Squirrels: Cute or Spawn of the Devil

Yesterday I had an up close and personal encounter with a squirrel. It was kind of ironic because I’ve been meaning to write about squirrels.

get-attachment.aspxTHE DOODS Does anyone besides us think that sounds really lame, like Pack Leader has no life. Aren’t we more interesting? Even a daughter asked “why?” when she told her the idea.

Anyhow, I was walking in a local park (without the Doods) when an adorable little squirrel ran over and sat down next to me. I had some nuts in my fanny pack so decided to share. The squirrel, let’s call it Sammy, stood up, put his paws on my wrist and gently took the food.



Yes, I know this falls in the stupid category like hiking alone. I shouldn’t be feeding wildlife and certainly not out of my hand but its cuteness won out.

When I shared the incident with the same daughter, her response was unprintable. Even my  2 1/2 year old granddaughter weighed in and said “silly, bad grandma,” when I sent the photo, but I think we all know she was coached.

THE DOODS OMG what was she thinking. First of all, she named it?? And didn’t she see the episode of Sex and the City when someone said that squirrels were just rats in cute outfits? Yes, that show is our guilty pleasure.

Not to mention these are the same evil rodents that harass us from trees and fences when they know we can’t reach them. They chatter at us and you would not believe the rude things they say. They use language we can’t repeat. They’ve even thrown nuts at us. And has she forgotten about rabies? At least we’re vaccinated.

get-attachment.aspxELBEE I did have one funny moment with a squirrel. I found a huge dead one that had rigor mortis (like Gus, I get my vocabulary from Charley) and was prancing along next to PL holding it in my mouth. She started praising me for heeling so nicely, looked down, saw my prize and screamed. It made my day. 









Head for the Hills

This morning I did something that I never recommend and which is probably stupid. I took off and went hiking by myself.  My hiking friends were either  incapacitated, out of town or on hiatus and I needed to go up into the mountains to clear my head and put things in perspective.

get-attachment.aspxTHE DOODS.We’ll put things in perspective. She should not be wandering around the mountains alone. She’s impossible. We need to get the daughters on this one

For the record I was not wandering. I was sweating my way up the “butt burner,” a local trail that’s just what it sounds like. I was working really hard, hoping I’d make it to the top.

I was also deep in conversation with myself because there was no one else to talk to, not even the dogs. Just when I was afraid I might not be all that interesting, I heard a couple coming up the trail, arguing about politics. I realized that chatting with myself was definitely preferable. Unfortunately, I did have a minor identity crisis. I ran into several people who said they almost didn’t recognize me without the Doods.

THE DOODS We just don’t like hiking in warm weather. It’s uncomfortable. Our hair gets flat. We hate those horrible foxtails that get in our feet, and we’re scared of the rattlesnakes. Not to mention there are lizards the size of rats. 

GUS And don’t forget the coyotes. I weigh 25 pounds and I’m a pacifist (Charley taught me that word) what am I supposed to do if one of them comes after me? Discuss??

This morning was very uneventful, but I did have a disturbing encounter another time when I was hiking alone. Yes, I’ve done it before. Some workmen were repairing gas lines in the mountains. As I walked by, one of them asked me if I was nervous being up there by myself. For some reason my hand went right to my big ugly fanny pack. He asked, “Oh, are you packing?” I answered “Yes I am.” He meant gun. I meant sandwich.

The good news is that this morning I came down with a clear head, nothing broken, nothing bleeding and no snake bites. Even better, I wouldn’t have to do squats or lunges at the gym.

ELBEE Am I the only one who thinks that’s pretty lame as far as good news goes?




A Special Goodbye

In the wake of the horrendous shootings in Florida, I have chosen to write about a man who represents the best of our country. Frank Callahan was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy in 1945 after receiving a Purple Heart. He was also awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action as a hospital corpsman attached to the Marines. He was a special agent for the FBI from 1951-1979.

Above all, he was a gentleman, a wonderful husband, father to four daughters and friend to many. He was also a buddy to the Doods. During his last hospital stay, shortly before he passed, I had the privilege of bringing the dogs in to visit and cheer him up. He was resting when we reached his room but as soon as I tapped on the door, he woke up, saw the dogs and got the sweetest smile on his face.

A final visit with the Doods
A final visit with the Doods

He wanted to pet the dogs so I lifted Charley and Elbee gently onto his bed. His smile grew even wider as they snuggled close to him while he rubbed their heads. We spent the next few minutes in peaceful conversation, totally forgetting his illness. I took photos for his daughter Tracy to share with the family.

Frank passed away at home days later. He was buried with honors in Arlington cemetery. My deep gratitude goes to him and to his family for those precious moments we spent in the hospital and for the sweet memory of him with the Doods. At difficult times we need to focus on the people who make our country great.



The UCLA Candlelight Vigil

Last night, as part of the People Animal Connection at UCLA, I had the privilege of bringing the big and little Doods, Charley and Gus, to the candlelight vigil for professor William Klug who was senselessly murdered on Wednesday. I strongly believe in the work of therapy dogs but to see them in action last night gave me an even greater respect for their power of healing.

As we slowly made our way through the huge crowd gathered on campus, one person after another asked if they could pet the dogs. At times there were 6 or 7 people around them, petting them, hugging them. With tears streaming down their faces, men and women of all ages would break into smiles at the interaction.

At one point, Josh, a wonderful young man who works on campus, walked slightly ahead of us asking if anyone needed some dog therapy or love. Not one person said no.

At eleven, Charley is a pro but even for him this was a difficult situation. When he would encounter someone who seemed to have an even greater need, he would do his famous “lean” as if to offer support. Gus just turned two but somehow instinctively knew what to do. He gently licked a few people and actually cuddled with others. Through it all, his tail was wagging and he had a smile on his face.

Every so often Gus and Charley would turn back to me or kiss each other’s faces. It seemed to give them the security to keep going. I honestly think they sensed the importance of what they were doing.

I was so focused on the dogs, their interactions, their well-being that I was able to hold it together as one person after another got up to speak. Some talked about this amazing man who had been lost too soon. Others talked about the difficult issues we now face in everyday life when peace on campus can be so easily shattered. It was only this morning as I sat with my exhausted dogs around me that I started to cry.

The Doods weigh in