An Almost-Bunny Brekkie

“I ALMOST CAUGHT IT, TOO.”

This is the face of a dog who happened across a feral rabbit in our backyard this morning.

I knew it was only a matter of time before the rabbits got up the hill. Their range has been spreading, and we had a comparatively mild winter. They started out on the other side of a major concrete artery, then somehow got across downhill near a watercourse, and it’s been fascinating to see them creep up the hill when I take the dogs on morning walkies. Nonscientific and completely anecdotal field work, you see.

Anyway, uncaffeinated and with my shoes untied, I let the dogs out for their morning evacuations and prancing. It was early enough I didn’t think squirrels were a real risk.

Imagine my surprise when Boxnoggin let out a yelp of excited, pained disbelief and tore across the yard. Imagine my further surprise when I saw Monsieur Lapin (for some reason I always address rabbits in French) hightailing it (literally) across said yard from north to south (south being downhill and, of course, the direction he’d more than likely come from).

You can further imagine my despair when I saw Boxnoggin tearing after him at a speed that seemed unlikely to catch but perfectly likely to overshoot a mark or two and consequently paste him onto the fence. While I could tell there was no danger of a bunny breakfast, Boxnoggin seemed very likely indeed to either hit the fence or attempt to leap the gate.

Upon both those paths lies danger.

I’m not too worried ol’ Boxnoggin will clear the fence, mind you. He has gained a reasonable amount of heft and dignity (such as it is) with the fullness of time and, alas, cannot catch the kind of air he used to. But doing himself some injury by applying himself to said fence at high velocity is entirely possible, and lo I let out a, “WHAT THE FUCK STOP FOR GOD’S SAKE YOU IDIOT,” that shattered the morning quiet.

Of course, he paid no attention. Every fuse inside his doggy skull was blown. The terrier part of his genetic inheritance had burst from confinement like a werewolf’s hunting frenzy, and the tiny cottontail bobbing before him was the sum of all desires.

Fortunately (for Monsieur Lapin) or unfortunately (for poor Boxnoggin), the rabbit had obeyed the number-one rule of reconnaissance: Always know your escape route. (Insert obligatory Princess Bride reference here.) Monsieur was vanishée, and Boxnoggin was désolée. (I had a whole disparue joke here, but it didn’t quite have the ring.)

Ol’ Box did a full circuit of the yard, nose down, while I pressed my hand over my pounding heart and discovered I did not need caffeine to wake up, terror works just fine. Finally, when he had verified that no further rodent snacks were lingering in the ferns, under the redbud tree, among the roses, in the vegetable garden, behind the shed, under the deck, in the shed, under the red wagon, or in any other place belonging to the yard, he consented to come inside and eat his (non-bunny) brekkie.

Miss B watched all this go down with mild interest, being occupied with peeing the whole time. In her younger days she would have added to the circus, but she had a full bladder and contented herself with a single burp-bark of supervision. “YOU’RE NOT GONNA CATCH IT, DUMBASS. MUM, WHERE’S MY KIBBLE?”

So, my Friday started with a dose of exhilarating fear. I hope yours began in a more tranquil fashion. Now that the rabbits have found my yard, of course, no vegetable is safe, and Boxnoggin is going to be searching for more carrot-chewing maniacs as a matter of course every time he’s let outside.

This…will not end well, I’m sure. But it’ll be hilarious.

Have a good weekend!

Just Breathing, Blessing

It’s finally raining again, and I can run again. Between recovery from the massive, crashing relief of getting our second vaccine shot and certain other personal events, the weekend was a lost cause and Monday just about the same.

Fortunately, this morning I could run in the rain, always guaranteed to lift my spirits. The burst of endorphins and burning off of stress chemicals means some of my equilibrium has returned.

It’s a big week; subscribers get the unedited ebook of HOOD‘s Season Three (the edited one is still being proofread) and also a special surprise involving Hell’s Acre. When June begins, so will that new serial, and frankly I’m looking forward to it.

Other things are hanging fire. Publishing is always festina lente and everyone is congenitally behind and overworked. This could be solved by paying a reasonable number of people a living wage, including creators, but…well, there seems to be a great deal of resistance to that strategy in every industry, not just the one I work in.

