He pushed his wet nose against the screen door, drawing in huge sucks of air scented with wet toddler nappy and peanut butter sandwich. She ran into the kitchen. "Mama! Mama! Puppy! Woof woof!" I came out, wiping my buttery hands on my apron. Sure enough, there was a dog. He was a black and white quiver of excitement, a beautiful specimen of border collie. He appeared to be unaccompanied.
I negotiated the delicate juggle of toddler, puppy, dog and screen door, and stepped outside alone. Peanut chose this moment to join me, letting Archibald and Bug out in the process. Dog realised my intentions to restrain him and bolted across the road. Archibald streaked after him and Bug followed, arms flailing. "Woof puppy, woof!" In my sock feet I ran too, catching the escapees as they milled around in an ecstasy of butt sniffing.
But now I had him, what to do? I was mired by indecision. The street was busy but no one was stepping forward to claim him as their own. I waited, the wet grass soaking through my socks, keeping two toddlers and two dogs in a holding pattern. But no owner. Dog wiggled against my hold on his collar, initially resentful but eventually relenting and sliding down my leg to lie sprawled on the ground, legs in the air, tounge lolling.
I gave up waiting and dragged everyone inside. A few minutes later, piklet batter wiped off the children and the dog firmly leashed, we set off around the neighbourhood searching for an owner. It was surprisingly easy. I asked a young girl riding past on a bicycle (our population of free-running local kids know every pet in every house, I often find them hanging over our fence eyeing off our chickens). She knew the owner's house, and after a brief stroll we were there.
I would love to say that the owners were ecstatic with joy, thankful to have their beloved pup back, but they were remarkably prosaic. It must be a common occurrence, having a fence jumping dog as they do. Still, I like to feel that I banked some karma points, and next time Archibald slips through the unlatched back gate perhaps he will find his way home safely too.