I get up and check her kennel (at least once a day she gets bored in the yard and goes to snooze in her kennel where the floor is cold) and she isn't there. Maybe she wandered into the house for a drink since I had the door propped open for the kids to come and go. Nope.
For the first time in 8 years I didn't know where one of my boarders was. This is my worst nightmare (seriously, I have nightmares about this very thing happening). I am also home alone with my kids and so there is only so much searching that I can do on foot until help arrives to let me walk the property but I load up the kids in their PJs and we start driving to neighbors' houses asking them if they've seen a 6 month old, one-eyed, great dane puppy.
I search for an hour and decide that I need to get ahold of her people and the humane society. Now this is something that happens to trainers. It is always a heartbreak and a nightmare when it does (this story does not end in heartbreak) but dogs are animals and they have minds of their own so sometimes they get lost. But that doesn't mean that it's okay. When a trainer is entrusted with someone's beloved pet it is expected that their pet will be kept safe and not allowed to wander the county. I make a frantic and panicked call to Maci's people they could not have been kinder or more understanding (I can't say I would have been so kind had our positions been reversed). We formed a game plan where they would come help look for her that afternoon while I am slowly disintegrating into a puddle of despair that I could not find this dog.
Right as I was sitting down on the front step to form a search party to comb the property I see a very happy Maci trotting up the driveway, every so often stopping to sniff a flower. Yes. She actually stopped to smell the flowers as she moseyed back up to the house. I get up and I call her name and she happily trots over to me so receive her praise. At this point I'm on the phone with her mom again and I've never been more relieved. I know exactly where she came from and she was never more than a couple acres away. She most likely just went to play on the hiking trails that we were on yesterday. She wasn't even acting all that tired! Meanwhile I feel like I've run a marathon even though she was only unaccounted for for a few hours.
So here's the important part of this story- Maci is not in trouble. It was not her fault. She did not get reprimanded for this at all. She wasn't even being disobedient when she wandered off. She was being a dog and I was not watching her carefully enough. This happened because I (an extremely good trainer with almost a decade of professional experience and who was trained by some of the best dog trainers in the country) made a mistake and got absorbed in something else for 4 minutes. I was tempted to not blog about today. It's embarrassing and frankly doesn't look good for business but I decided to go ahead and write about it since it shows something very important- that the moment you trust a dog too much is when something very dangerous can happen. I'm so glad Maci wasn't hurt today because (forgetting about the business for a second) I would never be able to forgive myself. The director of my school, Bob Jervis, used to tell us over and over again that dogs exist to make fools of us and Maci made a fool of me today. Needless to say I won't be making that mistake again any time soon. Oof.
Tomorrow is going to be just a normal work day for Maci. We're still pushing off-leash obedience and just for fun I might rehash that Come command for good measure. After today my hair is probably almost as grey as Maci's!