Once upon a time, this aunt & uncle were hiking in the Virginia woods near our house and witnessed a tiny baby squirrel fall from its nest high above…when they examined it…’twas still alive!…and picking it up found it was nearly hairless…they knew it would not survive…so in the coat pocket it went.
After the hike, they brought this baby squirrel to our house and gave it to me. The first thing I did was name this teensy-tiny baby squirrel… PeeWee. He was smaller than my pinky finger! So small in fact, that they warned me he may not live… Weak from that huge fall, practically hairless, so tiny… I knew the odds were not in his favor…. Just the same, ….fixed a shoe box nest for PeeWee with scraps of fabric, old socks… Whatever I found in Mom’s “rag bag” of sewing leftovers. Fed PeeWee warm milk….. one-drop-at-a-time from an old eye dropper…. As many times a day as he would eat…. I kept his nest in my room… He eventually grew hair and I tried feeding him all sorts of things.
PeeWee was cute, cuddly, but not very trainable… plus he had sharp claws that dug in when you let him sit on your shoulder (or head, only tried that once…ouch!)…… The shoulder sitting was a more tolerable perch for PeeWee. As he grew, I was thinking of keeping him on the back porch instead of in my room… Cause he’d long outgrown that shoebox. Looking back I’m surprised that I kept him in my room as long as I did… Must’ve been attached to him…well, who wouldn’t be…
I never knew anyone with a pet squirrel.
Never heard of such a thing!
PeeWee was a curiosity for sure. So….
I asked my Dad what he suggested as a cage & place for me to keep PeeWee…. Dad offered to build PeeWee a cage attached to the front of the coal shed at the edge of our yard. He did just that….and it was awesome!…. The shed door had a small roof over it that also covered PeeWee’s new cage… Protecting from sun, rain, etc. …the cage itself was divided into 2 sections…the all wood nest section for sleeping & the open air other half …which was simply a wood frame with chicken wire…. A much better squirrel bathroom than me scooping pellets from a shoebox…that’s a fact. WOW, it was the perfect living space for PeeWee.
By now PeeWee is full grown…
I’d visit his cage at the shed on a daily basis…he’d sit on my shoulder & we’d play squirrel stuff… He like playing tickle with weeds & perching on my shoulder…but at full grown size those gripping feet/ claws were a bit too strong for my comfort.
One day PeeWee jumped off my shoulder and onto the ground…. And ran around a bit… Then a few beagles appeared outta nowhere … I’d forgotten Dad has a few dogs out running… I’d heard them barking as they do when running, but they were way away in the field and I clean forgot.
I panicked. Just knew they’d catch PeeWee… He’d only ever known a shoebox & that chicken wire cage…
He had no idea as to his danger….. I could not help him…
I could not outrun a beagle…..
Luckily PeeWee’s instincts took over & he headed for the nearest tree….and as quick as he could, climbed to the very top! I was both relieved and proud…. Ha, as happy as any squirrel mom, I reckon 😉 Unfortunately though, PeeWee must’ve been traumatized by the beagle chase… Cause no amount of coaxing with treats or anything would make him budge from that tree… The tree wasn’t very tall…a fairly young tree that had limbs too small for me to climb….so now that the beagles were put back in their lot… I had to figure out a way to get PeeWee down from that tree &back in his cage. I felt sorry for PeeWee always living in a cage …and knew at some point he belonged back in the woods. However, the narrow escape I’d just witnessed convinced me he wasn’t ready for the wild… I wasn’t ready for him to take that step just yet. I knew PeeWee hated water… found that out when I tried to give him a bath as a baby…..thus, I retrieved PeeWee from the tree by using the garden hose with the nozzle on full force….
Poor PeeWee… He looked like a drowning rat …totally drenched as he climbed down that tree…
If I took the stream off him, then he started to climb upwards …so feeling like a mean jerk I had to hold that stream in such a way to keep him moving down the tree… When he reached the lowest branch,….he just sat there dripping, & staring at me …looked like he was thinking “how could you?” I’ll never forget that look on his face… I know I was thinking the exact same thing…. geez, what did I expect? Did I expect him to jump on me …on my shoulder…with his happy face like he does when I open his cage door? It was that look on his face that convinced me that PeeWee was ready to live in the woods on his own…. Plus, his jumping off my shoulder could have been his signal that he’s ready to leave the nest. I felt we’d both had enough excitement for one day… So I took PeeWee to his shed-cage for a good night’s rest.
I don’t recall how many day’s rest I figured would give him the best chance…but it was only a few days after the beagle incident when I took PeeWee out of his cage for the last time…. Took him thru the pasture gate at the shed…
Down the hill… past the apple trees, to the edge of the woods… way away from the dog kennel… so they’d not get a single whiff of PeeWee….
I kissed PeeWee good-bye and placed him on the ground ….
He looked at me knowingly with his happy face & scampered into the woods.
Of course, I’d be lying if I said I was not sad to see him go….I knew I’d miss him…. BUT….
I was so very happy for PeeWee.
Happy that he was off to new adventures, to live his life as a squirrel should. Felt so thankful that I was a part of PeeWee’s journey. My aunt & uncle saved his life that day.
I was forever grateful that they brought PeeWee to me. He was a challenging pet at times but overall a truly wonderful creature to befriend. And so, ….As you might imagine….
At every squirrel sighting, I cringe every time I hear someone say, in that stupid tone…
“A squirrel is just a rat with a bigger tail.”
Luckily, to offset that statement my Aussie husband would say, in delight…..
“Aren’t squirrels just the cutest, most fascinating little creatures?!”
…because he’d never seen a squirrel before… Apparently his home country is without native squirrels! Naturally, I replied to my husband…. Man, you are not gonna believe this… but I’ve got a pet squirrel story for you! 🙂 ☁♫♪☼☾☆