where he had found some bread which this chap had chucked out for the birds and was found happily munching his way through it. I was so sure the chap (who turned out to be a very pleasant neighbour) was going to say that he had found Dylan hit by a car. How he managed to cross the road during the 15 seconds there weren’t cars bombing along at 50 I don’t know. So I do sympathise – just because they haven’t got two brain cells to rub together doesn’t mean you don’t love ’em.

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sarah,

    It was an enormous relief to find her. It is so easy to bumble into a room and out again without realising that a small mutt has followed you.

    The ponds are always my big concern when a dog vanishes here. They attract so much wildlife that they are magnet for the Min Pins.

    Hi Celia,

    Inca is so curious that she has been locked in the larder many times. She likes this as this is where we keep the dog chews.

    If the Min Pins are not around when we are eating supper, things are not right.

    Hi Z,

    How sad that your greyhound was killed on the road. The driver couldn’t have missed hitting the dog, it was mean and thoughtless not to get in touch.

    Hi KJ,

    When I had cats they used to do this too. They loved the airing cupboard!

    Hi Pat,

    Cats and Min Pins move so quietly it is easy to shut them in somewhere by mistake. The Contessa likes to creep upstairs and snooze under our duvet. She has been locked upstairs many, many times.

    Hi Amanda,

    We were so relieved to find her.

    Hi Kate(uk)

    Andrew is such a great name for a cat! Moving with cats can be a bit of a nightmare. I moved with mine from a large garden to a tiny house with a postage stamp sized garden. I thought that they would hate it but actually they seemed much happier in the smaller patch.

    Hi Seahorse,

    Poor Ralph. How canny of you to spot the abscess and put 2 and 2 together.

    The Min Pins use a cat flap too. This gives them access to the garden when we are out.

  3. seahorse

    Thank goodness. I returned home from less than 24 hours away the other day to find the cat biscuits I left for my tabby Ralph untouched. I had that same lurching feeling you must have just had. It took 20 minutes of calling to get him to come in, and I couldn’t work out why he’d stayed out the whole time I’d been gone. Then I noticed he wouldn’t use the catflap and had effectively been locked out, only returning when the back door was left open. Why? It seemed very odd. A couple of days later what had been a small scratch on his forehead swelled up and it clicked. An abcess was preventing him from headbutting the catflap to get back in. He must have known he risked getting splatted. Plus it must’ve hurt like hell. So the vet did the honours and now he’s happy as larry. Pets, eh? Hope I didn’t put anyone off their dinner 🙂

  4. Kate(uk)

    My heart sank when I read the beginning – hugely pleased you found Inca. I still recall the first night we were in our house back here in the UK, my Dutch cat Andrew had insisted on going out to explore and he just would not come in. It was dark, I had visions of him hitching a lift back to Harwich and the ferry. So cross with myself for allowing him out…then the security light by the garage came on and there he was, he turned very nonchalantly as I called him and was about to disappear behind the side of the garage after a hedgehog but I grabbed him and brought him back inside.It is just so good when you find them!

  5. So glad she was okay.

  6. Fiona, so glad you found her!!! My heart races anytime the boys don’t show up for their dinner on time. We have been known to lock them in the shed, garage and even in our hall overnight. Poor things!!! I have tried to teach them how to open the door to no avail.

  7. We had a cat once who was forever being dug out of locked cupboards, sheds, even roof spaces. I can imagine how worried you must have been. I’m glad you found her.

  8. We’ve got a dog that waits patiently if she’s shut in too, and once a similar thing happened to us.

    Three years ago, one of our dogs went out (probably looking for me as I was on holiday) and got on the road and was killed. My husband found him after a long search. He was a big greyhound and I’d have thought the car would have been damaged, but the driver didn’t get in touch.

  9. So relieved you found her. What a hrorrible panicky feeling you must both have had – but bet you both pretended to be cool about it! Countless times we’ve shut one of the cats in the outhouse where the hen food is kept! Usually it’s dark brindled Chloe (Chester would be crashing about in the flower pots and bins!). Cats do disappear for hours – but as they’re creatures of habit if they don’t appear for supper you know something’s not quite right.

  10. I am so relieved you found her. I know the fear you felt…we have a small garden all enclosed by chain link fence and locked gates, but we have a small pond…there are times the boys won’t come in, there are just too many grubs and fruits to eat… Give Inca a pat for me.

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