What I've been working on


The other night I was in the checkout line at a supermarket in Cumberland, Maryland when I saw this magazine on the rack. Most of you will recognize Julius Rosenberg, the American who was spying for the Soviets. He and his wife were both electrocuted at Sing Sing. 

What I've been working on for more than two years intersects with their story. I don't want to spoil it, but my father was married to a Russian spy and that had a deep influence on my life. Lately, I've been coming to the understanding that it's one of the reasons I went on the run for so many years. On the run, where, it seems, I remain.

At one point, J. Edgar Hoover instructed the New York office of the FBI to put their top Soviet spy hunters on my father. Dad was a Turk, and the FBI conducted a massive investigation of him. Dozens of agents, many of whom were dispatched overseas any time my father so much as wrote a letter to someone in Europe to investigate the recipients. Phones monitored, mail opened, people picked up and interviewed secretly. Occasionally they arrested him, though evidently without ever convincing themselves that there was a fire, for all the smoke.

This was the response from the FBI New York field office to Hoover's instructions:


Who knows what would have happened if the FBI in New York hadn't basically told Hoover to go screw himself in that memo.

I've been trying to make sense of this story. It is incredibly complex and involves vast quantities of materials of every description, from intelligence files to State Department records, Army interviews of refugees, foreign secret police records, passenger manifests, immigration records, contracts, photographs, books, CIA reports on East German postage stamps, interrogation and trial transcripts (thanks to my old buddy Marc), even dealing with crazed Scientologists, you name it. The amount of work going into it is staggering, and I have those of you who support the Patreon campaign to thank for making it possible. I believe that it's going to make a good book. In the meantime, though, I negotiate constantly with the government for document releases and do what I can to try to get records in other countries by remote control. FBI alone says there are so many that it will take 17 years, so I get them in bits and pieces. I only have about 3000 pages of files so far. I have dozens of FOIA requests outstanding, dozens answered.

This is consuming work and it is the most important thing I've ever worked on. It is driving me into a state of homelessness, but Im not going to give it up, even if it means continuing to live out in the woods in frayed clothes and eating out of dented cans till the end. Roo, you may of course rest assured, continues to live the life of a billionaire.

It is a struggle, but I'll be damned if I'm going to give it up. I have a book proposal about it almost ready to go, but then another piece of information pops up and changes the story, so it's going to take time. Apart from Roo, it's more or less the only thing I live for. So, if you'd like to help me complete this, please do by signing up for the Patreon campaign here. 

Incidentally, the similarities between the Russian handling of our president now and the way the KGB has worked for decades, including in the case involving my father, keep reappearing, in identical detail, every day. I speak to lots of people in intelligence. Spies on both sides and the people who hunted them.

Not one of them has ever expressed the slightest doubt that Trump is working on behalf of the Russians.

Eleven-Dimensional Checkers Played on the Biggest Cracker Barrel of Them All

  A great man, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in the portrait he was sitting for when he died in Warm Springs, Georgia. This postcard, and the button, both come from there and hang in our camper.

A great man, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in the portrait he was sitting for when he died in Warm Springs, Georgia. This postcard, and the button, both come from there and hang in our camper.

Right now, the Republicans in Congress are pushing a tax plan that transfers money from the poor and lower middle class to the wealthiest. They are not doing this out of simple greed. There’s a much more rational — if fiendish—reason for why the right wing feels it is their duty to ruin the lives of tens of millions of Americans. It's not so much that they enjoy hurting people (though Speaker Paul Ryan, famously reminisced about his dreams to end Medicare when he was in college), it's that they have no choice. 

In his book, Capital in the 21st Century, economist Thomas Picketty writes about a debate that is taking place in the economics departments of universities and think tanks all over the world: whether one person or one state will own the world. The entire world. Not some figure of speech. The answer to this question is, as a matter of simple arithmetic, an unequivocal yes. Under the current tax system, eventually one person or one state will own the world. All the land, including yours, all houses and buildings, all corporations, all science and technology, all banking, all debt and the political systems to wrap it all up nicely. From private jets to junkyards, from the rivers to the pollution dumped in them: everything. That one entity will own the world is a demonstrated mathematical certainty, because the more money you have, the more money you make. It's a sort of Ponzi scheme, with all the money in the pyramid working its way upward. People are rich, and feel rich as the money comes through their tiers of the pyramid, but eventually it is sucked upwards. It happens because when more money can be spent on evaluating and making investments, the highest returns occur. Those returns have to come out of someone’s accounts. If you had your own private Goldman Sachs working for you, you would expect to make a lot more money than you would buying stocks online at Charles Schwab.

