When I left you yesterday I was bumped, scraped, shaking and crying like a tumbled toddler; and Toby was haring down to the business park off the slip road, having avoided every vehicle on an incredibly busy intersection. I use the word ‘haring’ deliberately – one helpful stranger said that when she first saw him, he was running so fast, she thought he was a rabbit. If we ever catch him, we’re thinking of entering him into greyhound races as the mechanical hare.
I didn’t know what to do. A cyclist and several motorists had all stopped to tell me that they’d go after him. I didn’t know whether to wait where I was for them to come back, or follow my dog…my dogs! I had two dogs, one of whom I’d recklessly abandoned to chase the other. I phoned Pam, my walking companion, and she reassured me that she had Molly safe. We arranged a meeting place so that I could give her my house keys and she could take Molly home via our usual walk, on the off-chance that Toby had run that way.
I think Pam managed to grasp my instructions between my dry heaves and gasps, because she found me, took my keys and gave me the lead. She carried Molly all the way home because Molly, having been carried so far, refused to walk. Molly was born to be a handbag dog. Her only regret in having me as her darling is that my main ambition in life is to have a handbag so empty, pockets will suffice (yes, I am a woman. I’ve been tested).
What happened next is a bit of a blur. I know people stopped to ask if I was okay; to offer help/lifts/comfort; to tell me they’d seen my dog – a big husky, right? All of these drivers pulled over in rush hour traffic to help a complete stranger in obvious distress. There was a fireman, a businessman, truckers and more.
At some point, a man who works for one of Stockport Council’s service providers told me to get in his truck and he and his mate would take me to where they had last seen Toby. His mate was apologetic but adamant that I couldn’t get in because of insurance issues. No problem, said the first man; he’d walk me down and his mate would follow. I went with him but I don’t remember getting from one side of the intersection to the other. I think I was a little dazed.
The kind man then got back in his truck and went off in search of my dog. I walked in the same direction, calling Toby, still crying and shaking but thinking, somewhere deep in the bowels of my mind, I hope I haven’t put holes in the knees of these pants. I love them and I’ve only had them a month. It’s all about the priorities with me.
A blue van appeared and a nice man invited me to get in. I did. I can’t believe how easily I was prepared to drive off with total strangers. I can’t believe how the media have lied to me all these years – no one molested me in any way and every one just wanted to help. The man took me round the back of the business park, where a man out of a white van told me a bunch of people had tried to catch Toby but he had run off round the back of the buildings and they had all gone after him, some in their cars, some on foot.
He suggested I go one way and he go another, in a circle to try and head him off. He pointed to a woman slowing down in her white van (this was a business area; white vans are de rigeur in business areas) and told me she had trailed my dog. As I was chatting to her – mostly me saying, ‘Thankyousomucheveryonehasbeensokind’ between sobs and over her as she tried to tell me what had happened, the white van man shouted, ‘There he is!’
Toby was running towards me! He must have run all the way around the fairly large business park. I ran towards him, shouting his name, so of course he turned-tail and ran off in the opposite direction.
Desperation focused my mind at last: I yelled, ‘Where’s Hub? Where’s Hub?’ The Hub is the love of Toby’s life (and vice-versa): he slowed down; he turned; he hesitated; and then reluctantly headed in my direction, not entirely sure he could trust the woman yelling his beloved’s name.
Then he realised it was me. Not for Toby an enthusiastic gallop into my arms – he turned his back to me, which is his way of saying, Pick me up, please.
And I did.