Friday, January 25, 2008

Meme #4: I Slept In My Car With A Squirrel

Earlier this week I was tagged with my first meme: "Share 7 random and/or weird things about yourself." This is a further explanation of #4 on my list.

My friend's suggestion:
"You slept in your car with a squirrel."

Several years ago, as I was walking to my car, I passed a squirrel who was lunging at people. I originally thought he knew the woman he was lunging at because she seemed fairly calm and was laughing about it (nervous laughter). But it turned out that, luckily, although she'd never seen this squirrel, she wasn't afraid of him and that's why she hadn't hit him over the head with a shovel!

A small crowd gathered and I realized that this was going to be one dead squirrel if it kept "attacking" people desperately trying to get someone's attention. He wasn't trying to hurt or bite her, but the way he was relentlessly lunging and clinging to people, somebody was going to panic and kill it. He looked young. Maybe about half the size of a full grown squirrel. I hate taking animals out of their regular environment and away from their families, but even if this one's mother was still around, she clearly hadn't been able to care for him effectively. Squirrels behave this way when they're starving.

I told the crowd that if someone could find me a box or a sturdy bag I'd take him to a wildlife rehabilitator, but it had to be something that could be secured properly because I couldn't risk him getting loose in the car while I was driving. Finally it occurred to me to empty the contents of my knapsack into an empty plastic bag that someone had, and put the squirrel in my knapsack -which could be closed securely. We lured him in with food, closed the bag, and I started calling the wildlife rehabbers I knew.

I found a local rehabber that wasn't too far, but she couldn't take him until the following day. I was away from home, staying with a relative that week, and they made it very clear that there was no way in *&^%$#@! I was bringing a squirrel into their house. I told them it would be in a temporary cage and/or carrier and would be 100% secure. They still refused.

I drove to a friend's house who I knew had some spare cages and other supplies I could use for the night. They wouldn't let me bring the squirrel in either, but in their case it was because they'd had a squirrel infestation in their attic that they'd finally managed to control, and they were afraid to let the "scent of squirrel" anywhere near the insides of their house! But they did suggested that if I wasn't going to separate myself from the squirrel for the night (and they knew I wouldn't!), I could at least park in their driveway so I could use their bathroom if needed.

So that's what I did. I set the squirrel up in a cage with food and water, secured the cage with external clips, covered it with a towel, and slept in the car with the squirrel until I could take it to the rehabber the next day. Throughout the night I could hear him eating (best sound in the world) and could see him breathing through the rise and fall of my knapsack in the cage.

When the rehabber got "Jonesy" (her name for him, since he'd been found near Jones Beach) she said I'd been 100% right about him being young and starving, and she agreed that he would have died or been killed by someone if I'd left him there. I always have this moment with new rehabbers (new to me, not new to their jobs) where they question whether or not I know when to take and when to leave an animal, and whether or not they can trust my assessment of what's going on. The faster I can get past that stage with them the better.

"Jonesy" improved and was socialized into another group of squirrels she had (This rehabber specialized in squirrels). I met with her a month later and he was still doing well. As far as I know, his group was re-released into the wild several months later.



Vanessa said...

I've been waiting to hear this story. I love animals so much, this sounds like something I would have done. Once I broke my ankle and on the way to the ER two dogs were loose in a very busy intersection of town. I made my friend stop and pick up the dogs, we waited for animal rescue from the no kill shelter to come meet us which took an hour before we continued on to the emergency room for my ankle. Totally worth it, had those dogs been hit by a car, I would have wanted to die.

I applaud your squirrel saving efforts and hope it wasn't cold that night.

Kendra said...

That is sooo uniquely cool!!! I was hoping you'd do this one next.

I grew up with my brother having a flying squirrel in his room. He rescued it..or says he did...and eventually re-released it. Yeah..he named it

Nora Bee said...

My faith in the human spirit restored for one more day, thank you. I love people who are kind to animals.

Mac and Cheese said...

...and doesn't everyone know at least several animal rehabbers? Cool story.

Rebecca said...

mac and cheese, :-) I do know several animal rehabbers... :-D I worked as an educator for the Cleve. Mus. of Natural History (they take some animals) and as a naturalist a county park system east of Cleveland (which has a rehab prog.), and a few other local rehab organizations. I even took some of the animals home, as there are no overnight caretakers for these animals. My self-imposed restriction was to take only mammals, though occasionally I would take birds.

Melissa, I love your devotion. This is a wonderful story. I'm proud to call you Friend. Vanessa, you are also very generous, and I think you are my new hero! Both of you are highly compassionate and honorable humans. That's a rare thing to find. Many blessings!

Melissa said...

Vanessa: I like your priorities :) I'm glad you stopped to save those dogs.

Re: it being cold that night, it wasn't, but I did have a "sleep in my car overnight" situation once where it was 15 degrees and super windy. I even felt the car lift a little off the ground a few times and thought I might get blown over a guard rail and onto the highway. So "been there done that" ;) Luckily I had blankets and was ok as long as I kept my head covered.

Kendra: I know a couple of you were waiting for this one. Glad you like it :)

Nora and Rebecca: Thank you both so much for your kind words.

Mac: Lol! When you live my life, you get to know them! I keep a low profile re: animals, but sometimes God or "The Universe" or "whatever" clearly leaves them for ME. Puts them right smack in my path and NOBODY elses. Not a few feet away where I would have missed them but RIGHT THERE. A rehabber, in trying to convince me to get licensed, once said to me "Maybe the universe is trying to tell you something." I told her "Yes it is. It's telling me to pick up these animals and bring them to YOU!" ;)