A few weeks ago it was Crufts, the biggest dog show in the world. Most years we head along to see the dogs, buy unnecessary dog lovin’ crap and just generally have a day out. The last few times we’ve gone on a week day but with the boys being at school and me working so much at the moment when they are a school we decided to wait until the Saturday to go. My mum is planning on getting a puppy when she moves into the annex (once we build the damn thing!) so she wanted to learn more about breeds, meet breeders and have a good look at some cuties.
The day started oﬀ with a huge queue for the toilets and I honestly think it’s at that point that I realised the day was going to be tough, the whole place was so busy it was claustrophobic. I don’t think, in all the years I’ve been to shows and events, I’ve ever seen a place so busy.
We had run ins with vile Corgi breeders who almost ruined Toby’s corgi love (saved only by the delightful owners who had to bring their corgi to ﬁnd us and have a cuddle with Toby), snuggled pugs, cooed at Shibu dogs I had never even heard of, yelled at Reuben and Edith for knocking over a stand of rosettes that they were running around whilst I tried to let Toby look at a Chinese Hairless dog (they were bored stiﬀ – totally not their thing, we were a troop of two major dog lovers, me in the middle and two bored would-rather-play-with-toys kids). It was an day where I genuinely couldn’t wait to get home and thrust my head into a vat of wine, an obscenely big portion of Cantonese take away and sleep.
The day was like a rollercoaster of ahhs and arghhs and to be honest the worst moment happened around the time we found the dachshunds and I conﬁrmed that my tits really are as ﬂoppy as their ears. Toby had been walking along with my mum who was pushing Edith in her pushchair. We were making our way around the incredibly crowded Discover Dogs section and Reuben and I moved ahead to look at miniature short haired Dachshunds because, erm, hello, mini sausage dogs are CUTE AF. My mum pushed the pushchair over, “Oohh let’s have a look” she said. As I turned around and looked down I knew instantly.
We’d lost Toby.
I’d be a liar if I said I started to panic straight away. I walked back to the previous stand and the one before that pretty cool, I mean, it had been seconds and he has a habit of getting over absorbed in animals, plus, if I had a penny for every time Reuben wandered oﬀ, I’d be an INSANELY rich woman. Yes I would… but not Toby. Toby has a fear of getting lost, a fear of being left so it’s incredibly unlike him to wander or get separated. Still, I wasn’t too worried, how far could he go, we were 10 feet away from where I saw him last.
He wasn’t there. He wasn’t at the stall before that. He didn’t walk in the wrong direction, wasn’t standing cooing over puppies, wasn’t ogling some random dog in the middle of the isle. He was LITERALLY gone. I walked further back, retraced our steps and started to call his name, panic rising in my throat. My mum and the other two kiddos stood out in the open, waiting to see if he would spot them and come over to them.
I couldn’t ﬁnd him. I walked around the corner, across the next isle, back up and down the same isle and I couldn’t ﬁnd him. I shouted his name with panic and a healthy dose of embarrassment that someone would notice I was that incapable mother who had lost her child. The fear surpassed the embarrassment. I started to shout louder and walk further down the isle. He couldn’t have made it that far in that amount of time.
There is very little that feels like the sheer panic that you endure when can’t ﬁnd the most precious thing in your world. Toby has been “lost” a couple of times – meaning he *thought* he was lost but I could see him or knew exactly where he was. His panic is as overwhelming as mine was in that moment but his comes swiftly and it stays with him for hours. I knew, deep down, that he would be panicking and tearful. Why couldn’t I ﬁnd him? I had had the most sickening thought that someone had taken him, I would be on the news in a few hours talking about my child being abducted at the dog show. My incompetence would mean I would never see him again, or I would see him again abused and beaten, a lifeless corpse and it would be my fault.
All of these thoughts jumble together in seconds when you lose your child. Anyone who has ever had that experience, and I would imagine that 99.9% of parents have been here, will know that when you can’t ﬁnd your child these feelings and thoughts jumble together in a blind panic.
I made the decision to inform one of the attendants, I needed help. Toby had been gone what felt like a lifetime but was only around 3-4 minutes. He had a wrist band on with my number and he was clearly too small to be wandering alone, unless someone took him, he would be asked where his mum was.
Just as I made my way to the attendant, I saw him. Stood with the attendant looking afraid but not the tearful, hysterical little boy I expected. He was stood with a kind lady who had her phone in hand, trying to call my mobile but in my panic I couldn’t feel it vibrating. The attendant was talking on his walkie talkie, clearly messaging in another lost child.
I really can’t express to you the relief, only mirrored on Toby’s face when I ran over. The place was so busy, so crowded and it turns out that he had tried to peer over a pen as my mum had started to walk away, calling to him to follow. He did follow, straight away, but the crowds meant that she dipped out of view for a split second and a woman, wearing a black and white top and pushing a pushchair dipped into view walking straight past my mum and us. He followed her and when he caught up to her he was totally and utterly lost.
A huge part of me wanted to scream at him, he did something very similar (again to my poor mum) in Disney World, getting lost brieﬂy, the only other occasion I can recall. Yet something stopped me. Sheer relief I suppose and the fact that the lady stood next to us said that he was crying and walking along when she stopped him and helped him ﬁnd an attendant.
I wanted to share this with you because people often think that kids get lost when the parents are being ignorant or incompetent but that simply isn’t true. Children get lost all the time because they are children and they wander, they don’t listen and adults are often impatient and move on. A child can get lost for something as simple as seeing the wrong top and following it.
I carried Toby on my back for the majority of the rest of the day. He clung to me because he was afraid to be lost again and I held on to him for fear of the same. Wrist links are something we used in Disney after his little disappearing act and something we would use again, not because he’s a baby but for peace of mind for us both.
So if you’ve lost your child in a crowd or anywhere at all recently, you’re not the only one, it’s not your fault. It’s not their fault. It’s just really scary and really shit.