Our Miss Lucy
This was Lucy's expression for most of her waking hours. So inquisitive, enthusiastic (hah, more like hyper-active), very intelligent, overly sensitive, and, at times, so very shy.
Don't let the photo fool you. This was taken when she was a relatively small pup. She would stand up with paws on my leg and her head just came up to my knee.
We were sitting at the table watching tv. Directly across the room, there was a mirror hanging on the wall just above the back of the couch. Lucy had been asleep on the couch and decided to explore when she woke up. She was standing with her front paws up on the back of the couch when she discovered.....the mirror.
After huffing at herself, my husband decided he'd have some fun. With his arm stretched way out to the right, he did the "pac man" bit with his hand. Lucy's head turned quickly to follow the motion. The closer it came, the more engaged she seemed. When that hand got to her head, Lucy ducked ever so quickly and then popped back up to see where it had gone. This was just one of those precious moments I hope I never forget. Ahh, had we owned a video camera at the time, we might have had $100,000 to put in the bank.
Oh, those ears......they did stand up before she was a year old.
Blue, the mother raccoon, kept a good eye on her three little ones. I named them Sky, Moon, and Danny. From time to time she'd hear a distress call from one of them, Danny. Ah yes, poor Danny, the little darling was either too busy eating sunflower seeds or napping to pay attention. (how about Dumb Danny) I must admit he was slightly more than pitiful when he realized they'd left without him. I'd try to console him until Blue returned. A few times Sky or Moon were sent to retrieve him and you can imagine what went through their heads.
One day Danny woke up from a nap in the crowded food court and realized his family was gone. He was near a pile of sunflower seeds, screaming at anyone who came near. Sorry
folks, but this was not normal. My immediate thought was that he might be injured and fortunately I was wrong.
Little Danny was truly distressed and I could see it in his eyes as I approached. Oh my, it's so hard to console a young wild animal when you can't pick them up. I told him everything would be okay, then stood back to see what would happen next.
Bronson (mother) & Baxter (daughter) were at the larger picnic table chowing down. Baxter, being an only child, was often seen playing with the other little ones. She truly seemed concerned when Danny walked away from everyone & layed down with his head resting on his front feet. Baxter would chew a few seeds, look over at Danny, eat a few more seeds, and look over at Danny. All of a sudden Baxter walked over to Danny, got nose to nose without incident, then returned to the picnic table. Bronson soon got up to leave and Baxter followed a few seconds later. Oops, let's not forget that Baxter walked over to Danny, delivered a much needed hug, and all three went up the sweet gum tree for an afternoon nap.
Later that afternoon Danny's family returned, they were reunited once again, and the cycle
Squirrely came to visit us one windy spring Saturday morning. He was a newborn grey squirrel, hairless and blind, who was somehow ejected from his nest. He landed in our backyard, right on the lawn, a visitor from another world. He could not yet walk. It was 1976.
Squirrely, so named by our children a few days later, was picked up and brought into the house, the vet was called, and every attempt was made to give him back to his rightful mother. He wasn't capable of eating, so we placed him at the foot of the tree we thought he came from (a stand of firs and elms) and we waited. We never saw his mother.
Our vet warned us of our fate (little did we realize what we were in for!) He explained that the mother squirrel does not pick up her young like a cat and, that unless we were prepared to rescue him ourselves, come nightfall we might as well give him up for lost. He assured us that squirrels were not rabies carriers, that they couldn't even infect them when they tried on purpose in a laboratory setting.
My wife, our two young boys, and I decided to fo for it. I remember going to the vet's to get "wild animal formula" and a tiny baby bottle. Our vet's name was Charlie Brown, like the cartoon, and I vaguely remember him laughing at us.
When I got back, we went into the backyard where Squirrely was lying, and my wife held the little bottle along side his face. He was making barely audible peeping noises and I new he was starving. But just as she'd suspected, the little bottle's nipple was bigger than his whole head.
My sons and I were dispatched to the local five and ten (also known as a dimestore) in search of an even smaller baby bottle. We were led to the dollhouse and doll section. There, in a little plastic wrapped box was a set of four tiny baby doll things. One of them was a miniature baby bottle! It had a rubber nipple but there wasn't a hole in it.
When we got home, we pierced it with a red hot needle. By that time it was getting along in the day and no mother squirrel had appeared. We were going to wait until dark but I knew as soon as we got some of that formula into that little bottle, my wife was ready to start the feeding. (Maternal instinct, you know.)
What happened in the next few days I can't remember, except for my turns feeding. Squirrely fit right in the center of the palm of your hand, like a tiny mouse and sucking on that absurd little baby bottle which couldn't have been more than an inch and a half long. He'd go through bottle after bottle of formula.
In a few weeks he graduated to the vet's bottle and in a few more weeks he began to eat dry food. It wasn't long before squirrely's instincts for his natural diet took over, and soon our house was the nut capital of the county! More about that later.
Squirrely was an acrobat from a young age. His little feet were very sure and his perch of choice was on a family member's shoulder. It was the only place he wanted to be and he was so happy there. He learned early on to make the trip around the back of our necks, from one shoulder to the other. (He used to go over our heads)
I believe he used our necks like the trunk of a tree. Have you noticed how squirrels circle a tree trunk, always keep it between you and them? I imagine it's a kind of hiding place or defense mechanism. Well, Squirrely was always going back & forth from one shoulder to the other and nuzzling in at the nape of your neck.
