06 October 2019
17 February 2017
The week started well for Rumor, the 5-year-old German shepherd anointed on Feb. 13 by the American Kennel Club as Westminster's Best in Show. Shepherds, known for their beauty, their heart, their loyalty -- and now their sense of chic, since this honor also fell during New York Fashion Week -- are also stalwart symbols of the Long Leash of the Law. As the K9 officers who serve beside them will attest, it takes a lot of work to best a German shepherd, especially in the field of law enforcement.
Enter Joey, all 2 pounds of him - and all squirrel.
Or let us say: enter Joey but break-and-enter a teenaged would-be burglar who found his way inside the home of Adam and Carmen Pearl in Meriden, Idaho. Joey apparently had been resting, as he often does, in his favorite hammock when the interloper loped in with serious theft on his mind.
Born to gather and cache nuts as his birthright and his privilege, Joey appears to equally respect and defend the right of Mr. and Mrs. Pearl to do the same -- whatever nuts may be of their choosing. And so the young fox squirrel sprang into action to defend his family's nut stash. He became airborne with such polished aim as to land directly on the burglar as the teen tried to crack - well, not a nut, but the family's safe.
Local media accounts say the acrobatic feat was sufficient to scare the miscreant off. The young suspect was later tracked down - though media reports don't say whether the arresting officers were humans or whether they called in their own German shepherds to sniff the suspect out.
Or perhaps this was a case for Secret Squirrel, Hanna Barbera's trenchcoat-clad sleuth?
This surely would have made one fine episode for that Sixties-era rodent spy. And this time the spotlight would have been only for Joey, the Pearl family's six-month-old backyard rescue -- anointed Best in Show after all.
22 February 2016
Euthanasia does not empower us to act as God but exhorts us to listen, simply as equals here on Earth, and to do the other's bidding with compassion and heart.
We take up this task, but it is not easy. And perhaps it is not so much a task but a trust.
Ultimately, it is not even a choice.
The wildlife rehabilitator's role is to facilitate healing. So often we fall short. We are, in the end, creatures helping fellow creatures - and nothing more. Nature is bigger and grander. Nature is more dispassionate.
And so, it is done. Not by salve or potion or healing touch, but it is done. His burden is lifted now.
I do not subscribe to the vision of Rainbow Bridge, but I do believe in the spirit. And in those moments as it left behind the body neither of us could restore, his spirit surely grew lighter.
26 May 2015
Ultimately, this is what it comes to: a reaching for the edge of the known universe, like Christopher Columbus dawning upon the new world.
But the world that greets this newly released squirrel is an old one. To him it is an ancient, familiar turf. The brown of his eyes, savoring their encounter with the wooded landscape, is the same hue as the forest floor. The woods, this squirrel -- the two are inextricable from one another's genes. He feels it: This was his world long before his eyelids even parted to welcome the sunlight, the same light that streams across his face now as he contemplates the changing edge of his known world.
In the parlance of wildlife rehabilitation, this is the process called "release." But that suggests an imprisonment, a holding against one's will. Though hand-rearing and captivity is the consequence of nature interrupted, not the natural order of things, the intervention provides a lifesaving grace, a second chance, a way back into the life that is written into their bones.
And so he reaches - first, for that formative touch of soil, then the fallen leaves and ultimately the trees. He steps forward. He steps back.
And then he turns his brown eyes away forever. He does not look back. He has sailed over the horizon, landing sure-footed on that distant continent.
10 March 2014
Adler's words serve as gentle propaganda to alert the masses of political overthrow proliferating on our lawns. Why else would his book feature an otherwise handsome visage of a squirrel, brazenly depicted on the front cover, depicting an unsuspecting Eastern Grey Squirrel as Snidely Whiplash, complete with bowler and moustache? This image is obviously PhotoShopped: no self-respecting squirrel would be caught in a bowler, and such stylized facial hair went out in the '60s.
The book's heart and soul, though, is the "101 Cunning Strategems" as its manifesto, many of which make an attempt to be cruelty-free. (The lack of a call for military intervention, by the way, is commendable - not just because most conflicts can, and should, be solved without militia and bloodshed, but because our nation's Department of Defense budget is already strained above its limits, and such open combat with the nation's rodentia has the potential to make the Crusades look like grade-school recess.) The squirrels would win, anyway.
Perhaps, though, if the word "war" is to be used at all in this context, it is best to invoke the image of the Cold War.
