Monday, November 15, 2010

Lost and found

PB120960The last three days are not ones I particularly want to replay, but since I’ve promised a few people an update, here goes…

On Friday morning I saw Munson and Smeggs playing in the yard outside my window as usual. Usually Munson comes back to try his chances at licking the breakfast plate but he didn’t show.  I went outside a little while later and called out for him. He and Smeggs are often chasing rabbits and are back pretty quickly when I start calling.


I go for a walk around the edge of the farm, and also take a drive over towards the nearest cluster of houses. Still nothing. I drive in the opposite direction to a farm bordering a large bit of woodland. I manage to inadvertently approach both a deer and a hare, who suddenly bolt from their frozen position. They’re not likely to be hanging around with two silly dogs sniffing around.

I figure they’re busy with all that chasing around and will come back when they’re tired and a little hungry. At 1.30pm I see Smeggs has returned … without Munson. Now I’m a little worried.

I spend the afternoon hunting and calling, sweeping the area in increasing distance, meeting some neighbours for the first time as I explain my search and hand out my contact information. I keep wishing that Smeggs would emulate Lassie and lead me to Munson, but she just seems confused and distracted … especially by rabbit scent.

Facing the Pyrenees

As dusk approaches I realise there is little more I can do and sit at the top of our long driveway, trying to breathe through my worry. It’s been a really stunning day otherwise: I can see patches of snow on the lower slopes of the Pyrènées 150km away.

PB120978 The sun burns itself out in orange and pink. Click the camera. Don’t worry. Click again. Keep calm. Click. Click. Click. Feeling empty, agitated and unfocused I go inside and try to find some mechanical clean-up or unpacking job to distract me.



Some time after 7 – at least 8 hours after I started looking for him  - a small truck drives up to the main house but it’s too dark to see who it is. From my kitchen window, I get the gist of some discussion with the kids so I figure it’s the parent of a schoolmate. I can’t remember what I was trying to do, so I grab my flashlight and go to see what’s up. Lucy cries out “Michael! They’ve got Munson!”  The little storm brewing up inside me dissipates. He’s in the back of the truck – looking groggy and dirty. Too tired to do more than acknowledge me with a small flick of the tail and pressing the bridge of his nose into my hand. He had been found six hours earlier on another farm, but when he had been taken to the local vet, they had failed to find him in their records even though they had his microchip (puce-électronique – electronic flea!) number and a name-tag to look up.

Bundling him up in my arms – he doesn’t complain, he’s like a sack of potatoes – I carry him inside. He’s got all manner of muck on him from snout to tail, so it’s definitely bathtime. This he’s not keen on – he just resists soundlessly.


Finally I get him in, he patiently lets me remove the muck, some ticks are rinsed away. He crawls onto his bed, curling into a tight ball. I give him periodic gentle reassurance, but he’s just wrecked.

The next two days show little improvement. He’s drinking but showing no interest in food. I take him for very short walks, but his legs are quite shaky. On Sunday he passes some blood in his urine which makes me think he’s banged a kidney. He hasn’t made a noise since he came home. I’m missing him talking to me, reproaching me, cajoling me.

First thing Monday I book him into the veterinary clinic for the afternoon. He’s passed more blood in the night. There’s a little bit of a smile. but he’s still tired and hasn’t even licked the yoghurt pot I left by his mattress.

Around noon I’m chatting with Mark, the electrician working on the main house, and mention Munson’s state. He immediately pronounced “piroplasmosis – get him to the vet ASAP”. 

At the clinic, I weigh Munson – he’s lost 10% of his hitherto completely stable 45 kg. The vet takes a blood sample and identifies the parasite Babesia canis aka piroplasma canis along with the associated anemia. He’s given one injection to kill the parasite, and another to deal with immune system reactions.

Munson - monday evening

Usually the dog will show improvement within 12 –24 hours (it’s barely 9 hours now) and may require a second dose. While Munson is still reluctant to do much more than lie down somewhere familiar, he has no problem jumping in and out of the car, or on and off the bed. He’s done a couple of laps around the lounge this evening, and yes, licked a yoghurt pot. Best of all, he’s even courting belly rubs and just woo-ed me for pulling some hair tufts from his flanks.


  1. It's amazing what can happen when the go for an "adventure". Hope he's feeling better.

  2. Oh Michael, I feel for you. Poor old Munson. I hope the medicine works quickly and

  3. how frightening. i have lost georgia for all of 15 minutes before and was totally freaked out so i can imagine how long long long those hours must have been until munson turned up.

    it's also very fortunate that your electrician recognised the problem. good luck and take care. both of you. xox

  4. Yikes. I guess that answers the question to me whether Mals have the same wandering gene as Siberian Huskies. Hope full recovery happens soon.

  5. OH MY!

    I know what an hour felt like when I last had to chase Khyra -

    Thank dog and praise cheeses he's back -

    Here's to hoping he'll feel like Munson again soon -

  6. Glad you recovered him. Sounds like he's going to be ok. Callie sends an encouraging "woof."

  7. Anonymous10:09 pm

    If he's wandering freely every day, malamutes are infamous for not finding their way home. Glad he's OK, but you might like to check out

  8. Rachey10:37 pm

    Oh my God! We had no idea Munson went missing - we just got back from New York on the weekend and were out of touch. Thank God he's back and recovering! Charlie and Bax send their licks and cuddles, and of course so do we. Thinking of you and the Munster!

  9. @Anon: I've had 12 years of malamutes so quite used to the occasional wander around the neighbourhood, particularly when they're in their first year. But I haven't found them to be much different to other breeds in that respect.

    I've looked into GPS solutions before but they are still damn expensive at around $600-2000 for a collar and tracker. The mobile-tower based solutions are useless in the countryside as the coverage is so sparse.

    I saw one product that claimed a range of 12 metres! that might be useful if I am blind and my dog is deaf.

    I might look into a little collar mounted camera that takes a photo every 30 seconds, which would at least give some indication of where he's been.

  10. What a terrifying night for you. I can appreciate living out in the middle of 'no where' with lots of space for your dog to roam if given the chance.

    So glad he is back and recovering! Bless the people that found him and brought him back to you.