If you don't think that's what's happening, consider Oxfam's report last year that 8 men already own as much as the bottom half of the planet's population. Only a year before, it took a battalion of 62 billionaires to amount to that much. The fat is already being trimmed. Consider Credit Suisse's 2014 report that the first trillionaire may already be walking the Earth. The 37 richest Americans are already worth a trillion dollars. That’s enough to spend $100 million a day for the next 27 years. 

Well, as long as things keep looking the way they're looking, and someone or the other is going to be the ultimate winner one day, it'd be a bit much to ask of the billionaire class not to take their feelings into account. The Koch brothers and the Waltons and the Saudi royal family are not so deluded as to believe that the happy day when they own the whole shebang will occur in their lifetimes, but they are fully aware of the stakes they're playing for. And who can blame them? Bill Gates once answered a reporter's question about how much money he had with the answer that he didn't know the exact figure, but that the real answer to that question was that he was in possession of an infinite amount of money. Mr. Gates seems to be less hardhearted about taking over the world, but that might just be a stealth tactic, as, after all, he is considered the top candidate to reach a trillion first, so either he’s not trying too hard or an infinite amount of money is hard to give away. A hundred million here and a hundred million there are not enough to derail the train. 

All right, so the tide is bringing in one person or one state destined to own the world. Well, then — so what? Who’s to say it wouldn’t be a better place? Maybe if a goodhearted philosopher like Donald Trump was free to act on all the benevolence he surely carries in his heart without being sandwiched between the twin pumpernickel slices of the FBI on one cheek and the KGB on the other, he would selflessly direct the building and repairs and improvement society needs. 

Some people seem unable to rid themselves of the idea that the placement of unlimited power in one short-fingered hand is not a risk they are willing to take. Regardless of the principle of the thing, these stalwarts are at a disadvantage, because the only tool at their disposal to stop that from happening would be, according to Picketty and every economist operating outside the pockets of billionaire employers, the institution of a worldwide, progressive (meaning simply that larger amounts of money are taxed more and amounts leading to domination of the political system are not transmitted to future generations) and transparent tax system. No more Liechtensteins, no more Caymans, Isles of Wights, Panamas, Switzerlands, Trump Towers in Azerbaijan financed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard or Trump Tower in Panama paid for by drug cartels or any of the other United States tax loopholery and the secrecy that guards it all over lunch at the Four Seasons. 

Well, good luck getting Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan or a presidential tax cheat on board with that. Good luck getting the rest of the world on board. 

So, we are left having to consider the point of view of these too-often maligned billionaires. As well we should. We have a lot to learn from them, after all. No one comprehends better than they do how the concentration of money is the concentration of power.  They are already largely able to function autocratically, immune to laws and able to dispense with rules or norms when all it takes to overcome them is a sufficient legal budget. That’s not good enough. One would like the system to be more bulletproof. Once in a while they are reined in, say with a $635 million fine for fueling America’s OxyContin addiction or some other matter they feel no one should be allowed to meddle with under Libertarian principles that dictate that nothing but a completely free market, unregulated by anything but the conscience of money, can iron things out. 

What those in contention to become owners of the world are more sensitive than you or I is a world trajectory that is tending towards greater authoritarianism under the combined pressures of growing population, diminishing resources, corporate concentration of wealth and power, perpetual war and terror and the inclination of governments to control media and communications as matters of political advantage cloaked in national security. The problem hits closer to home for them, and they have spent more time considering the problem. 

One of the conclusions they must be reaching is that for the Owner of the World, mere authoritarianism isn’t going to do the trick. There will always be some people who won’t be comfortable with the idea of your owning them, their cats, the first-grade classroom at the coal mine where the kids go when they get off their shifts, the courts, the office that gives you permission to visit your grandmother, the skies, the streams and the seas. Authoritarians only get to push people around. Totalitarians get to kill them.

