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Chipmunks, dogs and shopping carts: Delving into the reader mail bag


I couldn’t resist an e-mail that came with the subject heading “A Chipmunk Saved My Life.” I imagined a chipmunk surgeon repairing a torn aorta or perhaps a chipmunk good Samaritan pushing a person out of the path of a speeding bus.

In Susan Trout’s case, it was closer to the latter than the former.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

Susan was late for work one morning. In her haste, she sped down the Rosslyn ramp that merges with Route 50 on the way to the George Washington Parkway.

“Suddenly, just as I was about to merge onto the highway, I saw a chipmunk running, crossing the road in front of me,” Susan wrote. “I screeched to a halt — I brake for animals — just as a huge truck zoomed past me at the exact moment I would have merged onto the highway. My car shook from the rumble of the truck at the same time that I screamed at the chipmunk, ‘Get back where you belong!’ ”

The chipmunk did just that, scampering to safety.

Susan feels that if it weren’t for the chipmunk, she would have been fatally T-boned.

It was probably a lucky coincidence. Or perhaps it’s just the start of a chipmunk campaign to make up for all those deer who launch themselves into our vehicles.

Dog years

While we’re on the subject of animals, some readers may wonder what ex-junkie panhandler Glen Hilbrand should have done when he discovered a dead dog in the road in Arlington, the subject of my columns last week.

Glen himself wonders. He suggested I find out (and, as is Glen’s style, he used very colorful language to encourage me).

Kerry McKeel of the Animal Welfare League of Arlington said you should call your local animal control department. The reason is twofold: The animal may have rabies and handling it could be dangerous. Also, authorities will collect the body to see if it matches any reports of missing pets.

The dog in question — an elderly miniature schnauzer named Ms. Winter — had wandered away from home. Reader Ed Druy said his miniature schnauzer, Huff, occasionally does the same thing.

Ed’s house backs up to a golf course in Fort Washington. “The golf course offers many opportunities for our schnauzer to schmooze with the golfers,” Ed wrote. “Unfortunately, they don’t appreciate his attention.”

It used to be that when Huff escaped he would eventually be found by neighbors or make his way home on his own. But now the pooch wears a GPS unit on his collar. It’s called a Tagg. Users can set it up to send an e-mail or text should the canine leave his designated zone. And if your dog bolts, you can use a computer or smartphone to see where he is — or at least where his collar is. It costs about $100, plus $8 a month for the service.

Ed says he has no connection to the company and is just a satisfied customer. “It is a game changer for anyone with animals who are escape artists,” he wrote.

I suppose before long, we’ll all be equipped with such devices and the world will have lost a little more mystery.

Be happy

Now seems an appropriate time to let Leslie Regan of McLean share one of the little things that make her happy: “Everything about dogs,” she wrote.

Everything? Can you narrow that down a bit, Leslie?

“Especially when they are being walked,” she elaborated. “They look like they are performing the most important job in the world.”

Hold on

So: Walking dogs = happy. What about shopping carts left in parking lots? I always thought that was a no-no. Then I heard from Harley Chappell.

“As a disabled person I look for them near the handicapped parking areas to use them as support — like a walker — to cross the long auto lanes to get access to the store,” he wrote.

That seems an odd use for a cart, but whatever.

Harley continued: “What is distressing is the number of drivers who whiz by me and the cart as I try my hardest to reach the store quickly. Some charmers have even blown their horns at me to hurry up, but that has only happened in Bethesda, ‘the land of the over-entitled.’ ”

Now, now.

Blowing smoke

A clarification: In a June column, I implied that the Anaconda, Mont., smokestack — taller even than the Washington Monument — was part of the Anaconda Copper Mine. In fact, it was part of the smelter.

For previous columns, visit

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