A small window of chance, I felt, forever lost, her with it, if we didn't bring her home . . .
Rain, rain, and more rain, cold and more cold, relentless, morning breaking dark and dreary. Will the sun ever shine again? Will life be worth the living? It was a low time, after the sighting again yesterday, Edie still alone and lost against a wet, cruel world.
Strategy had to bend now, hard. We had to do the thing that offered maybe our only chance to bring her safely home before she got so weak she became an easier target for the coyotes, or she was killed crossing a road, or some other equally terrible thing happened, and we never would.
I really felt at my gut this would be our final chance.
My farm manager friend arrived from eastern Carolina with the traps around noon, and we immediately left in the rain to set them. Speculatively, I thought and prayed that Edie had established a tenuous area of habitation and travel on the ridge behind the cow pasture, between the two houses at opposite ends. Please, God, I hoped I was right. That if she wasn't travelling that route daily, hoping to find food at one or both of the houses, then maybe every second or third day. That's where we concentrated our traps, along her hypothetical route.
A good man from Burlington, NC had called, once a pet rescue professional, told me that he had had best trapping success with Kentucky Fried Chicken as bait. A lot of enticing scent. So we went first to KFC and I bought $50 worth. We scattered three traps behind the two houses, on the ridge above the pasture, and placed two others on cross-trails in the interior of the block. Into each trap went KFC and a slice of Kraft cheese (her all-out favorite treat at home). In addition, as hopefully a confidence booster with Edie, and deterrent to coyotes, I took a paper towel, rubbed it vigorously in my hair and over my body, and threw that in too. Dogs live by their nose. She might not come to me, but I was absolutely certain she had not forgotten my scent. We never called, just slipped in and out as inconspicuously as we could. The last thing in the world we wanted to do was disrupt any semblance of a pattern, if indeed she had established one.
Only problem with the KFC, it rained all night, a cold, soaking rain, diminishing the scent, chilling it down. I lay in bed, listening to it fall. I think I offered a prayer with every drop that fell. But in another sense, I felt a little more hopeful too. At last, we were doing something that truly had a chance - given that she was untrusting and wouldn't come, deep in survival mode after 13 days gone - of bringing her safely home. Soon, which was the thing.
I was up early the morning of the 14th day, anxious to check the traps. Though it was still pouring rain; she might not have moved last night at all, and maybe not this morning. I forced myself to wait until 10:30 a.m. in case she had, and set out in the rain.
The thing about trapping is that there's hope with every one you check, that if not this one, then maybe the next. And this wasn't for a coon or a possum; this was for Edie. The stakes as high as they get. We had to catch her in the first 48 hours, or the odds would diminish swiftly. God forbid if she went in one and it missed her; she'd be trap shy then and not go in another again for a long time, until maybe she was literally starving.
The farm trails were rotten from all the rain, the worst they had ever been, and at best it was a slippery, muddy affair, with every few yards another chance of getting stuck. My heart was in my throat as I rounded the turn to the first trap, in the interior of the farm. It was thrown! But the captive was a wet and unhappy raccoon, and as quickly my spirits fell. Nothing in the next trap. On to the largest trap, which was set in what we felt was the single most promising place. Behind the outbuildings and sheds of the southern-most house. It was a ways into it, down a long farm path, and there was a rise in the field between, so that you couldn't see the trap until you topped that rise, and then it was still some hundred-fifty-yards. Still raining, foggy, visibility very low. When I topped the little rise, it appeared, to my great disappointment and despair that the trap had not been disturbed. As I closed, that was the case. A sad moment. In the last three traps, one more coon, not Edie. I drove around the block several times, went home, spirits grave deep.
But maybe she hadn't moved in all the rain, was still holed up wherever. I prayed so.
The damn rain was endless, the cold piercing. Every moment thinking of her, out there somewhere - wanting right NOW to go get her, but couldn't - cold, wet, alone, having to endure it all. Loretta's resounding words, that tore me apart, "She's been a good little dog; she didn't deserve this." Oh, God.
I couldn't rest, left again at 3:00 to ride the block again in the truck, around and around, really not expecting to see her, determined not to intervene if I did, just to know she was still alive.
At 4:45, coming dusk, in the umpthteen pass by the pasture, rain pelting, in a heart-stopping moment and almost in total disbelief I could be so fortunate, I saw her! She was running the back fence line at the edge of the woods, so small, soaked and bedraggled it sent me into an emotional abyss so cavernous I can never describe it. But the instant she saw the truck pull to the shoulder, she reversed and ran away, behind a pond dam. I couldn't help it, I climbed out, crossed the upper fence, said nothing, but slipped to the pond dam as quickly as I could, pleading to all Goodness she would still be edge of the woods close. But she was gone, back toward the ridge. I called softly a few times, then forced myself away.
But despite the ceaseless torrent, hope still floated. She was ALIVE STILL, and still in that block. Moving, when I saw her, toward the southern-most house, hungry after three days of being holed up in constant, pouring rain, looking no doubt for food.That was huge. Please, God, tonight, let her find one of the traps.
Tomorrow: Sweet Jesus, the Sabbath, the 7th Day, and the nightmare of all nightmares at last comes to end . . . !