The night they got away...

 From me to J.

From me to J.

First sign of trouble was a call from J a few minutes later: I've lost the dogs. I'm running around the bush looking for them. I'm freaking out!
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About ten minutes later, J rang again. He'd been training with M, and had had Czar, Frankie and Bolo, as well as Mischa and Lync on the gang-line which had broken. They were still missing. It'd now been nearly an hour already. They had the ranger out and he'd opened the park gates. Would I come out to the You Yangs to help him look?

I was wearing a suit. He was in a forest about half an hour from his place, and I was at least 45 minutes from his place. It was a dark winter's night. Um. Sure.

I started driving, thanking the luck that this was the same site as I'd visited for my first racing trip and was saved in my GPS. A lot of dark, empty highway. Expecting a call any minute to say that they'd found the dogs. Meanwhile...

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Reposted by friends across the state, J immediately had folks in at least six four wheel drives heading out to search the park, as well as another half a dozen out on foot. The generosity of the SHCV community was amazing! When I arrived, I found the dog trailer parked at the gate, with Ishka sitting in her berth and a couple of ladies who didn't even know J asking me to see if I could get Ishka to howl in case the dogs were nearby and might respond. Nothing.

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Not long after, J arrived with M and the ranger. People converged from all corners of the park - people had walked the boundaries, checked the campsite, looked on the major paths. Quick meeting, and then we all loaded up into the 4WDs and headed back into the park. Nothing. Even though all the dogs had been attached by harness and there was a very high likelihood that they'd have tangled themselves around a tree and be stuck howling, there was no sound.

Meanwhile, J was running through all his worst case scenarios - that they'd been fighting amongst themselves, that one had been dragged and injured by the others, that they'd left the park and been hit by a car, that they'd left the park and been shot by a neighbouring farmer for harassing livestock. Fortunately, he didn't explain this to me at the time.

Back at the trailer, it was now approaching 2 and a half hours since the dogs had sprinted off into the dark, leaving J and the rig with a couple of feet of snapped line. People started to emerge from the park, with information about where they'd been. Noone had heard anything. One set of pawprints had been found, but no other traces. It was looking increasingly likely that they'd somehow managed to cross the fences and leave the park. We were starting to discuss what roads we'd all come in on, where people might go check next, and whether we should start door knocking on farm houses.

Suddenly I saw a shadow move, and I grabbed J's arm. Before I could say anything, all five dogs, lines terribly tangled, trotted out of the dark and up to us.

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The dogs thought this was brilliant! They were all fine, fit and uninjured. Just in need of a drink. As were we!