Cousin Dottie phoned. "I have a baby ground squirrel that the cat caught but didn't injure. I'm raising him on an eyedropper and he's doing fine. You ought to see the way his front paws become little hands when he's having his milk. He clutches the dropper and holds on. He's going to outgrow his shoe box pretty soon and I wonder if you still have that squirrel cage you used for Whirly. May I borrow it? Just until my squirrel is big and strong enough to be on his own."
I remember Whirly very well. He was a lovely squirrel and when he was big enough to climb he sat on my desk while I typed. When he reached young adulthood he made it clear that he must become a wild squirrel. His teeth were strong and sharp and he enyoyed chewing on shoes and gnawing holes in my favorite clothes. He resented the need of being caged at times when I couldn't be around to keep him out of mischief. I loved Whirly, but I was glad to take him down the canyon and free him by the spring.
I told Dottie that of course I'd kept the cage, to come and get it. I also asked if she would bring me some slips from her extra pretty geraniums. This pleased her, as she is an excellent gardener and hopes that I'll keep trying to make my front yard prettier. Because of our moose-size puppy, Macho, I have to be careful about what and where to plant anything. Macho bites flowers. He had torn a geranium plant apart and I had picked up the pieces and put them in pots. Geraniums are so hardy that I've seen prunings growing and blossoming among the tin cans in a public dump. Plants seldom do well for me, but even I should be able to grow geraniums. I had Mexican red sage, a shrub that is thrifty and bright, and Macho hadn't yet demolished the young four- o'clocks that had seeded themselves from last year. So I was off to a good start. All I had to do was to fence off a small plot and fence it tight enough to keep Macho out, and this I did.
The potted geraniums were now flourishing to the point where they needed more room, and I decided to unpot them and plant them inside my new fence. I was busy gardening when Dottie arrived.
The sight of Macho sent her into a laughing fit. I had forgotten to tell her about Macho's present appearance. There comes the time of year when the land turns from green to gold as the rainy season ends. It is a beautiful time but also a time when foxtails and assorted other stickers and burrs get into animal coats. Macho, being mostly Afgham, had just the coat to attract trouble. His fur was so matted that he was itchy and miserable. With the help of two sturdy friends to hold him down, I had tried trimming him with scissors, but that proved hopeless, and we discovered that foxtails had even gotten under his skin.
He required professional help. His barber tried to use clippers with caution , because he said he might ruin Macho's appearance. I said that neither Macho nor I cared about looks, only comfort. Anyway the expert tried to give Macho an Artistic haircut and succeeded. It was a very close clip, but he left a mane straight down the spine, with a tuft, such as a lion wears, on the end of Macho's tail and a topknot on his head. Macho felt cool and wonderful.
When we reached home that day he bounded out of the car and pranced up to the other dogs. They had never seen such a dog before. The hair on his backbone made him look like a ferocious beast with hackles up, ready to fight. They snarled, barked, ran, and hid. Macho was not offended. He was so pleased with the comfortable way he felt that he had no worries.
Perhaps I am the only human who admires Macho's beauty now. Everyone else thinks that he looks terrible. The dogs have grown accustomed to his new look and even his extra vitality, though he is sometimes a wearisome pest.
So far he hasn't bitten any newly planted geraniums, and I hear from dottie that her squirrel enjoys his roomy cage.