I’ve also had a burst of frantic activity in non-work-related areas. For a very long while, I’ve been convinced I wouldn’t survive, and consequently some things have been of less importance than others. (Like, for example, weeding.) Now that competent adults are somewhat in charge and vaccination is available, I’m having to face my own continued existence in a different manner.

I’m technically on vacation this week–which only means I’m only writing what I care to, and I am unavailable for certain business inquiries–so I’ll probably be running a lot, weeding even more, and complaining about the Muse. Not to mention bitching that my recovery process seems to involve writing a lot of werewolf erotica I’ll never be able to publish.

Such are the drawbacks of this career, but they’re faint and fading indeed next to the satisfaction of being able to set my own schedule and behave largely as I please in my own office. Lying on the floor talking to myself and waving my arms while I arrange a combat scene inside my head might be frowned upon in other work environments, after all.

I don’t know how to even begin processing the last year and a half, let alone the complex bubbling stew of feelings swirling against my mental dams and canals once the second dose of vaccine was thrust into my willing flesh. Right now I’m just grateful my head isn’t being constantly shoved under the surface by the daily news cycle. Just breathing is a blessing at the moment.

It might irritate some people to hear me working through these feelings in public, but…well, this is my site, I say what I please here, and if being honest about the effects of truly historical events upon one’s mental health can help even one other person feel less lonely, I’ll consider it time well spent.

In other news, I’ve hung up the Yankee Squirrel Flipper once more, full of sunflower seeds. Boxnoggin has chased not one, not two, but three squirrels (or the same squirrel thrice) in the past few days, and I get the idea they’ve discovered how easy it is to taunt him. I get the further idea that to a squirrel, it’s a lot of fun.

This, I suspect, will not end well. But it’ll be hilarious, I’m sure, and I’m doubly sure it will involve me being shoeless and screaming.

The world could use a little more hilarity right now. I’d say “nature is healing” but I don’t want to jinx anything, so I’m just going to await developments…

…and make sure I’m wearing shoes.

Autumnal Roundness

A little while ago, I was in the office, and my phone pinged. It was the Princess, texting me from the dining room, where the sliding glass doors to the deck are.

“GOOD LORD,” I yelled down the hall. “DID YOU JUST TEXT ME FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE?”

“I DIDN’T WANT YOU TO MISS THIS!” she yelled back.

That was reasonable enough. “IS IT STILL THERE?”

“YEAH. I… MUM, I THINK HE’S LOOKING AT ME.”

Well, there was only one thing I could say. “ARE YOU WEARING SHOES?”

“THE DOOR’S LOCKED.”

“THAT’S NO INDICATION OF SAFETY,” I yelled.

“YES, I’M WEARING SHOES… WAIT. OH WOW.”

I was out of my chair in a shot, pelting down the hall. By the gods, if that chonky motherfucker was coming for my baby, we were going to have words. Even if I was only in socks.

So I skidded into the dining room, finding my eldest child staring out the sliding glass doors with a bemused expression. “He almost couldn’t fit between the verticals,” she said, in tones of surpassing wonder. “That is the very definition of a big boi.”

“Almost a big chungus?” My heartrate began to drop below ‘imminent combat’, but I was still breathing a wee bit heavily. Then I looked down. “You’re not wearing shoes. Those are slippers.”

“I’m your kid,” she pointed out, practically enough. “I can kick ass in these too.”

I have rarely been so relieved, proud, and adrenaline-soaked at once.

Anyway, the squirrels are beginning to slim down from their immense autumnal roundness. They were preparing for a hard winter, I suppose, and it’s nowhere near over yet. I’m pretty sure this fellow’s going to survive, though. (Just look at those beady little eyes and those hefty hips.)

I’ve hit burnout pretty hard, beloveds. Normally I’d find some comfort in the fact that squirrels and cockroaches will survive humanity as a whole–life always finds a way, and all that. But I’ve hit the end of my ability to deal with all this bullshit, so my thoughts are tending in an entirely different direction. I’m hearing a lot of you are here with me, so at least we’re not alone.

May we find the strength to endure, as this round fuzzy bastard apparently has. It’s all I can hope for today.

Boxnoggin, Travis, and the Venerable, Concluded

At least the fence is still standing. That’s something, I suppose.

