I hadn't slept well the night before. The house felt a little too empty. 21 hours had gone by.
I methodically walked through the underbrush in the greenbelt.
I stopped to examine some tracks. They weren't his.
It didn't make any sense. A well-trained dog, Nanuq only leaves the yard when he's commanded to, or if he's following me or Fawn. He's nearly nine. It's so ingrained in his character that I can't imagine him wandering off on his own accord.
Oh, that's interesting.
I notice that there's a patch of matted grass. Like a deer would make. A large one. Maybe Nanuq chased a bear or other animal. There's a trail of matted grass leading to the bedding site. I backtrack on the trail.
Moose. Older tracks, though. No sign of Nanuq.
A new theory starts to form in my head.
We have foxes and coyotes around our place. Nanuq loves to chase them, but he always comes back. Maybe a fox came into our yard. It has happened before. Maybe he chased it. Maybe he was injured. Critically. Maybe he went to lie down somewhere and passed away. Alone.
I had called the vet clinics to see if someone had found him and taken him to one. "Yes, he's here!" the first clinic told me.
"He is?!!?" I replied.
"Yes, his name is Max, right?"
"Uh, no. His name is Nanuq."
None of the other vet clinics had seen him either.
I don't like to think about it, but the injury theory makes more sense than Nanuq just wandering off on his own. He just wouldn't do that. It's too out of character. I don't like to think about it, but it feels like something I should be prepared to accept. I prepare to accept it and continue to search all of the little hiding places in the greenbelt where a dog might curl up and die.
I know that if he's dead he won't be able to respond. I whistle anyway.
Did someone encourage him to leave the yard? Try to take him for a walk? Who would do such a thing? Did they shoo him away later? Is he locked up behind someone's fence? Inside their house? They wouldn't be able to call us. His tags went missing a while back and we hadn't gotten around to replacing them. It's not like he ever wanders off, right?
It makes no sense. He always comes when called.
I think about the last time I saw him. It was quarter to one the day before. I was climbing on my bike, ready to race off to a workshop at Mount McIntyre. Nanuq looked at me excitedly.
"Sorry, bud. Not this time."
Normally I would have taken him, but the workshop was six hours long - too long to leave him waiting outside - and if I didn't go fast, I would be late. With the onset of arthritis, he hasn't been able to keep up like he used to.
His ears drooped and he moped. He understood. I sped off and gave a quick glance back to make sure he wasn't following me. That was the last time I saw him.
I chided myself. Maybe he followed me. I didn't expressly tell him to stay.
I searched my route for tracks.
Those are about right, but it's a high-traffic area. Lots of dog tracks. Let me check a little further along.
I checked the trail, but it had rained and dried since. I checked a sandy portion of the trail and identified the tire tracks from my bike - two distinct treads - but didn't see any dog tracks.
Maybe he got hit by a car. No blood on the road, but there isn't always blood.
I checked the ditch. Nothing.
So many ravens over there. Are they gathering around a carcass?
I walked over to investigate. The ravens flew away. There was no carcass.
It didn't make sense.
Not long after I got back, I got a phone call.
"Look on the City's website," Lorie said. There are two dogs on there.
I had called By-Law Services earlier and gave them a description.
After a little searching, I found the page she wanted me to look at.
It was Nanuq. He had been found at the Canada Games Centre.
It made total sense. It was totally in line with his character.
I hadn't expressly told him to stay. An intelligent dog who understands more than just black and white, Nanuq must have taken my glance back as an "are you coming?" He chased me but couldn't keep up. I was riding too fast. Determined, he went to where he thought I was going - the place I usually go when I race down Hamilton Boulevard with a backpack on. And then he waited outside for me to come back out.
Smart, stupid dog.
He wagged his bum excitedly but hung his head sheepishly when he saw me.
He has a new tag.
I'm glad he's back.