Notes from a Squirrel Rescue in Progress

There's a beautiful young grey squirrel lying in a plastic box on the dinette table in our camper. It's 4:18 AM. Roo found the squirrel a couple of hours ago. The squirrel was paralyzed, lying motionless in the leaves, her eyes wide with fear. Until I saw her little side moving as she panted I didn't see the tell-tale sign that she was alive: there was terror in her wide eyes, as if she was caught in a nightmare and couldn't wake up to escape it.

I emptied out the only container I had that would fit the squirrel and folded up a grey t-shirt to fit the bottom. Worried about doing more damage to her, I picked her up as softly as I could from the damp leaves and pine needles and lay her in the box. I filled a water bottle with warm water and lay it alongside the squirrel's body. I figured the squirrel must have been mauled by a cat or a fox. I wasn't sure that dying inside in a box, itself inside the only slightly bigger box the human and the dog she must seen many times in this — in her — neighborhood was better then being left alone to die in peace in the night, where another squirrel might have come to pay some last respect or offer some fellowship at the end, but there was nothing else to do.

Even without moving the squirrel looked terrified lying on the t-shirt in the box while I picked out some of the wet leaves that were caught up when I scooped her up. Her eyes were the only thing beside her breathing that worked. They were wide with fear, and she was breathing fast. You can tell when any animal is terror-stricken. I considered trying to position her a little more comfortably — one of her legs was splayed out a little — but decided to spare her the handling. If she was paralyzed, she wouldn't be feeling anything anyway. I did run my fingers along her back a few times and said something about how no one was going to hurt her before I decided she was better off not hearing some big animal growling incomprehensibly at her. 

Roo had been sleeping in a corner when I brought the box in. She had no idea what was going on. Springing a squirrel in a box on her was sure to delight her. And maybe if she knew I caught the squirrel she would elevate her esteem for me. I don't know. You never know what a dog is thinking in a case like this.  

I'll keep you posted.  

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It was a bad mistake, and a nightmare

When Roo cut the back of her ankle the other day — on what I didn’t even know was called the hock until the vet said so — at first I didn’t think much of it. The reason was that, even though it bled a lot at first, the cut appeared not even to be as wide as my thumbnail. It was easy to get the bleeding to stop, and I snipped the fur away from the cut and cleaned it out and put a bandage on. 

The next day, though, the cut was three times as long and incredibly deep. I really don’t understand how this happened. I missed it somehow. Or the skin was only scored by whatever cut her and it didn’t separate until it swelled up. I showed the picture of the original cut to a vet today and she said that could have been it. 

But either way, by then the cut was too old to be stitched. There had been some talk of supergluing it, but as soon as I began to try that, I could see that I couldn’t do it right. You have to get the sides of the wound to pinch together and only get the glue on undamaged skin, and it was too tight. My buddy Jim, who is a doctor, warned me that sealing any infection in was a danger. I didn’t risk it. I left it alone.

Anyway, it was a bad mistake not realizing the severity of the cut when it happened. I won’t make the mistake again. I don’t know how I made it in the first place. It looked deep, but it seemed so little. I feel godawful about it, because today the vet who looked at it said it would take at least a couple of weeks to heal. The wound is clean and not showing any signs of infection, but a stitch would have been better. There’s no sticking it now without knocking her out and trimming away some of the flesh. When it happened, it just didn’t look like it needed it. I chalked it up as another one of the cuts and scrapes Roo gets all the time. And, other than feeling bad from the antibiotics, the cut isn’t bothering Roo at all. She doesn’t favor the leg at all or act like there’s any kind of movement she doesn’t want to make. She wants to be let off the leash and chase chipmunks. She’s not going to be able to do any of that for quite a while. A lot longer — twice as long, probably — than it would have been if I hadn’t messed up. The Keflex she was prescribed made her feel terrible, so she’s being switched to another. That one turned out to be out of stock in the entire region and won’t show up until tomorrow. The vet said she would have to stay on that one for at least two weeks.

I almost never dream, but last night I had one that dragged on for what seemed like hours. It probably came from stressing over Roo’s cut and everything on top of everything else going on, none of any good. You know how it is when you have to give a dog medicine that makes them feel bad and keep them from doing the stuff the were put on Earth to do. You can imagine how much worse you feel when you make a mistake that makes it worse.

In the dream I was at the edge of a wide boulevard somewhere. I don’t know where, but if I had to say, the only pace it looked like was Ahmedabad, India. In the real Ahmedabad there are hundreds of thousands of people and buses and rickshaws and scooters and pushcarts and dogs and cows and trucks and a crush of people maneuvering through piles of garbage. The traffic system there is based on ignoring the lights, for the most part, and just making sure that oncoming drivers observe that you never look in their direction so that if you don’t stop it’ll be your fault. It’s a terrible place, with more dog murderers concentrated in one place than I’ve ever seen anywhere, which is saying something. But, in the street in the dream, there were only a few people in sight because everyone was taking cover from sniper fire. A few people who had already been shot or who were pretending to have been so the sniper wouldn’t target them were scattered on the street. Every once in a while one of them would get up and make a run for cover, but the sniper usually got them and they fell.

