Thursday, June 9, 2011


On Tuesday, we had people putting a new roof on the house. I had anticipated Roof Day with no small amount of dread, because our dogs are the kind of dogs who bark when anyone approaches the house. Not that they would ever do anything about any of those people approaching the house, but they like to maintain an appropriate amount of false swagger, I suppose. The recent addition of a very small dog and a few people in the house next door, and thus the backyard that borders our own and is only separated by a chain-link fence, still sends them into a fury of outraged hysterics, two months on. So I doubted a day filled with strange people on top of the house pounding away was going to be pleasant for them, or for me, who would be trapped with them. And I didn't have enough advanced warning to beg the veterinarian for some canine valium or anything.

But, to my surprise, they really didn't do badly at all. They barked at first, and they raced up and down the stairs for awhile trying to figure out why they could hear strange men's voices but not see strange men, but eventually they settled down for the most part. I was elated.

And then. Then in the early evening when the roofers had gone I let the dogs out in the backyard again. They ran, they sniffed, they frolicked. All cool. I saw Nox, our lab, twist in the grass on his back, looking like an ecstatically happy canine, glad (I assumed) to see his own patch of yard after a day of imposed exile.

When I let them back in I noticed him rubbing his head against the table legs, then running in to the living room and scraping his sides against the couch, which was odd. But, well, Nox IS odd, so I didn't think that much about it. Then Sophia went to pet him and shrieked, "Nox is covered in something sticky!!"

Indeed he was. We were baffled. I had the kids take him back out and try to hose him off. He went utterly apeshit about it, breaking away and nearly hanging himself in the screen door as he tried to get back in. And still he was sticky.

I went out to investigate and, turns out, the idiot found a spot of tar in the grass where the roofers had been and rolled in it. And he was really thorough. He has clumps of fur tarred together all down his back, on his cheeks, in the thick hair of his throat. It's awful.

The roofers came back the next morning to do the garage, and they gave me a small amount of some special cleaner they had, but I'm afraid to use it on him. I don't want to burn his skin or anything. I don't know... maybe I could spot clean the worst spots with a rag and then rinse really well with water? If he wasn't so damned big and impossible for me to manhandle, I would have already tried this, but I'm just not sure it's a good idea.

Anyway, I feel equal parts sympathy and exasperation for the lovable imbecile. I'd like to think he's learned some sort of lesson, but realistically I doubt it.

I like to think he at least looks slightly embarrassed, anyway.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Last Thursday, soon after the kids had come home from school, I looked out our dining room window and saw a group (actually, appropriately, a murder) of crows swooping around and pecking some small animal. I yelled for Sophia to run out and shoo them away. Turns out, it was a baby squirrel they were attacking, and another was struggling in the flower bed a few feet away.

My children are not the type who would ever just let it end there. So I had them stay quietly on the little porch nearby so they could shoo the crows again if they came back, but be out of the way enough for the mama squirrel to come get her babies. We heard her calling... (did YOU know that squirrels could make a sound like a whining dog, or a loud bird? I didn't until that day.) And she did end up rescuing one of the babies. But the other, well he tried to climb a fence, fell, then headed toward the road. And when Sophia went to check on him, he started following her, another thing I didn't think a squirrel would do. I warned her to stay back and not touch him, and we truly tried to avoid him while keeping him out of the road, but he just wouldn't head back to where his mother was, and finally Sophia picked him up. I did a little online research and saw that the scent of human is not necessarily a problem for squirrel mothers, so we tried to put him down in the area she would come back to, but he didn't stay put there really, and she never came. So I had a dilemma.

I didn't really want to play squirrel rescuer, to be honest. But the kids were just SO worried about him and so in love with his small self already that I couldn't NOT. I called our vet, and they said they would take him but it would have to be the next morning because they were closing. So we cut holes in an old shoe box, put some towels in there, and "Squeaks" spent the night in Benjamin's room. He was so affectionate. It was odd to me. He survived another moment of peril when Nox got into the room and discovered him, too. That's one lucky squirrel.

So the next morning we drove to the vet and the kids handed over the little squirrel they'd fallen in love with. The nice lady who took him explained that they would look him over for injuries (his nose had been bloodied a little, either by a fall or the crows, but otherwise he seemed very healthy) and evaluate if he was ready to get along on his own or not. Then, when he was ready, he'd be released.

It is exactly what is best for a wild animal, and Squeaks is definitely a wild animal, no matter how much he seemed like a hamster. But that didn't make it easy for my soft-hearted children, who loved him, and they cried the whole ride home. In fact, they cried for a good solid hour. I told them how proud I was of them, both for taking such good care of Squeaks and for doing the right thing for him even when it was hard.

It's a tough lesson, though. Happily, almost a week later, they're feeling happier about the whole thing, and catching glimpses of Squeak's brother or sister running around out there, which makes us think Squeaks has an excellent chance at being very successful in the wild himself.