Soon his acrobatics were all over the house and what a wonder to behold. From bed to chair, chair to bureau, and up to the top of the closet door! During those first few months he really stayed close to home. He was a jittery, jumpy little thing.......well, he was squirrely!
As soon as he got back up alongside your neck, he was calm and would nibble at your earlobe.
He was closest to Dell, my wife. I believe he had adopted her as his mother because at night, he slept in her hair. He'd jump on our bed, find a place in her long hair (usually near her neck) and go to sleep. If I'm not mistaken, he did this every night until the early autumn when he returned to the wild to build a nest of his own.
His tiny dark droppings were very dry, pellet like and no problem to pick up. He deposited them indiscriminately like a rabbit, but never on the bed. Somehow he knew that was OUR nest.
Of course, our boys were very proud of him. They played with him every day. That was when he wasn't pestering the dog or the cats. If he could have pestered the goldfish, he would have. Squirrely was anything but shy!
Inside was one thing and outside was another matter. As he got older, we tried to coax him into the trees time after time. We knew from his household acrobatics that it wasn't a question of skill. Once through the front or back door, it was up on the shoulder and hug that neck. He was scared to death of the great outdoors.
I would take him out in the front yard, on my shoulder, where a busy street passed our house. He was terrified of the vehicles and I was trying to get him used to the sound. As soon as a car would approach, he's leap to the ground and hightail it back onto the screened porch.
About the third time I tried this I'd taken him down to the front sidewalk and and sat on the little retaining wall, talking to him all along. Success at last!! He was scampering down the sidewalk and jumping off the retaining wall. That is until a big, noisy truck came around the corner. Squirrely froze in his tracks, looked wildly about for refuge, and, upon seeing an approaching pair of human legs, leapt toward safety. To Squirrely, all humans were the same and equally accepted. This included all our friends and our children's friends.
So the neighborhood postman was considered safe harbor and Squirrely ran up his leg. You have never seen a postman dance like this one. He never saw me sitting nearby, watching. He was screaming, flinging his bag about. The postman ran up on our lawn, reaching wildly behind for the frenzied beast that was only trying to get a firm foothold at his neck. I guess that wild chirping noises coming from the squirrel didn't help matters much. At last, Squirrely jumped off and ran toward the house. I decided I'd better do the same.
Well, some folks are just plain scared of wild animals, especially rodent-like ones. (Squirrels actually belong to the family Scurida and are not related to mice and rats) One of these turned out to be the husband of my wife's friend. He was a karate teacher and known to be quite the tough guy.
As I remember the visit started well enough. We were outside and Squirrely was inside. At some point, Squirrely came dancing through, running up and down everyone's legs and backs, checking everything out. (he'd never scratched anyone, even by accident) Well, the dance of the katate teacher was worse than the postman's. I remember he turned quite pale and left shortly thereafter on his wife's arm. He was visibly shaken.
Everyone knows that wild animals may be fine as youngsters, but watch out when adolescence hits. Raccoons begin to bite, monkeys can turn viscious, and so on. To Squirrely's credit, he never scratched anyone, but his sense of his teeth became more and more acute, and he began to bite down harder on your finger or ear. He did know exactly how much pressure would break the skin but he never did. Soon he began to show signs. When he bit down, he was telling you something.
As the weather turned, Squirrely came home less and less. At some point he began to spend his nights in the trees but still came to take nuts during the day. We left the windows opened for him but soon he was only taking nuts from the bowl on the screened porch. I would sit out there after work and wait for his appearance. He would come every day but soon he spent little time with me.
When he was younger, his features were unique and he didn't look like other squirrels. But as he matured, his face got more and more of a "regular squirrel" look. We could no longer look closely at his eyes and recognize him.
The last time I knowing saw him was on the screened porch. His nut bowl was full and hadn't been touched for days. (he'd discovered all that food out there, free for the taking) Squirrely hopped up on the porch edge and perched by the bowl. He looked down at the nuts then looked up at me. With a quizical look, he cocked his head, and, without a single nut, ran away.
I have often wondered if he was saying something or sending me a message of sorts, a kind of last goodbye. Would that little cocking of the head been the same if he'd grown up wild? Return to his old nest, look at his parents, cock his head as if to say "I am grown", and leave forever.
Afterwards we would walk along the front sidewalk, stopping every time we saw a squirrel. We'd make absurd, plaintive noises which must have caused the neighbor's some anxiety. We knew Squirrely was one of them but which one? I knew, a few times, that I'd been near him but knew that he'd never again acknowledge us.
Twenty years later, our boys gone on to their own trees. Dell and I walk along looking ever so closely at the squirrels and wonder.
Dell and J.T. Winogrond
Here's another Squirrely moment told to me by J.T. To the best of my recollection, this is how it all went down.
Dell and J.T. were out in their yard watching Squirrely climbing in one of the huge fir trees. Next door was one of their neighbors, a seminarian, out in his backyard. Dell walked over to the tree and raised her arms. To quote J.T., "She sort of looked like St. Francis." The neighbor happened to glance over and see the squirrel come off the tree branch onto Dell's arm.
Before they knew it, he had come over the fence and almost knelt to the ground. He looked to J.T. and whispered, "How did she do that?"