Without some great enlightenment on a societal scale very different from what we humans seem inclined to actually support — Trump being the best example because he doesn’t even pretend to be competent or incorruptible — authoritarianism and totalitarianism are the predictable next steps. Some of the tools used in parallel with the vacuuming of wealth are the traditional ones; the ground is softened by elevating enemies (North Koreans, Muslims, Jews, people of color, gays, atheists, abortionists, liberals, it makes no difference; generating tension is all that counts), let a few more bullets fly here and there, let some small war spill over onto a beach resort, add a few isotopes from the local nuclear medicine department’s CAT scanner to the next firecracker to go off in some downtown, turn the heat up with a small nuke or two, and presto — the soufflé that emerges from the oven is perfectly puffed up for enough diners to ooh and ahh their acquiescence to an ultimate authority who promises protection.

Now, while that sort of thing is always unpleasant for the average disposable human, it would be unfair to subject anyone who has grown accustomed to a perch above the law to any such humiliations. In the case of a totalitarian government, there is by definition only one winner. Everyone but the ruler becomes a subject. Would you let that happen to your descendants if you could help it? To a grandson as cute as little Billy? Why, that kid’s as smart as a whip! Heck, he could grow up to be President of the United States one day (of course, now that Trump occupies the Oval Office, there is no longer any reason to think that any kid, even one who likes to microwave turtles, can not rise to the presidency).

No. If you have the dough to play in this game, you could easily convince yourself that you are serving the future interests of your family by grooming little Billy for the top job (it would never be a little Billie: this system is without exception patriarchal). We don't have to look any farther than Trump for an example of someone who believes his domination and that of his family is a blessing to the world. Trump told us that, ”Jared will bring peace to the Middle East. Jared will end the opiate crisis. Jared will reconstitute the federal bureaucracy.…" Of course, all Jared has done is sell visas for $500,000 a pop to the Chinese, but give him a little time.

Which brings us back to the current tax plan. For the processes at work to be given a chance to play out in America, there is no alternative to the kind of attack we are now witnessing on the poor and middle classes. It's not an optional step. Populations must be weakened en masse — starved, deprived of healthcare and education, subjected to corporate whims, debt, and so on — in order to become more compliant, and the tranches of money being spent on them must be freed to move upwards. 

Now, not everyone who tucks a $25K check down Speaker Paul Ryan's brassiere every time he puts his platforms on and pole dances for them is thinking they're going to own the world or even aware that that's anything but the plot of a James Bond movie. The rank and file contributor is not among the happy few at the party in that particular VIP room. Greed is relied on to incentivize them and the broader base, the millions of poor slobs who will get behind anything that they are told will reduce their taxes and make it legal to say Merry Christmas again, whether it will or not. 

What that broader base doesn't realize is that their time on the chopping block will inevitably follow. This isn’t eleven-dimensional chess, it’s eleven-dimensional checkers, played on the biggest cracker barrel of them all. Every piece gets jumped. The time will come when what they have will also be sucked upwards, according to the plan they're promulgating now. 

So, is there a solution? Sure there is. It's in the kind of tax code Mr. Picketty described and every economist knows is necessary to the well-being of the planet. A tax system that does not allow unlimited wealth to be passed from generation to generation and taxes it appropriately in the present. 

But to get that, the Constitution of the United States would need to be amended to prohibit any spending on politics. I’ve never spoken to an ordinary American who doesn’t believe there’s too much money in politics. But getting them to vote money out of politics? I have my doubts. Not as long as there are more urgent matters to attend to, like NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthem.

In the meantime, the Supreme Court, in the Citizens United case, legitimized unlimited, secret spending on political campaigns. Finally, politicians were able to start pocketing the kind of money they felt they deserved. Foreign governments and individuals were allowed to donate all they liked to United States Senators and Representatives, even to presidential campaigns. And so are billionaires. And as long as that is permitted to go on, they will continue to fight for the only thing worth fighting for, as far as they're concerned. To own the world. Pretty much just for the hell of it. 

Well, okay, not just for the hell of it. For little Billy’s sake, too.