I promised you the conclusion to the tale of Boxnoggin, Travis, and the Venerable yesterday, didn’t I. When we left our fair heroine (that would be me) she was attempting to teleport to said fence, though she had used up her one teleportation ticket for the day on attempting to grab her fool dog before he could launch himself for a spinning squirrel. Said fool dog had just shaken off the daze-effects of hitting the fence and was hauling himself, somewhat drunkenly but at a high rate of speed, after a spitting, cursing squirrel who sounded like a shaven-headed New Yawk cabbie.

So. One dizzy squirrel, making directly across the yard for the Venerable. One just as dizzy dog hard upon his heels. And then there was yours truly, my darlings, who had not only hit her hip on the table (gaining a quite magnificent bruise) but managed to get around the Venerable, which meant…

…which meant, O my beloveds, that I was in Travis’s way.

I skidded to a stop, almost turning my ankle on a fallen fir cone. At least this once I was wearing shoes–a small mercy indeed, because I was in the path of a cussing squirrel and a dog-sized tornado.

This was, to put it mildly, not an optimal position. But I compensated for it by digging my heels in and clapping my hands over my ears. I have no idea why I did the last, unless the combination of Travis’s torrent of obscenities and my own–what’s that?

Oh yes, my dearest Reader. I was producing a fair amount of blue words on my own account. Travis has nothing on me when I get going; when provoked, I am capable of language that not only would make a sailor blush but would also drop my sainted grandmother into her grave twice over if that redoubtable lady was not already occupying hallowed ground. And my grandfather would be at once pleased and mildly chagrined, suspecting that I inherited the propensity for breathtaking obscenity from him. (He might even be right.)

ANYWAY. This is the conclusion, so I’d best be swift. Or swift-ish.

You know how, especially in sports or action movies, everything slows down–even the dialogue, which produces a weird distorted rumble–as disaster approaches? I stood a very real chance of being flattened not only by fleeing squirrel but by my own dear, dopey, absolutely determined dog. It occurred to me, in one of those crystal-clear thoughts that go through one’s head during a disaster, that a squirrel looking for high ground might mistake me for a sapling and attempt to scale the redoubt, so to speak.

And Travis… well.

Travis bulleted past, and I am telling the bare honest truth: his tail brushed my throbbing, almost-turned ankle because he was still zigzagging somewhat.

I stopped cussing to scream like a cartoon elephant upon discovering a mouse on the floor.

Boxnoggin, on the other hand, was not so lucky. He clipped me hard on the shin as he went past, and I almost went down. Perhaps it was Physics’s final blessing that I deflected him a fraction from his course, or he might well have gained himself a squirrel snack.

But Travis had reached the Venerable, which seemed singularly unmoved by events. (It’s very phlegmatic, even for a tree.) I mean, the Venerable had witnessed the approaching disaster, been hit by the YANKEE SQUIRREL FLIPPER DEATHRIDE 5000, and furthermore–being firmly rooted–could do absolutely nothing to dodge any further trouble, hijinks, or shenanigans.

That poor tree. Odd Trundles used to headbutt it all the time, too. I keep thinking I’ll wake up one morning to find out it has, with a supreme effort, moved a foot or so in any direction to try to avoid one of those long-ago disasters.

Anyway, I am… pleased? Is that that word? I suppose it must do. I am pleased to report Travis reached his goal and climbed up the Venerable like a pole dancer determined to gain a championship trophy in the district finals. I am somewhat less pleased (again, I suppose that will have to be the word) to report that poor Boxnoggin forgot himself for a moment and tried to go up the trunk right after him, fell back on his ass, and let out a “yipe!” that shook me to my core.

Don’t worry, he’s fine. Only his pride (such as it is) was lightly damaged.

I expected Travis to hang safely out of leaping distance and treat us both to a torrent of abuse, but apparently he had suddenly remembered he had other places to be, for he went up the trunk without stopping and vanished in the Venerable’s canopy. And that, my dears, is pretty much the end–I won’t trouble you with a catalog of bruises or bumps suffered by the human involved in this small tale.

Except it’s Friday, which means there must be a Friday photo. And there is one more small thing to report.

Normally Boxnoggin is not a dog much troubled by memory. (He occasionally forgets how to go up stairs and must be patiently re-taught.) But that afternoon made a deep impression upon him, so much so that when he’s let out now, he attends to whatever pressing business, bladder or bowel, that needs doing and heads unerringly for a spot just to the south of the Venerable, where he throws himself down and stares…

…he stares, as I said, longingly at the back fence, and makes a throaty little sound. It’s the same sound he makes when he wishes to pursue a cat, rabbit, or any other small creature. And if you listen closely, you can hear what he’s saying.