Roo was in the middle of the street, sniffing around casually. I don’t know what she was interested in. Knowing Roo, it was probably some sort of mouse, but she was chasing anyone, just following her nose and meandering slowly. Normally gunfire would make her bolt, but this time she didn’t care about it at all.

I was pinned down behind a concrete column and kept yelling at her to come. She ignored me, as she often does when she is hunting. She just stood there, an open target in the middle of the street. 

I was going to have to break cover to go get her. I ran out from the behind the concrete and ran to her. A few bullets came whining down and threw divots out of the asphalt.

I got to her and said, “Come on, Roo, come with me!”

She looked up at me as if to say, “Oh, it’s just you,” and got back to sniffing the street.

“Damn it, Roo, we have to go,” I said. I clipped her leash to her collar and began to head back to cover, but she lay down to let me know she wasn’t going anywhere. .

The gunfire picked up and bullets started landing closer to us as the gunman zeroed in.

“Rooki, move it!” I said, but she put her head down between her paws. She wasn’t frightened. There was just something else she wanted to do.

The gunfire came closer. I woke up before it hit us. Every time I managed to doze off again, the dream started again. I was back behind the concrete and Roo was out on the street and the shots were coming down. 

Finally I had it and got up. I had been in bed for maybe three hours. It was about seven. Roo slept for another three hours. When she got up, she put out all the signs of looking forward to going to the park and running around. She stretches and yawns in a particular way, wags a lot and pops me with her nose a few times.

I walked her. She kept stopping to look back at me to remind me to let her off the leash. Every time I reminded her about her cut, she stopped asking for a minute, but then she’d see a squirrel or a chipmunk and ask again. I felt like a heel. It was a hot day, and there’s a cool stream there. Keeping her out of that wasn’t much fun, either.

That’s where it all stands.

We’re up in Maine and going to have to leave soon, anyway. People are starting to light their fires, and I have some kind of allergy to the woodsmoke. It gives me a headache that lasts for days and I can never seem to get the smell of burning out my nostrils. I constantly go outside to check that nothing hasn't aught on fire. And what with Roo's wound, maybe this is the time to hit the road.

I'm not looking forward to it. At this point, it's going to be a little too much like homelessness, though once Roo gets back on her feet, she will again be living the life of a millionaire.

At Your Home for Yellow Journalism, if it bleeds, it leads.

Yesterday afternoon, when Roo was busy getting yelled at by me for attempting to fish for chipmunks in prohibited waters and stopped the instant she was detected and came to me, her left rear ankle and foot was drenched in blood. There is no broken glass or old barbed wire around. She had to have been slashed either by a suicide chipmunk who drew the short straw and had to try to disable Roo on her own or a thorn. If the former, the suicide chipmunk deserves a medal. She did a pretty good job and lived to fight another day. You have to take your hat off to a chipmunk like that.

 If Roo or I drank, we would probably start taking our shirts off and bragging about who has more scars.

If Roo or I drank, we would probably start taking our shirts off and bragging about who has more scars.

Blood injuries mean nothing to Roo. They don't hurt her. They don't get her attention. She doesn't so much as sniff them or seem to notice the blood. The main danger with them is her own first aid, which consists of waiting until it itches when healing and then licking it. The action of her tongue could lick the feathers off a tyrannosaurus rex in under fifteen minutes.

The wound looked horrific. So much blood was dripping that the idea of applying a tourniquet occurred to me. I rinsed the blood off under a hose and clipped the hair away to get a look at the cut. It was small, a slice no more than an inch long, but with a deep end that seemed to be pumping the blood out. 

As usual, Roo was a good patient. She lay in the grass observing local chipmunk positions. The chipmunks were unsure of the condition of the enemy. The enemy was down, but a medic appeared to be attending to her. Perhaps their exuberance over the suicide attack was making them a little overconfident. The enemy was more amused than anything else.

Compressing the wound for a few minutes got the blood to stop. I cleaned it out with antiseptic (hat tip to Marc for briefing me on the need to stock up on chlorhexidine with a dog like Roo) and bandaged it up.

The bandage is black, which signifies Roo's state of mourning for the fact that she will be kept on a leash for a couple of days.

Tough luck, Junior.

Back up

 This keyboard is a result of the combined efforts of Roo K. Beker and her attendant What's-His-Name. What's-His-Name wore those keys down to the nubs. Roo K. deposited the dog hairs. Which one is the culprit will never be known.

