The light at the end of the culvert


This is Roo engaging in her most dangerous behavior. She insists on trying to stuff herself into culverts. Every once in a while a possum or someone is hiding in one, or has in the past, and Roo wants to go in all of them. She nearly got stuck in one once in Mississippi, a few hours before the river was going to crest in a 100-year flood. there would have been no hope of getting any help to get her out. It was a miracle that she was able to back up far enough for me to extract her by the tail.

She knows full well that entering culverts is strictly prohibited. If I’m anywhere nearby, she either tries to pretend she’s not interested until I’m not looking any more, or she looks at me, openly plotting, and then tried to dive in.

If I’m nearby, I can talk her out of it. If we’re someplace I don’t know I have to put her on her leash at the first sign of culverts. Those things are all over the place. If she finds one when she’s out of my sight, she’ll try to squeeze right in. The most dangerous is if there’s a noise nearby. Her instinct to hide is even more powerful than her hunting instinct, and if, say, someone shoots a gun nearby, she could easily get jammed in one.

The one in the picture isn’t too bad, because she’s too big to get in. She still tries all the time. She’s obsessed with this one. She pretends to walk with me until we’re past it and then she bolts back to it when she thinks I think she’s forgotten about it. Or she lies down in the road and refuses to budge, pretending to be too tired to walk another step and waits until I move on to cajole her to come. Sometimes, when we approach it, she runs as fast as she can to get to it. She’ll stoop to anything to get in that culvert.

I finally came up with a solution. Maybe this is unfair, but I used her fear against her. She’s terrified of flashlights. I went to the other end of the culvert and aimed my cellphone in and switched on the tiny flashlight. She backed right out. 

I spend a lot of time every day helping Roo through her fear problems. I never imagined doing anything to scare her. But I’m pretty happy about this one. I wish I’d thought about it sooner. I’m going to use it on the next culvert, and the next, and the one after that, until, hopefully, she gives up on them.