The Historic Roo Video Collection - Roo's first time at a dog park. Also a squirrel update.

Man, this dog of mine — and in so many ways, yours, too, and I really feel that and believe that she has an extended pack out there — has come such a long way. This video didn't seem like much at the time, but it shows her taking one of the steps on her way to recovering from whatever traumatized her so badly.

While she was frightened by just about everything, that fear was mostly, if not entirely, man-made. It was not enough to defeat what nature had equipped her with: her dog soul.a She had courage and curiosity and intelligence and resilience. 

In retrospect, it might have been an advantage for me not to have had any experience with fearful dogs. There's a lot of stuff I would undoubtedly have handled differently and probably better. Maybe I wouldn't have been on pins and needles so much around her. But, when the slightest everyday noise you make sends a dog into a full-blown panic — trying to dig into concrete or tear a wooden fence down, flailing and clawing at anything, panting and as tight as a knot — it was hard for me not to get nervous about it. Noises I never gave a second thought, like putting a plate down or closing a cupboard or turning on a light switch, were all fear events for Roo. So were lights and shadows. Those still are. Not to the point of panic, but enough to make her want to hide. I didn't know what would scare her next, and the main thing seemed to give her a break from getting scared. She just needed to catch her breath so she could regroup. But I had no idea what I was doing, and all it came down to was just trying to let her be a dog. Naturally, being in the middle of a crowded city, the dog park seemed like a good idea.

That's what's so wonderful about this old video of Roo the first time she ever went to a dog park. You can see how baffled she is when she gets there. She's not frightened or even especially on edge. Outdoors has always been where Roo feels at home, so she had that going for her. But everything else about the experience was strange to her. She had no idea what to make of it. And yet, in the course of a few minutes, her mind turned it all over, her dog spirit took over, and she began acting like the puppy she was.

It's more than five years now, and Roo's fear issues crop up every day, though almost entirely in small and even cute ways. When a door is held open for her, she stops before crossing the threshold, for example. Always (unless she forgets because she's chasing someone). When I first got her, she was terrified of any door if my hand was on it. That combination had to mean to her that she was about to be trapped. Okay, so now she likes to make sure. The night — not the dark — is still an issue for her. Flashlights still terrify her, which has meant having to make adjustments in camps, especially in the wilderness, where you need to use them. 

Anyway, she’s a great dog. She’s sweet and silly. She still acts like the puppy who jumped up and down when she was happy or excited. She runs and jumps like a gazelle. She is fascinated all the time and in tune with her surroundings, especially in the wild. She's one hell of a good dog. 

If you now anyone on the lookout for a rescue dog, talk to them about getting a fearful or otherwise damaged dog. They get better, and the experience of being part of their transformation from desperate to dog is one of the most powerful interspecies relationships there is.



The little rescue squirrel is improving every day, according to Deb Bryan at Lil Rascals Wildlife Rehabilitation. She's getting stronger and more mobile and she can eat unassisted now.

Deb texted me the other day to ask if I'd like the honor of naming her. The result: Nutasha. Here she is in a picture Deb took. Have a look at the Lil Rascals facebook page, and if you have a couple of extra bucks in your PayPal account, lay 'em on the squirrels, raccoons, opossums and skunks. Even the smallest donations are welcome. Deb pays for all the rehab herself, and like all good rescuers, if an animal in her care needs veterinary care, she doesn't skimp, even though she has to pay full freight for all of it. Nutasha is in great hands.

The only problem is that now Roo is convinced that any box of any kind might contain a squirrel. Today she stared at my friend Jim's guitar case for five minutes. The guitar case — just in case.

Notes From a Squirrel Rescue in Progress, Part Two

When I posted last about this hurt squirrel, I had just brought her inside. She was lying on a t-shirt in a plastic box. She seemed injured, and it was about 50 degrees outside, so getting her warmed up was the most important thing. I didn’t want to blast a space heater at her, and luckily there was enough of a data signal on the cell phone to look online. Within two minutes a wildlife rehabilitation site advised using a warm water bottle. It was another stroke of luck that I’d forgotten to turn the hot water heater off. I filled a plastic water bottle and tried to estimate a comfortable temperature and lay the bottle alongside the little girl. 

There was no telling how conscious she was, but she was alert enough to be terrified. Her eyes were wide and she was breathing hard. I didn’t want to handle her or mess around in the box more than necessary, but the water kept cooling off quickly and I had to add more hot water to it every ten minutes or so.

Roo was sleeping through all of this in her specially-made den beside my bed in the camper. It’s a good space for her, designed to be as private a hideout as possible in that tiny space. It had the advantage of keeping the fact, which would have been spectacular news to her, that a squirrel had been smuggled inside the camper. Apart from how late it was, Roo had also been feeling bad from antibiotics she was on for the cut she had on her foot, so she was crashed out. I wasn’t going to go to bed. Not that I knew what to do with the squirrel, but I was going to keep an eye on her and keep researching what to do with an injured squirrel.

Keeping the squirrel warm was the most crucial thing, and they all said no water or food. Just warmth and a dark place to rest until she could be brought to a wildlife rehabber who would know how to take care of them. The squirrel’s box was on the dinette table in front of me and I draped a black towel over it. I checked on her constantly. It seemed that she couldn’t see out of the box, which was a dull, though transparent plastic. Her wide eyes got smaller, though they never closed, and her breathing calmed down and before long she went to sleep and dreamed some little squirrel dream. It looked a lot like a dog’s dream. She was dreaming about eating something. Her little jaws worked and her whiskers twitched. It only lasted about five seconds.