This keyboard is a result of the combined efforts of Roo K. Beker and her attendant What's-His-Name. What's-His-Name wore those keys down to the nubs. Roo K. deposited the dog hairs. Which one is the culprit will never be known.

[This post gets a little technical, so it's not for everybody.]

It was a good night for Roo. Not a peep out of the mandolin, which she refers to as a future pile of splinters. 

It was quiet because I spent the night googling (not really googling, because I use Startpage, which anonymizes one's search activity instead of using it against you the way Google does) the trouble I was having with the computer. The tech had diagnosed it as a fried logic board and keyboard and a bad hard drive. Apart from the keyboard not working, the screen was flickering with fat black and grey lines tearing across it. The cost of repair would be way more than double the cost of a working machine of the same vintage.

It was dejecting news, and at first it seemed like the only solution was going to be to replace the computer. But, the more I thought about it, the less I believed it. The tip-off was the bad hard drive. Not to get too techie here, but the keyboard and logic board suffering some sort of joint failure made sense, but there didn't seem to be any reason for the hard drive to be damaged at the same time. Had the thing gone swimming, sure. But it hadn't. So, on the phone I searched for hours and hours and finally found a reference to the type of screen behavior my computer was displaying. It was undeniably bad behavior, and I recognized it because I'd seen it before, a year or so ago, and when it happened that time, it was indeed the logic board. But that time, it was one of a manufacturing run that Apple had admitted to containing a faultily-designed logic board and on which they extended the warranty on that part for five years. When they replaced it, though, they put in a re-designed board that wasn't prone to the same failure. The more I learned about it, the less likely it seemed that the Apple tech's death sentence was accurate.

There had to be another reason the screen could behave that way, and the solution started to form in the foggier depths of the support articles: The keyboard wasn't working. That was known. So if it was sending a signal that a key was being depressed, specifically the shift key, it would be telling the computer to boot in something called Safe Boot, a mode that doesn't load everything into memory on startup. It's used for troubleshooting a Mac. In Safe Boot, the computer crawls along at super-slow speeds. That would account for the tech's belief that the hard drive was acting up. Deeper yet in the support articles was a mention of the display "ripping and tearing" in Safe Boot. 

Well, then, that was good news. If it accounted for the bad display it could have been only the keyboard malfunctioning and the cascading effects accounted for the drive crawling.

I called the tech back and ran it by him. He recommended I take it to another shop. I don't know why. Maybe he felt I'd be wasting his time trying to investigate the same trouble a second time. Maybe he didn't want to admit that there was something wrong with their ability to diagnose the problem in the first place. Maybe it had something to do with that shop evidently making most of their money by re-selling old machines. After all, they plug computers in and run a diagnostic program. That program reads out the performance specs on everything in the system. He had already said the logic board, the drive and the keyboard were all bad. Why would he want to do the work to find the same things out. 

I took it to the other place and explained my theory. The woman there said it made sense, but she'd check it out. And sure enough, she called the next day, today, to say that her diagnosis was the same as mine. The only thing wrong with the machine was the keyboard. They stuck a new one in, and that was that. The thing works again. What a relief.

Can you imagine how many computers there are out there that have been condemned, like this one was, and actually suffer from something minor instead of something terminal? It's a bit much to expect that people who just use computers without learning to repair them or understand all the systems in them should second-guess technical determinations made by shops that are supposed to know what they're talking about.

Anyway, I'm now typing on a brand-new keyboard, the screen isn't acting up at all, and everything's back to normal. Whew.

Back to your regularly scheduled Roo programming.

Sell me your old Mac computer

My computer has died and the local death panel says it's time to say goodbye. If all the thing was good for was reading about the apocalypse I wouldn't mind, but my work (backed-up, I'm glad to report) depends on it. Two days have already been lost on trying to fix it myself, then finally ambulancing it the 35 miles to the nearest Mac repair place, where, after an hour waiting outside the intensive care unit, I knew the news was going to be bad the second the tech walked out.

He reminded me of one of those Air Force doctors in one of those old-fashioned surgical gowns they would wear when they gave autopsies to aliens whose flying saucers had spun out of control  and crashed into Burbank on The Outer Limits. It had been rough in there. Just when you get to the point in your career where you figure you've seen it all, a case bad enough to get you right here has to wind up on the slab. He couldn't look me in the eye while he struck one match after another, ruining them all until he crumpled the empty matchbook up and threw it at the wall, too shook up to remember that the only woman he had ever fallen in love with at first sight had written the number of the payphone on the wall down the hall from the room she shared with Fran, who claimed to be the hat check girl at Lindy's, but what kind of a hat check worked all night? Now their lives together would never amount to more than two champagne cocktails for her and a couple or three Four Roses and Pabst boilermakers for him. I had to light him with the steady flame from my gold Dunhill trench lighter, an engraved memento from the boys at my rowing club at Pinckney — everybody got one before we shipped back out for the big show in the Argonne — and as he glowered at the flame I could see him wondering where his next drink was going to come from. He had the look in his eye of a man on the brink of a switch to morphine. That alien sausage patty in there sure wasn't going to need it. Waste not, want not.

