A few minutes later, I heard Katie let him back in.
A few minutes later, I heard Emily let him back out. I really only noticed because she was grousing at him about why he was going in and out so much. When Ringo really wants something, he stands and stares at you, makes a huffing noise, and hops with only his front feet. It's very distracting and impossible to ignore. If you try, he head butts you.
Then it was bedtime and I sent everyone to get ready for bed and I went around locking all the doors. I checked to see if the dogs were outside before I locked up. I didn't think I had heard them come back in but didn't see them anywhere. The outside light was blown out though, and in the dark it was hard to see the whole yard. They didn't come when I whistled and I didn't think I saw them so I locked up and walked through the house securing everything for the night.
But I didn't have to step over Rigger as I was walking around. That's really odd, he's usually very underfoot.
I checked the basement. No dogs there.
I alerted the girls. Emily ran outside to see if she could see them in the backyard. Katie checked the upstairs. No Rigger. No Ringo.
Emily came running back inside, "The back gate is open! They must have gotten out!'
I had just double checked the gate a few days ago to make sure it was latched tight. What happened!? We never come through the gate!
We realized that Ringo had probably been coming in and out trying to get our attention to let us know that Rigger had walked out of the yard. Ringo is brilliant and will often let us know when something is wrong or when he wants something. For Rigger, everything is just sounds and smells. We figured Ringo had been trying to tell us that something was wrong outside and we needed to go look, and we we didn't, he just internally rolled his eyes and though, "Crud, I'd better go with him then, that dunderhead will never find his way back."
So Emily and I piled in the car to go look for them. We drove all over the neighborhood with the windows down (yes it was freezing) calling and whistling. Uppermost in my mind was the thought that perhaps someone had stolen Rigger. If someone opened the gate and had bacon, Rigger would have gone with them without a backwards glance. He's AKC registered and a fine specimen of a dog if I do say so myself.
Another thought in my head was that a week earlier, friends of ours in Georgia had lost their lab when he got out of their yard and someone shot him. Who the heck would shoot a lab?? Rigger is friendly as all get out, but he's huge, and if someone would shoot a lab, they might likely shoot a mastiff. In the dark they might think he was a lion that escaped from a zoo.
Finally, when we had covered all local territory and realized the search was fruitless, we headed back to the house. Just before we arrived, Katie texted that the dogs were back home. They had been hanging out in the next door neighbor's yard and Katie was able to corral them back home.
So they are safe and sound and I have a few more gray hairs.