Thursday, 14 December 2017


A week ago Rex went missing. At first we weren’t too worried. He had a habit of occasionally visiting the farmyard where he had lived for a year. It was only a quarter of a mile down the lane and he went there to see the old farmer’s new dog. But when we went down to the farm to collect Rex, he was nowhere to be found. Then the snow came and we began to worry more. The next morning we again went to the farm and asked the old farmer if he had seen Rex. He told us he had seen him the day before but not since. Rather uncharacteristically, he told us that he hoped Rex would come back soon. As the icy weather set in, our worries increased. We began to go further afield, asking people and calling for Rex beside old barns and suchlike where he might be hiding out. But we had no luck at all.

After a couple of days we were terribly anxious and filled with a deep foreboding that something bad had happened. We remembered that the old farmer had threatened to shoot him and usually complained to us about Rex visiting his yard, for he believed that Rex was a bad influence on his new dog. Then a ray of hope, a neighbour told us they had seen a Facebook post about a stray collie that had been seen about three miles away. As T began to search for the post, I drove to the area where the stray dog had been seen and began to ask around. The backroads were very icy and I had to go very carefully. For several hours I met people who had not seen a stray collie. Then I met a farmer who said he had seen a young collie a couple of days ago. My spirits lifted. I made house to house enquiries. Many people were not at home. The remainder seemed helpful and concerned. I left our number written on pages torn from a notebook.

I got home late afternoon. T had finally tracked down the Facebook post. It was on a local ‘lost and found’ page. We scanned the hazy picture of the stray collie. He was very like our Rex, even down to the white patch on his tail. But it wasn’t him. Our spirits fell through the floor. We returned to the awful suspicion that the old farmer had killed him. After all, he had both motive (however unbalanced) and opportunity (the farmyard was the last place Rex had been seen). And he had acted suspiciously when we had asked him on the Friday about Rex, by not complaining about the dog coming in to his yard. I knew that the old farmer always visited a family member on Sunday afternoons. I decided to go down to the farm and have a good look around whilst he was not at home.

As I strode down the lane the light was fading. I feared that I would find a crime scene, with the stiff, dead body of Rex with gunshot wounds out the back of a barn somewhere. I sighed and steeled myself, I had to find out what had happened to our wee dog. As I walked into the yard there was a low bark from some stone outbuildings. I looked up the yard and saw the farmer’s new dog tethered there. The bark had come from another dog. I shouted Rex and whistled for him. No response. I pushed open the door of the first outbuilding, it was full of debris and had only half a roof. As I came out I looked up. Framed in a small high open window was Rex’s wee face. I shouted to him. He bobbed his head to me.

My heart flew as I ran around the stone barn looking for a way in to the upper floor. On the other side of the yard was a flight of stone steps covered in unbroken snow. At the top was a bolted door. I pushed it open. Rex ran out between my legs and raced across the yard. I glanced around the gloomy room, I could see neither food nor water. I ran out into the lane after Rex, calling to him. He was already far up the lane on the way to our house. Despite the icy conditions, a great well of happiness and warmth came over me. Rex was saved.

As I walked home, I realised that the old farmer had intended to kill Rex in the most horrible way. He had locked him in the outbuilding on Thursday, probably around lunchtime. The snow had come on Thursday evening and the steps up to Rex’s prison were still covered in unbroken snow when I rescued him on Sunday. He had been in there for over three days without any food and water.. A dog can’t survive for much more than four days without water. And the old farmer had lied to us on the Friday morning when we had asked him where Rex was. Our wee dog had been imprisoned on the farm all of the time. But for now my only concern was Rex, the old farmer was a problem for another day.