Our dog followed his nose into a soybean field the other day and didn't come out again.

Our dog followed his nose into a soybean field the other day and didn't come out again.

At least, he didn't come out for several hours, during which time my husband and I did our best to behave like reasonable people looking for a dog in a bean field and not like people looking for, say, a $500,000, 184-year-old violin.

A young musician left just such an instrument in a New York taxicab last week. He was the latest in a long line of musicians who have left extremely valuable instruments in cabs. According to New York's Taxi and Limousine commissioner, whose primary job apparently boils down to reuniting lost instruments with their owners, musicians are the most forgetful people on the planet.

"There are enough instruments left in taxis to start a small orchestra," he was quoted as saying.

But about our missing dog. He often wanders into the bean field, leaping over the plants as his olfactory intrigues lead him left, right, left, and left and right again. Pip would follow a zigzag pattern even in the middle of an airport runway -- we assume it has to do with hunting instincts -- and I suspect his ragged procession into the field accounted for what my husband described as a sudden disappearance. At any rate, my husband said, Pip was there right before he wasn't. I knew exactly what he meant.

My husband shouted and shouted. He looked in Pip's favorite places -- behind the shed, in the wildflowers -- and even left the door of his truck open, hoping the dinging of the key-in-ignition warning would lure him out. Pip adores a truck ride.

My husband even climbed to the top of the grain silo behind our house, from which vantage point he could scan a full 360 degrees of farm field, looking for a splash of black and white moving through the field like a miniature Holstein, but he saw not even a ripple in the green below.

When he called me, I canceled an appointment and headed home the long way, driving very slowly and squinting at corn stalks and soybean rows, craning my neck to take in houses and garages and swing sets and gardens. Several cars passed, which was fine with me and it certainly wasn't necessary to make those flagrant gestures out the window as they flew by.

I arrived home -- my husband and I both shook our heads at each other -- and called for Pip until I began to hear myself as the giant, squawking pip-pip bird. Then I changed clothes and left to drive the circuit again.

The county animal shelter is located on what might be described as our block. Had Pip continued in the direction he'd been headed when my husband last saw him, he might have actually delivered himself to the pound. I stopped.

The dog warden was in, and he took my information agreeably enough, writing it down on a form.

"How long has he been missing?" the warden asked. To his credit, he didn't laugh when I told him "Ninety minutes."

At least, I reflected a few minutes later as once again I drove slowly along the road, pulling into the driveways of people I knew to scan their hedges and ditches and fields, I'll have that report to back me up when I'm detained for suspicious behavior.

Home again -- no Pip -- I lingered outside, pulling a few random weeds while I gave the lonely call of the giant pip-pip squawker. Finally I went inside.

I had just begun a gloomy e-mail to my daughters when I heard the back door open, the sound of jingling tags, and then Pip trotted in. He was wet, muddy, and quivering. His eyes were a little crazy. They might have been the eyes of a musician who has just realized that he left his instrument in a taxicab.

Can you imagine the anxiety? This latest careless string player waited 15 hours before he learned the good news that his violin had been found. Another musician left his Stradivarius violin in a taxi last year and didn't get it back until the next morning. In 2001, a musician left his Stradivarius cello in a cab (how does a person lug a cello into a cab and forget to lug it out again?) and in 1999 Yo-Yo Ma himself left his cello, worth $2.5-million, in, you guessed it, a taxicab and waited four hours for its return.

We waited only about three hours for Pip to come back, and even so it was difficult not to rend my garments and weep. Everywhere I went -- in the dog warden's office, on telephone poles, in the classified ads -- I saw notices about missing dogs. Do lost dogs ever come home? I wondered.

I didn't actually witness Pip's return to the yard, but I seem to see him erupting from the soybeans as if shot from the same guns that make Puffed Rice, propelled by the intensity of our desire to have him back.

When he was back, I wished I had a Stradivarius myself, to make a joyful noise. Instead, I performed the happy warble of a grateful squawking pip-pip. For you bird lovers out there, it's a sight well worth seeing.

Margo Bartlett is a ThisWeek staff writer: E-mail her at mbartlett@thisweeknews.com.

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