Come back,” he moans. “Come back and play with me, forever and ever and ever…

And every once in a while, just to be sure, he cranes his neck to the left, examines the Venerable, and makes certain to check the hanging bird feeder.

Just in case.


The End


until some-damn-thing-else happens, of course.

Boxnoggin, Travis, and the Venerable, Ultimate Edition

For a moment, I thought the squirrel had simply slid through a hole in the fabric of reality and vanished.

…maybe I should back up.

So, when last we spoke, Boxnoggin was hanging in midair, I was staggering backwards with a dog collar in my paw, and Travis was spinning rapidly on the bottom of the almost-horizontal YANKEE SQUIRREL FLIPPER DEATHRIDE 5000.

And then poor Travis did the only thing he could. Namely, he let go.

Boxnoggin landed with an oof several sizes too big for him, cushioned by soft turf. He even rolled on impact, since he’d been twisting in midair to get at the wildly spinning snack. I almost fell off the end of the sidewalk and onto the huge boulder just beside the hop vine, the boulder bedecked with what had been a very nice cuppa Earl Grey before I dropped said cup on my way down the bloody stairs.

And Travis… flew.

Now, during the original SQUIRREL DEATHRIDE 5000, another squirrel went flying to the right, and hit one of the garage windows. (You’re probably not going to find that post since I did some cleanup around this-here website lately; however there is a backup and if I do another SquirrelTerror book, it’ll be revivified JUST LIKE NEO.) That was back when Odd Trundles was alive, and I was, truth be told, dismally expecting something of the sort.

But I was wrong, my beloveds. For the YANKEE SQUIRREL FLIPPER DEATHRIDE 5000 is new, improved, and battery-powered. Which meant it was breaking new ground and, yes, flinging squirrels in an entirely new direction.

Namely, to the left, towards the back fence.

This meant Travis passed behind the Venerable, and for one mad moment I thought he’d outright vanished. Except–and this is a big exception–I could still hear him cussing.

“YOU FUCKIN LOOKIN AT MEEEEEEEEEEEEE?”

The cry trailed across the yard. Boxnoggin staggered upright while it was still echoing, and Travis must have hit the top of his arc behind the Venerable, for he was descending when he came into view again.

The problem was, of course, he was descending into the fence, with inimitable style but at very high (gravity-assisted) speed.

“OH NOOOOOO…” I yelled, as if by sheer volume I could halt the inevitable, or even postpone it.

Boxnoggin’s own momentum had not been shed, so his claws dug furrows in the grass, and he finally came to a halt, defeat snatched from his victorious jaws. He had expected to land with a mouthful of squirrel, and was sorely puzzled that he did not seem to have achieved that benchmark.

“YOU FUCKIN LOOKIN AT FUCKIN–” And then, my darling reader, Travis hit.

Now, the fence is a relic. It’s quite probably as old as I am, and held up by a hedge of oft-whispering cedars–except for the ones on the north end that our silly neighbor had taken out and hasn’t replaced yet, though I keep hinting. (Yet I forgive that man a LOT because he wears a mask when his friends visit and insists they do the same while sitting six feet apart on his deck. You do you, Back Neighbor!)

Anyway, there was a thump far too big for the evident size of the arboreal rodent striking it at speed. But if there’s anything we’ve learned about these squirrels, my friends, it’s that they punch far above their weight class.

The fence shook and shuddered. I dropped the collar, which landed with a forlorn little jingle in a pool of tea. Boxnoggin, shaking his fool rectangular head, turned in a complete circle looking for his escaped friend. The YANKEE SQUIRREL FLIPPER DEATHRIDE 5000 did not fly off its hook and into the wild blue yonder, but rebounded (Physics was certainly earning her cookies on this one) and smacked the Venerable Fir a good one on the side. (Quality construction, my friends. Quality fuckin’ construction.)

And Travis might have been all right, if he hadn’t kept opening his damn mouth.

The squirrel clawed at the fence, leaving fresh gouges in weather-stained wood, and I can only think he was a little dizzy from his carnival ride because he didn’t climb, as one would think he’d instinctively do. No, sir. Travis is not the type of squirrel to do the obvious, the safe, or even the reasonable thing.

