you ought to see the other guy
Thursday, June 3 2010
Today was the day that the landscapers came out to build our privacy fence of dirt, White Pines, lilacs, and spirea. They showed up early and I went out there to warn them not to pile dirt on top of a drain that keeps excessive water from ponding uphill of the driveway. But then a dump truck came with a load of dirt (it was a weird mix of human artifacts, cow manure, loam, cobblestones, and head-sized boulders) and of course they dumped the dirt directly on the head of the drain. This was their way of reminding me why it is that I am so poorly-disposed to hiring people to do jobs around the house. You hire someone to fix your roof and they break your gutters and antenna. You hire someone to fix your antenna, and they break your gutters and make your roof leak. Hire someone to replace your gutters and they put their ladders in your flowers and leave McDonalds trash and scratched-off lottery tickets behind your shrubbery. Hire someone to install shrubbery and they clog your drainage with dirt and run their equipment over your existing plantings.
Actually, though, after Gretchen phoned the head guy (who had left our place to the tender mercies of a couple of tattooed white guys who looked like extras from Breaking Bad) to remind him about the drain and beseech him to try not to mow down the existing saplings, they proved fairly expert at avoiding them. A 30 inch tall Tuliptree I'd transplanted from near the house's foundation over to near the now-buried drain head didn't prove so lucky. But the pile of dirt dumped upon it actually managed to protect it somewhat from the little Bobcat bulldozer, and I was later able to unearth it. It was scuffed up and missing most of its leaves, but it will probably survive. Strange as it might seem, the fate of that one Tuliptree had been causing me anxiety since last night. I have a particular fondness for Tuliptrees, which tend to be rare in the uplands of Hurley, and I've developed an attachment to this particular tree over the years since first moving it as part of a household foundation drain project back in 2004. The tree has grown very slowly and suffered numerous setbacks over the years, mostly because deer have found it delicious.
When Gretchen returned from her shift at the prison, I was up on the laboratory deck and saw her emerge from her car wearing a scowl on her face. Evidently she was displeased with the landscaping job. This wasn't actually a surprise to me; the possibility that landscapers could come and execute a job without asking for any mid-job customer input and produce exactly what Gretchen wanted seemed vanishingly small. Gretchen is particular about the things that interface with her life; this is part of what makes me a reluctant cook, travel planner, or picker-outer of seating in a restaurant.
Now if the landscapers had actually done the job as originally negotiated, Gretchen would have probably cut them some slack. But the landscaping that was produced had strayed a bit from the landscaping that had been negotiated. The plan had been for a sinusoidal berm of six trees with a row of spirea on the road side and lilacs on the non-road side. But the berm ended up being a simple gentle curve like a banana and there were eight trees. Most galling of all was that the spirea had been planted in the narrow gaps between the trees, where they were doomed to be shaded out in only a few years.
I agreed with Gretchen on the spirea, but I thought the arrangement of trees was actually sound. In a few years they will be an impenetrable hedge, forming an evergreen wall between us and the road. Any lack of "naturalness" in the arrangement will be lost in the formlessness of the wall and its merger with other plantings nearby, especially the two white pines that I'd planted back in 2002 or 2003 (which had started are now about five feet tall). I managed to convince Gretchen to settle for the arrangement of the trees. Reached by phone, the landscaper said he'd come out to fix things tomorrow bright and early at seven.
This evening I was in the laboratory at my computer (as I often am these days) when I heard Eleanor barking enthusiastically about something. I went out on the laboratory deck to determine if she was in the road, and it sounded like she might be down the hill, perhaps between the greenhouse and the road, though perhaps a little closer to our downhill neighbors, whose dog Merlin (an Australian Shepherd) was also barking. I called to her a few times, she fell silent, and then I shrugged and went back inside. Julius (aka Stripey) was also out on the deck, initially curious like me but then bored (also like me). The cats always pay a lot of attention when the dogs bark. (Sometimes Julius even preemptively growls, not yet knowing even what he's growling at.)
Eventually the barking resumed and then suddenly there was a screaming yelp. Eleanor had apparently tangled with a wild animal! I ran out onto the deck just as a terrified Julius was running in. Eleanor was just entering the driveway, trotting at a brisk pace with her tail unusually low.
Deciding I should go look to see if Eleanor had been injured in that brief altercation, I went downstairs. I found she'd kerplunked down onto one of her favorite chairs in the living room, where she was licking herself repeatedly. There was an odd chemical smell, a sort of sterilized earthiness. Looking her over, there seemed to be a trace of blood on one of her feet. But the focus of her licking was her crotch, which she was attending to so busily that I couldn't examine it. At some point she moved and I could see that she had an array of deep puncture wounds on her rump, and blood was oozing out of them. Whatever was happening in her crotch seemed to be an extension of that. The smell in the air was that of blood. I don't think I'd ever been in the presence of enough to smell.
The wounds were concentrated on Eleanor's posterior, though there were scattered additional ones on her face and neck. If I hadn't heard her the brief incident in which she'd acquired these wounds, I would have thought she'd been hit by a round of buckshot.
Gretchen was watching teevee at the time, and she ran down when she heard the news. Horrified, she decided we should take Eleanor to the vet immediately. Since it was after hours, this meant we would need to go to the after-hours emergency vet out near 9W in the cluttered commercial fringe north of Kingston. We drove there at unusually frantic pace, without having bothered to call first.
So soon enough, there we were in the emergency vet waiting room. Eleanor was leaving broad paint strokes of blood on the linoleum tiles but didn't seem to be terribly upset. She was panting but not shaking, and she'd wag her tale if one said anything to her.
After a thorough exam that required shaving off the fur around all the punctures, the vet said we'd have to leave her for a few hours so that some of the wounds could be sutured up. Some of the larger injuries might also require a shunt allowing fluids to drain. The vet and her staff all seemed like good, competent people, so we headed for home without Eleanor.
A couple hours later there came news that Eleanor had to be placed under total anæsthesia in order to clean, drain, suture, and shunt all the various injuries. This meant she'd be spending the night at the emergency vet, though someone would have to pick her up before 8am, when the place would be closing down for the day.
Meanwhile I'd gone out to Dug Hill Road to do some crime scene forensics. Using a flashlight, I found a few splotches of blood about 50 feet downhill from our driveway. Already a cricket had found the blood and had begun lapping it up. The blood provided a good sense of where the fight had taken place, so then I began looking for other evidence, particularly hair. Eventually I found a tuft of yellowish-silvery hair that didn't belong to Eleanor and wouldn't have belonged to either a bear or a raccoon. It could have conceivably come from a local domestic dogs, though it could have also come from a coyote. Then again, its presence near the crime scene might have been a complete coincidence.
Eleanor is not shy about wild animals. She routinely chases cats, bears, fishers, porcupines, and other potentially dangerous animals. With the possible exception of porcupines, these animals always quickly run away or climb trees, and if there is any contact between Eleanor and a wild animal, the resulting injuries occur on her face or neck. So the fact that Eleanor was mostly attacked from behind suggests an animal that was pursuing her, perhaps after she'd done something to incite it. There aren't many creatures capabable of inflicting such injuries. The fact that all the injuries were bite wounds would elminiate bears and wild cats, which tend to inflict claw-based injuries that leave lacerations. So our best guess for Eleanor's attacker is a lone coyote.
Possibly the fur from Eleanor's attacker.
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