Roo, The Oldest Dog Who Ever Lived

Sometimes I take Roo for a walk in a town. Not often, but she likes it. This evening, she was exhausted, which is a great mark of a success for a dog, and so, one they like to show off. She was trudging along as if she was on her way to be photographed for the Guinness Book entry on the World’s Oldest Dog, her head hanging low as if she had a crick in her neck and dragging her old bones as if she was riddled with arthritis and I was taking the easy way out by keeping her doped up on morphine.

A woman stopped and said, “Oh, that poor dog. How old is he?” People tend to assume that a male owner has a male dog. Roo must think that one of her names is Buddy, because most of the time people say, “Hey, Buddy,” to her. This mystifies me, because Roo is extremely feminine.

“She’s ninety,” I said.

“Well, bless her. In human years, then, that would be — “

“No, that is in human years. She practically raised my great-grandfather from a baby. She was a flapper before the Great Depression hit. She had to save him from a pack of hungry tramps once when they were riding the rails and doing a little hoboing on the way out of the dust bowl. Of course, the country finally got rid got rid of that idiot Hoover and things quieted down, but next thing you know, World War Two came around. Grandma was forced by conscience to loan her to the War Department. Do you now that no other dog saw action in Europe and the Pacific? Google it. Especially as a paratroop. Hard going for a dog. She won't even consider jumping any more. Growls at you when you come at her with a parachute. After that, they offered her a show on TV, the same way they put Audie Murphy in the movies, but she felt sorry for some collie and let him have it. There would still be royalties coming in, but her heart wasn’t in show business. She enjoyed the Sixties, though. Never wore a leash once until Nixon got Hoover to clamp down on the long hairs. We just pass her down from generation to generation.”

“Very funny,” the woman said. She had started to back away. Excessive improvisation in small talk is usually taken as a sign of a dangerous mental imbalance. “How old is she really?”

Roo does this all the time. She enjoys being dramatic about being exhausted as a way of bragging to other dogs. There it is, seven in the evening, and every other dog is prancing around town, ready for the night to begin after a day’s forced rest. Roo likes letting them know that she lives the kind of privileged life that gets her so beat up during the day that by nightfall she’s half-dead.

She is getting older — she’ll be six in November — but in the accompanying video you see how she is during the day. Roo is in terrific shape. This is the last of the tadmouse movies. The tadmouses are gone and the footage isn’t from today. It’s an homage to the seasonal passing of the tadmouses, but I thought you might like to see the last of them, for the tadmouses have come and gone. Roo still looks for them every day, but for now she’s back to terrorizing terrestrial mouses.

How to lose a dog and make sure no one calls you when she's found


I found this collar today. Clearly it belongs to someone who takes care of their dog, as evidenced by the fact that the collar came off in a good place to walk them off-leash and the couple of years worth of rabies tags as well as a numbered tag for a company called

Three tags, and yet, no simple ID tag. No name, no number. So, the idea is that if the dog is lost, instead of calling you, whoever finds the dog is supposed to call the toll-free number on the tag (who gives a damn about toll-free numbers any more, anyway?) and let a large company get on the case for you.

TERRIBLE IDEA. Terrible enough to merit all caps, bold and italics. It's absolutely idiotic. Here's why:

I figured I'd call the number I expected to find on one of those three tags and let someone know where to find their dog's lost collar, but, as there was no other number but the one for that company, I called that. In other words, I was doing exactly what I'd be doing if I'd found the whole dog.

The first thing I had to listen to was a recorded advertisement. How nice of them to make people trying to rescue a dog listen to that. Next came the menu options to select from. Another opportunity to work the phone while dealing with a tugging, nervous dog. The only menu option that applied was for lost animals, so the hold with blaring, staticky music that followed is what one can expect when phoning about that. Once in a while a recorded voice came on with the usual Your call is very important to us, all representatives are busy helping other customers line we all have memorized from calling the cable company. Except... the people calling to report the lost dogs on this company's damn tags are not their customers. I snapped the screenshot about a minute before the call dropped. Ten minutes of nothing, instead of what should have been a call to someone's home. Ridiculous.

Using this company for lost pet retrieval has got to be the worst idea in the history of dogs. Okay, maybe not the worst. Sending Laika up in the one-way Sputnik shot might have been worse. But for finding your lost dog you'd be better off chartering a skywriting team and posting your phone number overhead in smoke than using this scam. If your dog got lost, wouldn't you want someone to call you without relying on some corporation to middleman the operation? Concierge service to deal with your lost dog? Wouldn't you be gripping your phone like a maniac waiting for it to ring while calling the shelters and scanning the Craigslist postings? And wouldn't you want the amount of time that's lapsed — especially in the few minutes right after a dog is lost, when she might still be nearby — to be as short as possible? These seem like no-brainers, but evidently they're not. At least one person thinks this is the way to go.


