Dear everyone, we have lost Miss Dog. First of all, we lost her in the literal sense. She disappeared at about midday on Monday, and by four o’clock we realised that she was not dozing on one of her beds, or illicitly, on Dr Biswell’s or the sitting room sofa, but was nowhere to be found. During the intervening two days, we have nearly gone out of our minds. It is proverbially no fun looking for a black dog in the dark, which is more or less what happened on Monday night. Following on from which, of course, we phoned, called, contacted local radio, put an ad in the local paper, and so on and on and on and on and on, all of which of course had to take place around teaching. But in all this, there was such a sense of puzzlement: an idle dog, an unenterprising dog, could she have gone so far that she got herself lost and got onto the road? But somehow, the ground seemed to have opened and swallowed her up. What, of course, one thinks about intensively at that point is Miss Dog, possessor of the lowest pain threshold ever recorded, a yelper, howler and whiner at the slightest provocation, lying somewhere in the icy rain in unspeakable pain. The abolute horror of not knowing, the extreme anxiety of wondering whether Miss D in a ditch with a broken hip, could be reached in time. It has been an absolute nightmare, eased, I am happy – and yes, that it the word – by finding her dead this afternoon, the first point when it has been possible to institute a search by daylight. When we eventually found her, it was all rather transparent. The deer flit down the opposite side of the burn, they have a sort of deer path along there. Times without number, we have seen Miss Dog hurl herself up the steep bank on the other side, barking her head off, chasing a deer. There, at the top of that steep bank, she was lying dead. She was only six, but she must have some kind of heart weakness. Not much ever got her moving at maximum effort, except the deer, and on that particular occasion, she must have taken the hill at full speed, and something burst. She fainted at the top, collapsed, and died. We buried her in the wood this afternoon. It has been such a relief knowing what happened to her that we have almost bypassed ordinary grieving. Given the alternatives we have been thinking about, we are just so glad she died on her own ground, swiftly, without pain. And she had had the most wonderful life: she was lazy and amusing, so she was spoilt rotten. She had the most extraordinary amount of freedom, for a dog, and the only awful thing that ever happened to her was being spayed. Any other traumas were distinctly manufactured, like the time I shut the fur of the end of her tail in the car door – not the skin, let alone the bone – and she carried on as if somebody had sawed her leg off — in fact, her life was almost totally free of negative moments beyond the frightful unfairness of humans eating all the chicken … it was this, in a sense, which exacerbated the sense that she might be undergoing the most dreadful suffering with, added thereunto, a bewildered and agonizing sense that daddy ought to come and make it better . Poor little dog, it’s sad her happy life was so brief, but it must have ended swiftly and obliviously, and nothing harmed her. Once we knew she wasn’t living somewhere in agony, we were conscious, above all, that she was not in jeopardy. We could let her go, be grateful for her death. She is lying in the woods, in a sunny spot, where she was happy. It has been perhaps the most horrible 48 hours of our lives.