September 24, 2011


Bearing in mind that an old definition of “news” is when the train leaves the tracks, here are some news bites from Shuddering Squirrel Acres.

Kids, Don’t Do Dis
Close to finishing a baby cradle that’s expected next week, I was at the table saw in my woodworking shop yesterday, getting increasingly frustrated at how quickly the blade heated up as I tried to cut an ash slat to size.
Ash is very hard wood, for years the standard for baseball bats, and can be difficult to cut. Smoke was wisping a bit and I was distracted for just a second, a split second really, but that’s all it takes. There was pain, reflexes kicked in, and I yanked my left hand back, splashing blood on the cement floor.
Two nearly identical wedge-shaped divots were cut into the tips of the ring and middle fingers, about halfway through the nails and a quarter-inch deep. I think the blade missed bone.
The wounds are gruesome, but there is surprisingly little pain. Can’t guess why.
I also can’t figure out how one blade cut the same wound in two side-by-side fingers.
The lesson, kids, is to back away from power tools as soon as you suffer a brain fart. I was dumb but lucky. Didn’t have to pick up any fingers.

Memento mori, Pete, but not yet
Our Trusty Dog Pete continues to impress us with his loyalty, his joie de vivre, his deep and abiding love for a black rubber ball, his manners – he even goes into the woods to poop – and his obedience, at least most of the time.
Make no mistake, he is a working farm dog, and does all his tasks well. He keeps an eye on the chickens and helps Larry round them up when it’s time to go back in the coop. He walks the perimeter of our property at least twice a day. He barks only when there is a good reason. And best, the destructive squirrels have disappeared into the woods. They gnawed through a fuel line on my truck, twice; chewed the front out of Vicki’s favorite cane rocker; and gnawed on the arms of our other porch rocking chair.
Vicki told me that when Pete was away from home for a few hours the other day, our yards were quickly teeming with squirrels. When he returned, they vanished. Good Pete.
It was the time away from home that I want to report.
After keeping me company, out of the way, while I worked in my shop for most of the afternoon, he went outside when it was time to close up. A short time later, I went out back in our screened room and saw Vicki kneeling beside a prostrate Pete, her pretty face wracked with pain, tears pouring. Pete was still as death.
I ran over to them and saw she had several treats in her hand, untouched. That’s when we knew for certain that something was terribly wrong. Vicki had taken the treats outside and found Pete lying on his side.
She used to be a veterinary assistant and has seen many dogs die. “He’s leaving us,” she said, trying to catch her breath. Pete’s eyes were partly closed, his breathing was shallow, and he didn’t respond to anything.
Understand that this noble dog, a black German shepherd, simply showed up here one day and refused to leave. He was covered with grotesquely bloated ticks, his belly badly flea bitten, his ears full of mites and guck. He was a little skinny and made it clear that he only wanted some love. He acted as though he’d been living with the opposite.
Vicki and I believe this dog was sent to us. We had agreed that neither of us wanted one, or another pet of any kind. We were resolute in this. When Pete showed up, we caved like Michigan at the Rose Bowl.
So I didn’t believe he was dying, and scooped him up, holding him on his back and hustling to my truck for a trip to the vet. He started to squirm, all 80 plus pounds of him, and Vicki helped me lower him to his feet. He led me to the passenger door, I opened it, and he climbed inside. Vicki, still crying, asked if I wanted her to go. I hated to leave her in such grief, but there was no room.
Fortunately, the sheriff’s boys didn’t spot me hauling ass through town. I’d called ahead and the vet’s staff was waiting. Pete walked me to the door, and seemed to be getting new wind.
I gave them his history, such as we know it, while they went to work. His temperature was normal. They said he was standing like his back hurt. An x-ray showed he had two compressed discs in his lower back, somewhat common in big dogs that leap for the sky. He was given a shot of steroids, for fast pain relief, and I was sent home with a regimen of pain pills and – because his spleen was slightly enlarged – an antibiotic in case he’d picked up a tick-borne disease.
As I walked him to the door, Pete abruptly turned and headed back into the bowels of the building. The nurse who’d helped us grinned and yelled, “Pete’s making a break for it.” He managed to take a tour of every room in the office before I caught up with him. He was declared a very sweet dog, as he has been with everyone who meets him.
When we got back home, Vicki was not there to greet us. She stayed inside, after she and Pete made truly joyful noises during their reunion, because she was certain I would be alone.
Three days later, Pete’s his old self, but a little peeved that we won’t play as vigorously as he’d like. Now with two vets’ visits notched on his collar, he’s into us for quite a bit of money.
When we paid both bills, we didn’t blink.


  1. Poor Pete, good boy, hope he's feeling better!

  2. Oh yeah, poor Ric, you're a good boy too, hope yer fingers are ok!