After what must have been a couple of hours, I was standing a few feet away — there is no distance greater than that in the camper — when I heard a couple of cheeps from the squirrel and the sound of her bouncing against the plastic walls of her box. She had changed positions.

This was great news — I had been worried that the squirrel was paralyzed — but it also woke Roo. She went from snoring in her den to full-blown WAS THAT A SQUIRREL I JUST HEARD?! mode instantaneously. There’s no fooling a dog about anything like that. I wouldn’t every try. They’d never believe another thing you told them.

Roo was as interested as you’d expect, but she minded her manners. I didn’t even have to ask her to calm down. I confessed the obvious. There was a squirrel in the box. I told her she could watch, but that was it. She didn’t mind. Maybe it was all those times she’s seen mouses of various types behind glass in pet stores.

The squirrel had repositioned herself away from the warm water bottle and seemed to have gone back to sleep. She had her face buried in a fold of the t-shirt. Her positioned seemed anguished, though. 

Imagine how interesting this development was to Roo. She couldn’t believe our luck. Not having seen the squirrel coming in, she must have assumed that the squirrel had made a deadly miscalculation of some kind. As far as she was concerned, having a squirrel inside the camper was a dream come true.

Still, she understood the squirrel box was off-limits and though she was allowed a fewsniffs at it, she never seemed to contemplate getting in the box.

In the morning, I started calling around to find a wildlife rehabber. It had now been about four or five hours. I had been heeding the warning not to feed or water a hurt squirrel, but for this long? I needed better information. I needed to get the squirrel to someone who would know how to care for her.

There are lots of people who do wildlife rehabilitation, but they’re not always too easy to find. I called the game warden to ask for names or organizations. He didn’t even bother to make a suggestion and seemed to think it was odd anyone would so much as call to inquire about the well-being of a squirrel. I called the Humane Society, but only got voicemail. A wildlife sanctuary 80 miles away picked up the phone. They gave me the numbers of a few rehabbers closer to Brunswick. A hour or two later, one of them texted me and we arranged to meet when she got off work. She also told me it would be okay to give the squirrel water. I already had.

When I put the water in the box, the squirrel was in one of her quiet periods. I was leaving her alone, under the table, now, because I had figured out a good way to position a space heater for her. She couldn’t see that Roo was lying a few feet away, just staring at the box, her ears up, but perking up all the more any time the squirrel cheeped or made some noise by moving around in the box. Roo never had to be asked to leave the squirrel alone. She completely respected her orders to lay off the squirrel and never had to have them repeated.

Eventually the squirrel found the water. I don’t know if squirrels in general are any more concerned with neatness than this one was, or if this one just made a huge mess because she was so badly hurt and not in control of her movements, but she managed to splash water all over the inside of her box. The water revived her a little more, and by the time we were ready to transport her, she was moving more. She didn’t look well or happy or comfortable, but it wasn’t looking like anything was broken. And moving at all was a huge improvement over her earlier complete paralysis. But, after every time she moved, she would stop and curl up. The effort was hard on her. She would put her head down, curled so that the top of her head was flat on the t-shirt, under her belly, a little grey ball. 

This little squirrel was suffering, but what do you do? Could you leave a squirrel lying right outside your door in the cold? Could you bring yourself to kill it? I couldn’t. 

Roo and I went to rendezvous with licensed wildlife rehabber Deb Reed, who runs Lil Rascals Wildlife Rehabilitation. The hand-off is in the accompanying video. But, here’s the thing, Deb foots all the bills herself, and the vet she works with doesn’t cut her any breaks on the costs. Please check out her Facebook page. You’ll enjoy her beautiful rescue pictures, including one of this little girl. Here's the link for Lil Rascal's PayPal link for donations, and they are sorely needed, as they always are in rescue. Please send the critters a few bucks. Pretty please.

That’s there is for now. The little squirrel is safe, though she’s not sound. We still don’t know if she’s going to make it, but at least she’s getting good care. 

I’ll keep you posted.

[Make sure to go back to the home page and scroll down to see what you've missed. Click on the site title or here.]

The Historic Roo Video Collection: Roo watches video of herself for the first time

Apart from how cute Roo is on and off screen in this video, the coolest part is that at the end I say something like, "Tell me you're not a puppy." It's still hard to believe that she didn't seem to be one when she first got out of the shelter. Her shelter paperwork said three years old, our rescue's vet thought she was an adult, and so did I. How we all mistook her seems not to make sense, but her teeth were black in places, and she was so haggard.

That changed fast. The speed of her transition was one of the most astonishing things I ever witnessed. She aged in reverse. I know I keep harping on it when I look at some of thee early videos, but it was strange. In the video Roo's watching, look at how skinny she was. Her hind legs were especially bad. She seemed to have atrophied hips. Between that, the teeth, the condition of her skin, which was filled with deep sores, and the bags under her eyes, she just didn't look her age. and, of course, she didn't act at all like a puppy when all she wanted to do was hide.

Then she started to have some fun, and I went from fostering a damaged adult Golden to adopting this puppy. It was great. Try it sometime — make a point of rescuing a damaged dog. The transformations they're capable of are amazing.

[Make sure to go back to the home page and scroll down to see what you've missed. Click on the site title or here.]

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.  

[Make sure to go back to the home page and scroll down to see what you've missed. Click on the site title or here.]

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.