A rescue team has had to rescue Daisy, a 121-pound St Bernard dog, after she got into difficulty on England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike…
Daisy was dozing in her basket, tongue lolling in the summer heat, when she smelled it.
The smell of fear.
Someone needed help up on the mountain.
Daisy sighed. I’m getting too old for this, she thought.
For many years she had been the star of the Scafell Pike Mountain Rescue Team. Weekend after weekend she would watch as morons headed up the trail clad in trainers and t-shirts, and would nod lugubriously to herself. Sure enough as the day went on the sun would sink, the mist would rise, and then the calls would start to come in from concerned families.
Daisy would be sent rushing off to find the lost souls. She would do this by following the smell of fear, the growing terror of the idiots above as they realised that mountain tops are known for two things, their low temperatures as night falls and their total absence of wi-fi.
And Daisy would find them, every time, would proffer brandy from the barrel around her neck, would lick slobber all over their face – this served no purpose, she just reckoned they deserved it – and then would start up a deep, sonorous bark that would draw the humans of the team with foil blankets, hot coffee and strong words of admonition for the rescued.
And with treats for Daisy. Lots of them. As her age rose so did her weight, until she was the size of a Shetland pony. On missions she now moved at the speed of the Baywatch lifeguards, with the difference being that they were being filmed in slow motion.
So she had grown tired, especially since In recent years she had noticed a new phenomenon, of people getting lost deliberately just so she would find them. These were people, she realised, whose insatiable need for adrenalin had led them to adopt an Extreme Bucket List, in which Get Brandy From A Saint Bernard featured just above Swim With Piranhas and just below Be Waterboarded In A Foreign Prison.
This year all that had stopped. To curb the spread of some virus among humans they had all been restricted in their travel. The rescue team remained at home, since there was no one to rescue. One of them would arrive each day to Team Base to feed Daisy and to attempt, usually unsuccessfully, to walk her. Other than that she saw no one. The mountain had fallen silent, majestic in its seclusion.
That was why the scent of fear was so surprising.
It was very faint, meaning that it came from very high up on the mountain. Daisy groaned inwardly, and was tempted, just for a second, to ignore it.
The thought shocked her into action. She leaned against the side of her basket until it tipped, then rolled out. She climbed wearily to her feet and lumbered off up the mountain. On and on she went, slow yet sure-footed.
The scent was confusing her now, close yet still faint, but moving quickly. She sped up, bursting through undergrowth, skirting large boulders, hurdling fast-rushing streams. Well, wading through fast-rushing streams. Finally she found herself in a small clearing.
A rabbit was staring, terrified, into the eyes of a fox, just yards away.
Such sad brief encounters took place all the time on the mountain, of course, but it was only now, with no human smell to mask it, that the scent of the rabbit’s terror had attracted Daisy’s attention.
She stood, panting heavily from her exertions, surveying the scene. The fox looked at her, almost scornfully, and took a step towards the rabbit. Daisy barked, once.
The fox fled. The rabbit hopped it.
Daisy smiled to herself, turned, then stopped.
She had no idea where she was.
Daisy knew almost nothing about the layout of the mountain. She had never needed to. She found her rescuees by scent, not by orienteering, then called in the back-up, who took her home, sometimes by helicopter.
But the back-up weren’t here now. And weren’t coming.
She raced around in increasing panic, trying to find any familiar landmark, but the rabbit’s darting path had led her to a part of the mountain that she did not recognize at all. Eventually she slumped to the ground, exhausted. She rested her chin on her brandy barrel, cursing the fact that it was not designed to be opened by paws.
She closed her eyes, like a canine Captain Oates, and waited for her final sleep.
But she had barked at the fox. And that bark had rolled across the mountain-side, echo picking up echo as it passed caves and gullies until it arrived into the village below as a low rumble.
So they came.
Daisy awoke to the sound of voices and looked, scarcely daring to hope. But there they were, every single one of the team, risking their safety just to save her, as they had done for so many others.
Her heart filled with joy, love and pride, though her expression did not of course show any of this.
They lifted her onto a stretcher, and one of them patted her on the head.
“Come on, old girl,” he said, “let’s get you home.”