This Best of Bogue column originally was published Sept. 3, 2004.
Dear Gary: In one of your columns a reader wanted to know where all the squirrels had gone. I can tell her. They are right here in my yard.
Word has gone out about the fine dining available here and the squirrel-friendly atmosphere, but that may change with the arrival of our new dachshund.
Judging from the acorn crop, the heaviest I can remember, it will be an early, long and hard winter. Our gray fox squirrel is busy in the morning with repeated trips over the roof to plant acorns in the front yard.
In the evening he is doing the same in the backyard. The other squirrels are just as busy. They are a kick to watch as they push an acorn down into the grass, pat it down, and carefully cover it with a leaf.
We have two hawks -- a red-tail and a either a sharp-shinned or Cooper's -- that regularly cruise our neighborhood, dining on squirrel and grain-fed dove, a hawk delicacy.
We have seen quite a number of squirrels over the years that have survived close encounters, probably with hawks. The scars have made them clearly identifiable and some of them have become quite tame.
Our squirrel and bird food bill might strain the budget, but we sure do enjoy them.
Dear Colton: So you have all those missing squirrels. Aren't you the lucky one.
I've always wondered if heavy acorn crops are really predictors of early, hard winters, or if that is just another one of those wayward urban myths. All those acorns could just as easily be a product of timely spring and summer rains that may have nothing to do with winter.
This is interesting. The way your squirrels "bury" their acorns by pushing them deep down into the lawn and covering them with leaves is the same way my backyard scrub jays, the Blue Brothers, hide their nuts.
Sounds like they all are reading from the same instruction manual.
Hawks probably contributed to most of the scarring on your squirrels, but don't forget cats. They also chase down and kill a lot of squirrels.
Dear Gary: A long time ago I had a brown tabby that was famous around town as a most intelligent and dexterous cat. Poldark could undo a hook-and-loop door fastener, turn a window latch, and even manipulate a doorknob if necessary to get into the house.
I never had another cat like him -- until now.
We have another brown tabby who has just succeeded in unlatching the carport. Do you suppose there is something in the tabby gene that makes them smart and nimble?
Dear Emily: Actually, I think it has to do with cats in general. They're all smart and nimble in their own devious feline ways, and that's what makes them popular animal companions.
Everyone who has ever had a cat has at least one story about a diabolically clever or unbelievably dexterous action it once performed.
Some cats are obviously a lot sharper than others. Not many cats can flip open a door fastener or turn a doorknob to get into the house like your Poldark. But I'll bet your letter generates a batch of clever kitty stories.
And then there's my doofus cat, Newman, who's not even sure what a door is used for.
Gary Bogue has retired after 42 years of writing this column. If you have animal-related questions, contact Joan Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.