Just a quick post to let you all know our little squirrel gave up his fight over the weekend. After surviving a hawk and a fall from his nest, it seems he most likely wasn’t able to fight off a deep infection from the wound, something we couldn’t see with the naked eye. We even went back and found his nest, torn apart and abandoned, another sibling nearby whose demise was days sooner.
We tried to speculate on what happened, and oddly enough on Sunday I sat down to study one of my herbalism class DVD’s. Not 15 seconds after I started into it, herbalist Michael Moore started explaining how if you get a scratch on your arm, the lymph node further up the arm will fight off things such as a staph infection. It goes away and you never know you had it. If you don’t have a good immune system, the lymph will swell and eventually you can end up with blood poisoning and even die. Michael was talking about humans right then, but he sure answered my questions. We’d noticed the squirrel had swelling about an inch above the wounds. I wish I’d started him on echinacea right away, but I honestly didn’t think he’d make it as long as he did. Of course that hindsight is always 20/20.
When I was young and would lose an injured animal that somehow ended up in my care, I would be heartbroken and mourn the loss. Now I seem to have grown in my understanding of how nature works, and how it takes its course whether we intervene or not. I’m sad, I’ll admit. We only had him a week, and we were used to the squeaks he made when hungry, and it was quite an experience to be there the moment his eyes opened for the first time. We even discussed where we’d release him, how old he’d have to be, what he’d need to eat to get him strong, all in the hopes that he’d make it. But in the end I knew there was always that chance he wouldn’t hang around. I’m glad, all the same, that we gave it a try. Walking past him on the sidewalk last week wouldn’t have made any of us feel very good today. And I hope my son got to learn a lesson in the value of life, that no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, there’s something special there. Even in a little squirrel.
I swore I’d never do this again. Throughout my childhood and teen years, it seemed like clockwork: Spring came and I rescued a baby animal or injured critter, which would eventually die, leaving me in tears. I said last year I was NOT having anything to do with that baby robin. If he wanted to jump featherless out of the darned tree every morning, then let nature take his course. I didn’t mean to name him Geronimo and get all attached like that. So yesterday afternoon when we found a baby squirrel on the sidewalk (another jumper), I told my husband it was very sad for little squirrel, but he’ll probably not make it. “Let’s keep going.” Cold? Callous? I don’t really know. The squirrel’s nest was so far up the tree that I knew this tiny thing whose eyes were still closed, ears pinned to the sides of his head, probably wouldn’t stand a chance. He was making hungry grunting sounds and I honestly thought he was in his last moments. But my husband couldn’t leave him. He started asking what one would feed it, and how one would care for it, and what one would let a baby squirrel sleep in.
We carried it home in my son’s Pooh hat.
I said I wouldn’t get attached. I said it could sleep in a box in the garage. Somehow the little bugger ended up sleeping in our living room in a plastic container, lined with torn paper and a thin baby blanket. And miraculously he not only made it through the night, he seems to be gaining strength. His paw, which seemed to be pretty badly damaged last night, looks to be just fine now. He’s gained a good amount of energy, and although he spends most of his time sleeping snuggled against a stuffed sock, when he is awake he’s kinda – well, squirrely.
I don’t know what we’ll do with him if he survives. After all, squirrels don’t mix well with mini dachshunds or little boys. We do have a nature center nearby, and I know they deal with rescued animals. So if the little guy manages to grow and thrive, then I imagine we’ll take him there. Since I myself have never been a squirrel, I don’t know how to teach him to be one. And I know the nature center has its resources. They’ve had a one-winged, one-eyed owl for years, so I imagine they wouldn’t mind having a squirrel with a limp.
In the meantime I’ll try not to get attached, but he does require regular feedings, and gosh darn he sure looks cute sleeping next to my sock…