No, he headed down.

Now, I can understand wanting some solid ground underfoot after all that. Honestly, in his position I’d probably stagger for somewhere reasonably level and commence vomiting just to put a capper on the whole experience. But I am decidedly not a squirrel, and who knows what was going through his tiny little mind?

He reached the lush violets between two large ferns and staggered, holding his wee head, and because he’d regained his breath he did exactly the worst thing he could–but honestly, who expected anything less?

“THAT’S RIGHT, YOU FUCKIN’ FUCKS, YOU TALKIN TO ME? I’LL FUCKIN FUCK YO’ SHIT UP, JUST FUCKIN’ SEE IF I FUCKIN’ DON’T, AND IMMA FUCKIN DO IT AGAIN!”

And, with unerring precision, Boxnoggin–though no doubt dizzy and breathless from his own vastly shorter carnival ride–turned in that direction, got his long legs under him, and launched himself afresh for the source of this new ruckus.

“FOR GODSAKE NOOOOOOOOO…” I screamed, and tried to throw myself in that direction too, having some hazy idea of maybe getting there first. But the table was in the way, and though I’m (relatively) fast over (very) short distances, I’d sadly used up my teleportation for the day.

So I barked my hip on the table and almost went down. Boxnoggin leapt after Travis like Pepe le Pew finally getting within range of a stripe-painted cat. And Travis?

Travis apparently had no clue what was heading for him. He was still busy holding his tiny squirrel head, and I am all but certain he defecated into the violets. At least, he crouched, still chittering obscenities conjugated into every part of speech, and I had visions of trying to pry a twitching squirrel corpse out of Boxnoggin’s gleeful mouth.

But then Physics, who had viewed all this with a great deal of amusement, played her final trick upon us three tragical characters.

That’s right. Boxnoggin must have still been too dizzy for proper aiming, because he launched himself for Travis…

…and missed.

Reader, he hit the fence instead.

That poor fucking fence.

“YOU FUCKING FUUUUUUUCK!” Travis screamed, and took off. He didn’t bolt for the east side of the shed, where he could go along the wall and nip through the southern fence and reach safety. Nor did he take off northwards, where he could perhaps outrun the dog on level ground. Nor did he take the safest route and go diagonally up the back fence so he could vanish into the cedars.

No, sir, that would have been too simple.

Instead, the dumbass, breathless, probably still dizzy in his own right from his carnival ride squirrel took off vaguely north-by-northwestward.

Towards the Venerable, and the now-gently swaying YANKEE SQUIRREL FLIPPER DEATHRIDE 5000.

Whether he wanted a rematch or just couldn’t get his shit together was academic, for Boxnoggin slid down the fence and landed in the violets Travis had just vacated, dimly aware his prey had escaped once again and rolling onto his side to see said prey scampering off.

Now it was a footrace.

Yes, the last one was penultimate, and this one the ultimate; there’s only the falling action after today’s climax to tell. So, to be continued–with a fresh photo–tomorrow. Take that, dramatic structure!

Boxnoggin, Travis, and the Venerable, Penultimate Edition

So there I was, staggering backwards with a dog’s collar jingling merrily in my sweating fist, my tea probably scorching some hop vine volunteers to death, and my mouth open on a long, Vader-esque “NOOOOOOOOOO.”

Meanwhile, Boxnoggin had discovered the secret I had longed to keep hidden from him, and like any gothic hero once all is revealed he had decided the best response was the most violent one.

Namely, his response consisted of leaping, jaws snapping, for Travis, who was screaming squirrel obscenities in every direction as he spun, holding onto the bottom of the Yankee Squirrel Flipper for dear life.

Side note: I don’t know if I’ve told you guys about how much Boxnoggin loves the hose. On very warm days, I make him sit nicely, then I turn on the sprayer attachment and let him chase the jet. Occasionally he’ll decide to eat up the stream of water, and then I discover once more just how disconcerting it is when you see a dog coming at you with its mouth working.

There are a lot of teeth.

Anyway, all of that is to say I can only imagine how terrified Travis might have been, if he’d had time to notice Boxnoggin at all. As it was, he was whirling rapidly on the YANKEE SQUIRREL FLIPPER DEATHRIDE 5000. Long-term readers will smile, I hope, remembering the original DEATHRIDE 5000. This one is… a lot more effective.

