With their compact bodies and their sturdy, digging claws, the dogs have a far easier time navigating this tunnel. They scoot forward eagerly on their bellies, paws scuffling, tails working back and forth with each small shift of weight. On my hands and knees, I slowly follow behind as best I can. The tunnel twists and turns, but moves steadily upward. Roots protrude from the rough curves of ceiling and walls. The tunnel swallows me whole – head, shoulders, hips, knees. Stones and pebbles prod and digest. The cloying scent of damp earth fills my nostrils, coats my mouth; and the knees of my jeans gather a sheath of mud. Crawling forward inch by inch, I follow the dogs’ noisy progress – the rear-most dog’s tail continuously sweeps the soil loose several feet before me.
When the tunnel ends, it ends abruptly – I emerge in the living room of a beautifully maintained rustic cabin. Slowly, I stand and straighten, aware of the dirt I’ve inadvertently tracked over the paler Berber carpet. In each knuckled hand, I clutch a fistful of mud. The dogs seem to have vanished. I neither hear nor see any trace of them – not even a muddy trail pressed into the carpet.