When a person finds a lost dog, they already have a lot on their hands. Lots of wandering dogs are hard to catch in the first place. I've picked up about a dozen in the last year or two, and almost all of them presented one kind of problem or another. Once snagged, the dog might be stressed or hurt or frightened or difficult to manage. The person might be handling their own dog or carrying things or dealing with toddlers. The last thing they need is to have to wrangle a strange dog and their phone while they try to wait out a hold for least ten minutes. When you find a dog you generally need your hands free. And, calls drop all the time. Mine did. So the rescuer is expected to just keep calling back?

If I had found the entire dog and not just the collar, sure, I would have called back and gone through their process again, but not for hours. There will always be some limit to time or patience. Once it becomes too difficult, chances are that lots of people will just call Animal Control or drop the dog off at the shelter themselves. If the dog hasn't gotten away during all screwing around with the phone, as lots of lost dogs will try to do.

This was something of an eye-opener. Why someone would not have a regular ID tag with their dog's name and number on it is mystifying. But what's not mystifying in the least is that this company does not provide the 24/7 service they tout. I wouldn't trust them to track a tree. Trusting them with the life of one's dog is a TERRIBLE IDEA.

The collar remains where it was found. It's a pity, because the owner will probably never get a chance to figure out how misplaced their trust in that company is.

Just get a tag. Chips are great, and every dog should have them (I hope the dog who lost his collar has one), but tags are still the first, and fastest, line of defense.

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In which I rub salt in Roo's latest wound. Literally rub salt.

There are some dogs who receive no more than one or two cuts in their lifetimes, if that. This is usually because there is nothing sharp under a coffee table.

Roo, because she runs free so much, gets all sorts of cuts and nicks. A few weeks ago she returned to camp with her entire face and neck covered with blood. As most of the blood wasn't hers, she couldn't have been more delighted. 

The gash she received in her foot pad a few days ago required staying required keeping her off the foot, though. Today, it looked healed enough to let her go in the pond. I didn't notice anything wrong with her when I loaded her back up in the car, but when we got out, her arm was bleeding. The only solution was to rub salt in her wound. If you're at all squeamish, this might not be for you.

Roo begins training to swim the Channel

According to numerous dispatches from France that have reached Roo by trans-Atlantic carrier pigeon, the tadmouses missing from their pond in Maine are rumored to have reappeared on the Normandy coast. Naturally, this will require her to swim the freezing currents of the English Channel. To add a little spice to the feat, she will begin by reviving her old hobby of cliff jumping, leaping into the turbulent waters from the famous White Cliffs of Dover. I was hoping she had outgrown her love of the high dive, but she is adamant on this point. My only hope is that the British authorities will not grant her the exception she is seeking to their stringent quarantine requirements, which she is trying to avoid by relying on an obscure provision in ancient Scottish law which allows for a right of return similar to the one stonewalling the Israel-Palestine negotiations. Though this was never legislated to attract Golden retrievers, her case appears to be ironclad under her reading of the language of the statute, so the swim is likely to go ahead.

Unfortunately, Roo will have to accomplish the crossing while disadvantaged by her bizarre swimming style, in which she does not use her hind legs, preferring instead to tuck them up to her belly, much like the albatrosses who will be gazing down at her as she bobs up and down on the notoriously dangerous waves. The only benefit of this is the reduced speed at which she will ram into an iceberg, should one appear.

Though I am opposed to Roo undertaking such a risky swim, I know better than to try to talk her out of it. I am left with no alternative but to let Roo be Roo and do what I can to assist. In the accompanying video, I inspire her training by claiming — falsely — that the tadmouses have relocated to the far shore of her favorite pond. Incidentally, this was a serious error, because that end of the pond is filled with what appears to be a highly distilled concentrate of pine sap that is removable only with lengthy baths in peanut butter. Long-distance cold water swimmers usually slather themselves in Vaseline. Roo will probably swim the Channel encased in a thick bun of peanut butter. Perhaps it will reduce her fatigue by adhering her back paws to her belly, but whether it will do anything to repel the sharks is open to question. That is at the moment the least of our worries. 

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Roo committed what might be her greatest act of perfidy yet.

If this was a normal dog, one might think they were trying to avoid the authorities after committing some sort of crime, but, this being Roo, it’s not. She’s just trying to understand the elusive tadmouse better by trying to get into their heads by mimicking the way they lie in the sun among the pine needles under the surface of shallow water in the tadmouse pond. She probably also suspects thunderstorms brewing thousands of miles away in Oklahoma or Louisiana.