But if you remember that story, you have some inkling of what’s going to happen.

So. I was staggering back trying not to fall upon my (capacious) ass, and Boxnoggin was in flight. My wondering eyes actually tried to squeeze shut, not wanting to see the moment of impact, but I kept looking because… well, it was like a horror movie or an incipient car crash. I simply couldn’t let my eyelids fall.

Now, as physics would have it, the YANKEE SQUIRREL FLIPPER is hanging from a rope and a wrought-iron hook. I mention this so you understand the sheer impossibility, the absolute miraculousness of what happened next.

The YANKEE SQUIRREL FLIPPER was doing its job. The battery was full, it was in top condition. It was performing as intended, whirling an arboreal rodent at high speed and in style, but the rope and the hook meant that its bottom had begun to lift. The damn thing was momentarily inching towards the horizontal.

This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, because Boxnoggin sailed, jaws closing with a dull snap of finality, and…

… and…

… and he just barely missed.

To reiterate, we have me staggering backwards with a jingling dog collar, one squirrel getting the carnival ride of his tiny little life, and a dog in flight who had just missed his target by a bare inch because Physics, that relentlessly pranking goddess, was in a good (or extremely cranky) mood that day. Boxnoggin looked like Wile E. Coyote in the moment he realizes one of his Acme-fueled plans has gone horribly, horribly wrong.

“OHSHIT,” I screamed.

“…” Boxnoggin was too busy flying to say anything, his jaws snapping like a meth-fueled alligator’s.

For Travis’s dialogue, you’re going to have to imagine a mad Doppler effect laying emphasis on certain syllables as he whirled around a rapidly shifting axis.

Ready?

Travis was screaming, “–sonofaBITCH youtalkintoME youfuckintalkinTAme faFUCKsake–“

I’ve grown somewhat adept at translating squirrel-ese, and Travis sounded like a freshly shaven-headed New Yawk cabdriver who had practiced his lines several time in a mirror that morning and now, caught in the grip of circumstances beyond his control, could think of nothing else to scream.

And then, the inevitable happened.

What? Oh, no, not Boxnoggin landing, although he was about to with an oof several years too old for his puppyish self. (They told us at the shelter that he was “two and a half years old.” I’m thinking they were misled; if that dog was over eighteen months when we got him I’ll eat a hat or two. Without ketchup, even.)

No, my best beloveds, Boxnoggin was still aloft, cradled in the arms of a soft spring breeze. The YANKEE SQUIRREL FLIPPER was still bound and determined to do its duty, and I was still staggering. All this happened in far less time than it takes to tell, as usual.

But one thing had changed, dearest Reader. Yes, something was different; a change had been introduced into this already volatile situation.

You see, Travis the Cussing Squirrel had either been forced, by exigencies or in a quest to alter the situation in which he found himself, to perform the one action he reasonably could at this point.

That’s right.

He let go.

to be continued…

Boxnoggin, Travis, and the Venerable, Part II

You know in cartoons, where Wile E. Coyote peers around a brick wall or something and his head pops out on the other side a ridiculous distance away while his hind end is still where should be? It’s a classic gag, and usually ends with him lighting his own rear end on fire.

Keep that in mind.

So there I was, phone lifted, taking pictures with my right hand while clutching a full tankard of post-lunch tea in my left. I was also, for the record, chanting oh dear oh no oh dear under my breath like Bilbo Baggins clutching a bobbing barrel.

Around the trunk of the Venerable Fir, the combatants circled. Only they didn’t know they were combatants yet–as far as Boxnoggin knew, there was just a strange sound he was ambling after, not very interested but he’d just peed so he might as well.

Travis, however–I’ve decided that’s this particular squirrel’s name, for reasons that will become clear frightfully soon–was circling the Venerable’s trunk a few feet up, blissfully unaware of the dog. In fact, Travis thought he had more to worry about from yours truly, and headed around the trunk deosil as Boxnoggin tended the same way.

I wish I’d been able to get a shot of Boxnoggin’s ass on one side, Travis’s head on the other, just like the Wile E. Coyote gag. This takes a lot more time to tell than it did when it happened–each time they circled the Venerable I thought that’s it, we’re gonna have a Moment, but Travis juuuuuust managed to stay out of sight. Two whole times they went around the tree, and I decided that while my luck was holding, I’d better get down there.