HRVC Presents Roo's first time

Roo and I had just left Los Angeles at the end of the summer of 2012. The plan was to move to Vermont, so we started driving for the lower left corner of the country to the upper right.

On the way, the temperatures were over 110 degrees in the desert. The pavement was too hot for a dog’s paws so Roo could only get out in unpaved areas. By the time we climbed into the Rockies in Colorado it started to cool down. I had driven this route along Interstate 70 several times with Orville. To help her overcome any diminished sense of identity by placing her in continuity with the past, I tell Roo that Orville was her great-granduncle, and near Glenwood Springs I remembered that I used to pull off and let him swim in the Colorado River. Though it had been more than 15 years, I found the exact spot Orville enjoyed.

And so it was in the great Colorado, in the Rocky Mountains, not far from the place where Doc Holliday finally wheezed his last from the tuberculosis that did what the Clancy boys couldn’t and finished him off, that Roo had the first of her thousands of swims in wild waters. Since then, days without water have been a rarity for Roo. She may be the most well-swimmed dog in the world. The sheer number and variety of bodies of water that she has been in would be hard for any other dog to match.

Meanwhile, we are parked in the woods of western Maryland, trying to find a place to live. It is proving to be extremely difficult because of the one key limitation I must have: that of all the potential types of available swimming for Roo, the one there absolutely can not be is a tadmouse pond. Anything less than 50 miles would be too short a distance to risk. Another round of Tadmouse Derangement Syndrome would be more than I might be able to take.

On the occasion of Roo K. Beker's sixth birthday


Six years old. Thereabouts, anyway. Pretty close. When Roo showed up more than five years ago, she looked so much older than her real age, but when the puppy emerged, she was an eight-month-old, and that would have put her birthday right around November 11th, 2011, so that became her official birthday. 11/11/11, the only day thus magically numbered in the millennium. I bet it’s the right day. She’s the dog who would have been born on it.

Her sixth birthday finds us alone in some deep woods in the far west of Maryland, just north of the West Virginia border. Roo’s not as exhausted as I am, though I suppose she’s got a little road rash, too. A malevolent blast of cold has us pinned down because of the constant extra work it takes not to freeze when camping. The inside temperature of the camper isn’t much of a problem. It can stay warm easily enough, though this takes lots of management of electricity and propane, there is no water and in general extreme cold means having to deal with it every minute of the day and night. 

Roo doesn’t cooperate in matters of cold. Up in Maine, she finally began to agree to go out for a late night pee again, after many months of refusing. Getting her to go out, though, is always something of a production. By then, she’s been asleep and groggy and lazy and the idea of peeing isn’t sufficient to rouse her. She has to be incited. By now I have the kinks in the system ironed out. I pretend to hear something going on outside. It doesn’t occur to her that if there was anything to hear she would have heard it way before I would have. She assumes that I possess auditory superpowers equal to hers. When the idea that some kind of night cat or nocturnal mouse is prowling around gets her up, she bolts to the door to begin Phase Two of going outside, which consists of her standing at the open door for one to two minutes assessing the risks of the outside world. That’s not a problem unless  one of three conditions exist: high humidity, mosquitos or cold. Of those, humidity is the least pernicious, because it can eventually be cooked out of the inside of the camper by doing things like running the heater even if it’s 90 degrees outside and then venting the accumulated vapor. Mosquitos are annoying as hell, but we have a nightlight-sized bug zapper that seems to take care of them. 

Cold, however, is a bigger problem, because it fills up the tiny space inside the camper and it's harder to get a livable temperature stabilized again. I become sorely tempted to just drag her outside, but that would only make Roo more nervous, and then she would only want to get back inside. So, I have to create the impression that there is definitely somebody out there, which I do by telling her that under no circumstances is she allowed to check whoever it is. “Check” being the word I use for her various hunting activities. Checking mouses, for example, might mean digging them up or chasing them. Checking deer is prohibited, but she takes this order to mean that she is limited to running them off. I don’t know what she has against deer, but she likes to run them off.

“Do you hear that?” I repeat a few times while I stand at the door. She doesn’t, because there is usually nothing to hear, but she is willing to take my word for it, all because one night I lied to her about there being a cat outside and by sheer coincidence there was, and that bought me a lifetime of the benefit of her doubt. 