If you haven’t seen the two-part public service announcements from TDITC concerning tadmouse hunting and the disease that results from it, go to the home page and scroll down. Tadmouse season, with my eternal thanks to God, seems to have ended. Either they’ve all morphed into frogs and hopped away or some humanitarian organization arranged for a daring overnight airlift for then to safer, Roo-free, waters. 

There being no tadmouses means nothing to Roo, of course. They could just be doing a better job of hiding in response to her raids. She prowls the water with every bit as much obsession as she did when they were darting around in plain sight. For one thing, she has never smelled a tadmouse. No one has. By lurking exclusively underwater, their defense against being smelled is total. This would naturally make Roo question her sanity. Is there such a thing as a tadmouse? Has there ever been? Was her mind playing tricks on her? Perhaps they were nothing but a hallucination. Anyone who has experienced prolonged involuntary hallucinations knows how powerful the resulting desire to maintain a grip on reality is. I certainly do.

So she prowls the tadmouse sea relentlessly. Today, she stopped and came out of the water and stood on the bank with a forepaw raised in her signal to her footman to come and remove a thorn or whatever might be bothering her. This time, there was nothing to remove: She had a gash in one of her footpads.

There was nothing I could do. We had a 15-minute walk ahead of us and she was going to have to tough it out. Roo is a tough dog. She soldiered on.

After we got back and she enjoyed a nice cold garden hose shower and the extensive brushing necessary to remove hundreds of the pernicious rotting brambles tangled up in her fur, she went to sleep.

Because Roo prefers holding it in all night to risking emerging in the dark for a pee, lest whoever she imagines her predator to be makes a tadmouse of her, I try to drag her out for a walk before sunset. I would have preferred to keep her off her paw, but that would have meant about 20 hours without peeing. Instead, I bandaged her paw.

She acted like she was the victim of one of those vivisections in one of those old paintings of a medieval medical college. She snatched her paw away from me and made it as difficult as she could. When the bandage was finally on, she refused, on principle, to put her paw on the ground. The farthest she would go was to extend the entire leg as far from her as possible with only the tips of the claws on the ground. She looked like she was doing a vaudeville act of herself. 

After a little coaxing, she forgot about it and agreed to walk. It was fine. It wasn’t bothering her at all. We walked in some nearby woods. A few minutes later, we arrived at a clearing. A woman was tossing a ball for an energetic little dog who was barking his head off. Between us and them were some bushes. Roo took off at top speed in their direction, but then made a sudden swerve into the bushes. In one motion, she lay down, looked in my direction to make sure she had me outdistanced with the look you see on the faces of security camera footage of stickup artists on the way in to rob a Circle K, tore the bandage off and continued running towards the dog.

What a sneak. She must have been waiting for her opportunity since the moment I wrapped the bandage on. She didn’t even care about the little dog. He was just an excuse. As soon as I called her back, she ran right over with a huge grin on her face and a low, prideful wag. Oh, she was proud. Ha ha ha.

Even though the paw now hurt and she had to limp home, it was worth it to her. Her dignity had been restored, elevated, even. Footwear? Please. A human conceit.

Tomorrow I am going to have to put up with being stared at all day, because it is doubtful that this sneak is going to get out of solitary and back out into general population in the tadmouse pond.

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Multiple choice: Which photo doesn't belong?

A careful analysis of internet traffic trends to be released soon show that people whose lives or livelihoods depend on the latest science news favor The Dog in the Clouds by a wide margin. This site has been set as the mandatory home page on the computers at the Fermi Institute, the National Health Institute, NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, SETI, The Flat Earth Society and numerous pharmaceutical, computer science and oil company research departments.

And so, we here at TDITC  World Headquarters have been working on ways to determine the intellectual capacities of our readers. We commissioned a panel of brain scientists to devise a simple multiple choice IQ test, which is presented here:  In the accompanying gallery, one of the pictures in the grouping shouldn't be there.

Can you identify which one and why it's out of place?

Roo crosses the bridge, just because.

Generally, and especially not on hot days, Roo does not use bridges. She doesn't believe they're anything but a cruel device created by humans to keep dogs out of the water, where they belong. Under this bridge, a fresh stream was running nice and cool. Roo, who knew it well and had been in it minutes before, was therefore crossing this bridge only for the challenge. I tried to talk her out of it, but she just had to find out for herself whether she could do it. 

Any time she achieves a risky goal, like jumping off a cliff or investigating something that looks scary, she laughs and trots a few steps. But in this case, she was clearly embarrassed. She slinked away and never tried it again.