As it was, though, the tech was just wearing his uniform black polo shirt. He was about 22.

"Nice dog," he said.

Roo looked at him.

"What's his name?"

"She's a girl. Her name is Roo."

"I had a Labrador just like that when I was growing up," he said.

"She's a Golden," I said.

"Great dogs," he said. "Golden Labradors."

"The best. Well, what's the diagnosis for the computer?" I asked.

"Mine was named Duke," he said.

"Unusual name for a dog," I said.

"Yeah. Old Duke. What's his name?"

If an orderly had been rolling a cart full of scalpels down the hall to the autoclave, I would in all likelihood have selected one sharp enough to excise the information about my computer from him.

"That's Saint Augustine, but I just call him Teeny for short," I said  

He got down and scratched Roo with the tip of one fingernail right on the hardest part of the top of her skull. To a dog, this is the equivalent of having your cheeks pinched by that great-grand uncle who drinks from a paper bag and never shuts up about the old neighborhood.

"Listen, buddy, you're killing me here. Did you figure out what's wrong with that computer?"

"Oh, yeah," he said. "Yeah. We found out."

It wasn't good. It's not beyond repair, but fixing it would cost three times what it's worth. So, If you've got an older Mac sitting around that you don't use any more — pretty much has to be a laptop, as the generator has quit, too, and we'll be running low on electricity when we leave Maine soon and will need something with a battery — sell it thisaway. I'll pay whatever you can get for one on a site like Email me at

Up to you - this is what a post from the iPhone looks like... 



The Historic Roo Video Collection: Roo sees herself in a mirror for the first time

As most of you know, five years ago, there was nothing that didn't scare Roo. Literally nothing. Every sound, every movement. Dental floss coming off the reel. A light switch. The sound of a car driving down the street. A shadow. The leaves on the trees. A bucket. 

Living in terror, underweight, covered in fleas and ticks, her paws hurting because they were filled with old pebbles of concrete that made it painful to walk, and with her teeth brown, she was mistaken for a three-year-old on her shelter paperwork. Even our vet didn't disagree.

But, within days, she started to look younger. It's strange think that a puppy could be mistaken for an adult dog, but we all thought she was. When a puppy began to emerge, it was the strangest thing to realize. Even her vet was fooled. We were in her examining room — Roo had to go in several times — and we were on the floor with her and the vet and I were talking about how she was looking and there was an odd, though happy moment (going from memory here; it's reported accurately in the book) when we came around to saying it: She's a puppy. 

In the fist few days, her behavior indicated that she only learned how to do one thing — hide behind a toilet. That was probably how she had spent her life, locked in a bathroom, and the only hiding place she knew was behind a toilet. Now that she was starting to feel better and experience more and had her wounded feet cleared of concrete and her lick granuloma were treated and she began to realize that she was safe — when she wasn't panicked all the time, in other words — she finally began to pay attention to other things. In this video is the first time she saw a dog in the mirror.

If you like reading about Roo and haven't read the book, it'll make this site more fun for you. And if you have, did you know that you can email anyone a gift certificate for a copy by going to the link and clicking on "give as a gift," and Amazon will take care of the rest? Try it. You'll make someone's day.

A cheap substitute for DNA testing


According to a careful study of our web analytics being circulated in graduate business schools, if you're reading this you're either a human or a dog. Our cat numbers are too low to even bother trying to capture that market. And not to digress, but this is representative of the poor ability cats have to understand even basic messages and a problem I am no longer interested in trying to correct. If cats don't want to visit the site, that's their right. I've posted about them twice, a wonderfully flattering portrait of one of them, and then the film of Roo's nightmare, in which she is prevented from chasing a cat. That's not good enough for a cat. There just isn't any satisfying them, and I'm through trying. This site can — as it so often has — go to the dogs.

If you're having any trouble determining the category of reader you are in, this photo should help you. If you're a human, your reaction to this mud pit would be one of avoidance. If it calls to you, if it seems to be inviting you to slosh through it, you are probably a Labrador. If it is demanding that you roll in it until you resemble the mottled carcass of a marmot unearthed by paleontologists studying ancient mudslides, you are a Golden retriever. Save the money you would have spent on one of those DNA testing services and simply take your dog to the nearest mud slide or quicksand deposit to find out.