“Listen,” I say, and she comes to the door and positions her nose where I hold it open an inch. I then have to rile her up so that she’ll bolt outside instead of going through her lengthy assessment process by saying, “OK, but NO CHECKING. Oop — do you hear that?”

When she’s excited enough that I know she’ll jump out, I swing the door open and hop out ahead of her. Usually this works. Not always, but most of the time. Then, when she clears the door, I have to slam it shut behind her, because once she remembers that it’s night, she’s prone to changing her mind and running back inside the camper. If she gets back in, all bets are off. She considers her work done. If I succeed in getting the door slammed behind her, sooner or later she realizes that unless she pees she won’t get back inside, so she starts sniffing around a little. Often she likes to charge at the dark and let out a series of deep barks, but this I think she does without justification. She’s just letting the night know who’s boss. That’s one of the great things about dogs, the way they’ll stand up to their fears like that.

That’s a few hours away, though. For now, Roo is lying on the bed, sleeping. I bought her a little roast beef for her birthday. She ate it and to display her pleasure she wiggled elaborately on the blanket.

Nonetheless, her birthday finds Roo happy and healthy, still without any idea of how precarious our lives have really become.

Please take a moment to sign up for our Patreon campaign. It’s an easy, secure way for you to leave a buck in the tip jar. And a million thanks to all of you who have!

On the road again.

  Roo takes a last longing look out the window of the Raker house.

Roo takes a last longing look out the window of the Raker house.

We almost never do this—this is only the second time we've spent the night in a parking lot in two years—but the exhaustion forced us into it. Exhaustion, and some good luck.

It started a couple of nights ago, when a vast storm system blew through New England. We were parked in the driveway at Virginia and Jim’s. The cell signal was not good enough to track the approach of the storm on radar, but it didn’t look like there was any thunder associated with it. High winds on the coast, but the local forecast only called for 19 mile per hour winds. I didn’t worry about it.

Overnight, Roo was as upset as if we were surrounded by thunderstorms. The wind was blowing the occasional branch and a ton of pine cones down, but those don’t spook Rooki much. She spent the night in her thunderstorm position, which behind my head, jammed behind my pillow. None of what was going on seemed to account for how frightened she was.

She had good reason. Tall pines all around us were snapped in half. One of the trees at the Raker’s, 50 feet or so behind us, spilt in two at an upper fork and crashed down. Jim, in the house, heard what he described as an explosion at one point. Two houses down, eight trees came down. Roo had been hearing the renting and snapping of the trees and branches all night. I never heard a thing beyond the knocking of debris falling on the camper. All night I kept telling Roo not to worry, that there was no thunder. She just trembled and kept her head buried behind my pillow.

The next day, the entire neighborhood looked like a Christmas tree yard at the end of the season. The roads were carpeted in pine boughs and branches and millions of pine cones. Power lines across the state had been so badly damaged that only about 100,000 of Maine’s 1.32 million total population didn’t lose power.

Coincidentally, Virginia had been talking about getting their generator going. It had just been sitting in the garage for years, unused, unstarted. They were going to need it now. It didn’t want to start, but it was just a wet plug and once we swapped that it cranked right up. 

If you ever have to rely on a generator, there are a few things about electricity in a hurry. For example, a small 1000-watt generator like ours, which is just a gasoline engine turning a thing similar to the alternator on your car, can power all the lights in a camper and a ton of other stuff, like all the chargers you want. It can’t handle a coffee maker or a tiny space heater. 

I have a little generator, but it’s been broken for a long time. I can tell you how sick and tired I got of taking the carburetor off in the snow to try to get it going again. It puts some electricity out, enough to charge a battery, but not enough to run anything you have to plug in. The thing has been a thorn in my side for a year. It’s beyond repair, but those things cost about a thousand bucks, so even though it can’t be fixed, I keep trying to nurse it along. I would prefer to take it out in a field and machine gun it without so much as according it the honor of a final cigarette.