I stuffed my phone in my pocket, decided not to take a scorching sip of tea, and headed with utterly fake casualness down the stairs, my heartrate rising. I began to baby-talk Boxnoggin, hoping I could entice him up the stairs and away from the tree-rat.

You see, Boxnoggin is part terrier. A large part terrier, and they were bred to chase (furry, rodent-adjacent) things of a certain size, grab them, and shake the stuffing out of them for their masters. The chase-and-shake drive is stronger in some than in others, and poor Lord van Der Sploot got a double dose.1 It’s not so bad–with a larger prefrontal cortex and the advantage of opposable thumbs, it’s usually super easy to see trouble coming and redirect him.

There I was, on the stairs. I had Boxnoggin’s attention for a few precious seconds as he completed his last circuit of the Venerable and was coaxing him towards me. I was even hopeful we’d get through this without any screaming, tea intact.

And then I heard a sound. A ratcheting, spinning sound that for a moment I didn’t recognize.

Then I did recognize it and my heart sank like the fucking Lusitania.

Because, you see, every week I’d been testing the Yankee SquirrelFlipper to see if the battery was still good. (And, not gonna lie, because it makes me giggle to press on the thing and hear it start up.)

Boxnoggin’s ears perked so far they almost separated from his foolish little head. He turned, and what did his wondering gaze behold but a dangling Yankee SquirrelFlipper, working as intended, and clutching the spinning circle at its bottom was something glorious, something wonderful, something even I would have enjoyed seeing if the situation had been otherwise?

Because Travis, you see, had decided fortune favored the bold, and after circling the Venerable several times and finding the coast clear (because Boxnoggin was always just out of sight and Miss B was occupied at the north end of the yard having semi-conversation with Miranda) he had decided to take his shot, make his move, and get himself some sweet sweet sunflower seed action.

Now his front and back paws were clamped reflexively tight around a spinning wheel of death, and even a squirrel’s tiny brain would figure out things were not going well. So he began to yell. “MOTHERFUUUUUUUUU–“

For a moment Boxnoggin could not believe his eyes or his luck. He paused, one front paw hanging in midair because he had forgotten it, his entire body quivering with longing, excitement, and the deep instinctive imperative to get that shit and shake it like a Polaroid picture, man.

I dropped my tea, scrambled down the last few steps, and lunged for Boxnoggin’s collar. But… well, long story short, he wears two collars when out in the yard, don’t ask. The inside collar sits a little lower on his neck, and I thought if I could get it I had a chance of controlling the situation.

I damn near teleported. My fingers closed. I had the collar! Sweet success!

But not really.

I had his inside collar; the collar, in fact, that tends to pop open when one applies pressure. In the heat of the moment, I’d forgotten to grab for the catch instead of the strap.

And so it was I was bent over, my tea somewhere behind me flooding some volunteers from the hop vine since thankfully the tankard hadn’t landed on concrete, and I was beginning to swear. Something like, “oh no, nonono oh fuck me Batman–“

Of course, Travis was making a sound too. Not quite as Sam Kinnison in a blender as a certain one-eyed lord of my former backyard, but a dizzy chittering of high speed squirrel obscenities splashing in every direction with flying sunflower seeds.

Boxnoggin’s haunches tensed, his inside collar came free in my hand, and I was left staggering backwards holding an empty strap because I’d expected to be hauling a dog and my ass, a glorious counterweight in any hauling situation, was a distinct impediment to keeping my balance when momentum had already been achieved.

So to speak.

And Boxnoggin flew.

That’s another thing about this dog–he can catch some serious air. A little less now that he’s at fighting weight (i.e., almost round as a partridge and glossy as a raven’s wing) but if you get the hose out on a hot evening and let him chase the spray, you’ll see a display of gymnastics that would get a 9.9 from everyone but the East Germans.

The deep buried courage of Lord van der Sploot had been lit, and now he was afire with the berserker rage of his people.

“SHAKE IT!” he howled. “SHAAAAAAAAAAKE IT FOR MY LADY’S HONOR!” And he was airborne.

And all I could yell was “OH FUCK NOOOOOOOOOOOOO–“

Because, you see, he was aimed right for the spinning, dangling SquirrelFlipper. And any fool–including yours truly–could see he was going to catch it.

to be continued…