I had been planning to leave Maine for a while. I always hate leaving Maine. You couldn’t ask for more supportive or kind friends than Jim and Virginia, and it’s great for Roo. But we had to leave and I was planning it for a couple of weeks. It’s way too pricey up there to rent anything and when it gets colder the camper can’t handle it. The storm finalized the decision. The camper took on a lot of water, for one thing, and all sorts of other things on it are broken and they’re easier to get fixed in the backwaters. And maybe we can find a place to live somewhere cheaper. If I don’t find an actual place to live and get us out of this crate I’m going to lose my mind.

Anyway, with my generator on the blink, I had to glom onto the Raker machine, which was fine with them. But withy heightened generator sensitivities, I was more aware that they that if they had to make even a marginally higher demand on it, it wouldn’t be able to deliver. I tried to get mine going, but it died instantly. 

It was principally the generator that kept making me delay our departure. Most of the campgrounds in the Northeast close at the end of October and they don’t have electricity anyway. There’s something wrong in the electrical system in the camper that depletes the battery quickly, and without the battery charged, there is insufficient current for the ignitor in the propane heater. As it gets colder, that becomes a problem. The generator is essential if you’re not plugged in.

We had all sorts of stuff to do, and even though I tried getting on the road early, we didn’t, and what with stops for Roo and a trail I found for her to have some fun on beside the Willamantic River (which she catapulted herself into before I could stop her) and being exhausted, then even more so by half an hour of bad traffic in Connecticut we stopped at a rest stop somewhere. I looked campgrounds up, but none were open. We had only made it a couple of hundred miles of the 800 to West Virginia.

I thought we would just drive as long as possible and then pull over in a parking lot or rest area fora few hours, but then, for some reason, remembered hearing that Cabela’s allows overnight RV parking. I looked to see if there was one nearby and there was one just a few miles ahead. I figured they must be everywhere, but they’re not. The next one is 200 miles away.

At Cabela’s, there’s a big field that Roo loved running around in. She had a blast. Grass and wide open, filled with mouses of some variety. I hadn’t been in a Cabela’s in 20 years, but remembered that the one I was in in Nebraska once had some stuffed deer on display. I thought Roo would get a charge out of it and brought her in. Everybody said, “Hi, Buddy,” to her, as usual. There were not only stuffed deer of every imaginable taxonomy, there were stuffed badgers and marmots moose and even a prairie dog village. Roo loved it. She was fascinated. It put her in a great mood.

We walked by a display of generators and I was looking at them longingly. They were all going for the usual thousand bucks. A salesman walk by and said, “You know, , I’ve got one of those that the only thing wrong with it is it doesn’t have a box. Three-fifty.”

I can not adequately describe what a break that was. This electrical problem has been the biggest headache. We are powered up. 

It’s eleven PM and it’s been running for three hours. When any engine is new, you have to change the oil after the first few hours to clean out any metal in the engine from the it was built. 

It’s 34 degrees out there, and I’m about to go out and change the oil. I’m strangely looking forward to it.

Sorry for the rambling post — I should know better than to post when this beat up.

Happy Hallowe’en.

The Historic Roo Video Collection - Roo's favorite dog in the history of dogs

In the first video, Roo greets Tallulah, in the second you see how they were together the whole time they knew each other, while Donna's Lab Wrinkles indulges them patiently.


Roo has only once in her life been in love with another dog. It’s not that she doesn’t like dogs. She’s as interested in them as the next dog. On rare occasions she’ll play with one, as long as it’s a chasing game where one of them can play mouse and the other one play Roo chasing the mouse. But even in the cases of dogs she’s been around for extended periods, apart from the girl in this video, she’s never met one who she out-and-out loved. I know, in the video I say something about Roo loving other dogs, but I didn’t know her too well yet, and that was my impression from the way she liked hanging out that dog park. 

Indi Labs, the rescue I was fostering for in Los Angeles, concentrated on Labradors, but once in a while would take on another dog if no one else could. That’s what happened with Roo. The Golden retriever rescue in LA had had to leave her behind at the kill shelter where she would be euthanized because their rescue was at capacity and they could only pull two dogs that day. Roo was so panicked, so frenzied, terrorized by everything and in the worst place for a frightened dog — caged and surrounded by hundreds of other stressed dogs — either jumping up and down in fear behind the bars as she sought a way out or flattening herself on the ground, every muscle in her body rigid. Dog rescues are all overburdened and have to make triage decisions. It wasn’t a decision to leave Roo behind, it was a decision to take on two dogs. A shelter worker took the chance on a call to Indi Labs before just before Roo was to be killed, and Donna told them Indi would take the Golden. 

Though she wasn’t fearful, this Anatolian shepherd mix had some sort of similar story. Somehow she wound up in a shelter and Victoria Diaz from Indi sprang her and brought her over. She needed a place to stay for her first night out, and she came home with Roo and me. Her name was Tallulah. 

In the video Tallulah seems reticent, but that didn’t last. Imagine how you would feel your first hour out of an LA shelter. Confinement, fear, strange smells (including death) and noises, food and handling, dogs barking their heads off all day and night. And, you’ve just been spayed.

Roo didn’t think Tallulah was entitled to the same kind of decompression she went through when she got out of the shelter. She expected her new friend to hop to it. She wanted to play with her from the second she saw her. Maybe Roo had a point. She was welcoming her to success, letting her know she had made it out of the trenches alive and was now time to party. And it worked. Within minutes Tallulah brightened up and for the 24 hours they were together, they played non-stop. Tallulah didn’t seem to feel the effects of her surgery at all. If either one of them walked somewhere, the other would trot up beside her. They were constantly poking each other or batting each other around and wrestling.

They were getting along so well that I made the mistake of feeding them in different spots, but at the same time in the same room. Roo inhaled her dinner and went after Tallulah’s. Tallulah, meanwhile, had had the same idea and was coming after Roo’s. They snarled at each other for a few seconds before I broke them up and they went back to being best friends instantly.

Later, I took them both for a walk. Roo was wearing an old leather collar that used to belong to my dog Orville and Tallulah was in the collar my first Indi Labs rescue was wearing (and which Roo wears to this day). Luckily we were on a side street when they both lunged at something like the couple of puppies they were and both of them got away at the same time. The ring broke out of Roo’s leather collar and the leash clip on Tallulah’s broke. As far as they were concerned, this was great news. A chance to enjoy themselves a little. I got their attention and ran playfully in the other direction, encouraging a chase. That’s often a better idea than taking off after a dog. If you’re chasing them you’ll never catch up, but if you can get them to chase you, they’re sure to catch up. The ploy worked. I snagged Roo which brought Tallulah over. 

The Historic Roo Video Collection - Roo's first time playing with water

Now one of the most widely traveled and accomplished aquatic dogs of all time, Roo, who will turn six on November 11th, has swum or splashed in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the Sea of Cortez, the Mississippi, Ohio, Colorado, Connecticut, Missouri, Snake and Salmon rivers and a hundred others. She’s been in waters from the Great Lakes to the remote San Pedro River, a thin ribbon of water running through a paradise in the northern Sonoran Desert where it runs from Mexico to the United States across the border in southwest Arizona (and which, if any vile con artist ever gets wish to ruin with a wall, I promise you that I will lie in front of the bulldozers welded in chains anchored in boulders and have to be physically removed by cops and blowtorch crews). She’s been in lakes on the Canadian border on the east coast and west, in bays fronting the oceans from Casco to the San Juan, in melting glaciers that no one but the beavers and bears have seen in years to reservoirs, ponds, streams, brooks, creeks, waterfalls, swimming pools, under hoses and faucets in every single one of the lower 48 states, with the exception of New Jersey, the toxicity of whose waters I would have been too much to risk.

But it all started in a bucket in Los Angeles. Roo had been with me for about a month. She had just gone from foster dog to daughter dog. I hadn't been completely decided about adopting her until a growth on her shoulder appeared and had to be biopsied and I knew that if she was freshly adopted by someone else, an immediate vet bill and the prospect of a tumor of some kind could send her back into a shelter, and I knew that I wasn't able to maintain the distance you have to with a foster dog any longer. I loved the little girl and started to think of her as mine, or as much mine as any great spirit can be. She was still on edge, but not in the constant panic she was in at first, when just the sight of that bucket made her try to hide, and she was getting to learn about enjoying the things dogs love. It was a mistake, because I thought the wound would stay dry and a little water got to it and it had to be restitched.

The only thing that hasn't changed is what an idiot I am.