Indeed, in one chapter, "What to do if you think squirrels are cute," the author even offers a photo - no PhotoShopping here - of then-Soviet security chief Mikhail Dokuchayev feeding a squirrel on the lawn of the White House in 1988, at the time of Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev's visit. (No question about the symbolism here, even though none of the squirrels in our nation's capital are now - or have they ever been - Red squirrels.)
Smart thinking, Mr. Adler, for they are, even now, ascending the trees enroute to the American Presidency. The Revolution will not be stopped. (Besides, a squirrel statesman could do no more harm than the past few administrations.) Therefore, open your heart and the nut-filled palm of your hand and - to borrow a phrase from some old Sci-Fi classics - Take Us to Your Feeder.
28 January 2014
Punxsutawney Phil is not accepting PayPal, AmexGold or even plain hard (frozen hard) cash. With our own local New York groundhogs, it could be a different story: Malverne Mel may be malleable, Holbrook Hal may be hedgy and Staten Island Chuck may be swayed by New York City politics, but deep in the heart of rural Pennsylvania where Groundhog Day has its deepest roots, Phil’s going to tell it like it is. If he turns a cold shoulder to your misery, well, that’s his job.
What? You’d rather swap him out for Scrat, the prehistoric cartoon squirrel from the hit “Ice Age” films? After all, gregarious, undaunted Scrat not only could foresee the weather that lay ahead of the world, he then went out and actually caused it, and simply by pursuing the beloved acorn of his dreams, he changed the shape of entire continents.
You see, Phil is so downright upright that, even when he's curled up in happy hibernation 4 or 5 feet below, he's still a stand-up guy.
01 January 2014
Suddenly the treetops have become X-rated.
Suddenly you have to be 18 years of age -- or older -- for permission to feed the squirrels.
Suddenly the phrase, “Don’t touch my nuts,” takes on a whole new connotation.
Anyone looking to get a piece of tail -- even bushytail -- more efficiently than a treetop tryst should perhaps consider online dating.
As if these libidinous visuals weren't enough to contend with, the nonstop squeaking and grunting is enough to make the likes of Larry Flynt blush and send Linda Lovelace to a convent (behind a door of any color).
Admittedly, this is an annual bacchanalian ritual as necessary to squirrels as perhaps the Times Square Ball Drop is to some humans. But even this kind of ball action might have rendered the late Guy Lombardo and Dick Clark speechless.
Remember, dearest rodents: Yes, this is a time of renewal. But the watchwords of the new year have usually been: NEW YEAR, NEW SQUIRREL.
Translated loosely, that means: BE a new squirrel. Not necessarily MAKE a new squirrel.
29 December 2013
Police: Woman stabbed man with ceramic squirrel
It seems, friends, the secret is out: Squirrels are, indeed, lethal weapons. In fact, now it is only a matter of time before the U.S. Bureau of Tobacco, Alcohol and Firearms will require squirrels to register their incisors, claws and other body parts. They will be heavily taxed for possessing them and then will have to cough up the acorns annually for renewing the annual permits. Even their bushy tail, by no stretch of the imagination, might qualify as "camouflage" - another tool of battle - falling under the same weaponry regulations, particularly in times of war.
In this one case, the battlefield was confined to the couple's South Carolina home where, according to police quoted in the local news report, the wife, upon discovering her husband had failed to bring home beer on his shopping trip, "hit the victim over the head with a ceramic squirrel, and stabbed him in the inventory of Bud Light and had sent her husband out in search of a few refills. What role the squirrel had in all this remains for the Grand Jury to determine).
Although no live squirrels were implicated as accessories, wild woodland creatures will nonetheless be shocked to learn of the federal licensing process that may take effect, in a hastily drafted emergency resolution, on Jan. 1, 2014. Law-abiding citizens of the forest and the suburbs who have been squirrelling away their larder for the long winter may now find their nut stash depleted by hefty permit fees. And since this declaration comes at the start of breeding season in some parts of the country, it may also put a cork in some libidos, since squirrels will likely no longer be able to afford litters of 5 or 6. (Admittedly, the babies would be issued "learner's permits" since claws and teeth do not emerge until a few weeks after birth. But clearly the cost of raising a litter in this country will now rise exponentially, forcing some squirrels to rely even more on public handouts).
Squirrels haven't been so feared for their military savvy since the capture in 2007 on the Iranian border of 14 squirrels outfitted with espionage equipment. The squirrels were arrested and accused of spying for Western interests.
Consider this, friends. We may have to consider a stealth strategy from this point forward if we all want to keep our squirrelabilia collections and the squirrels want to keep their dignity and their families. We may all end up having to join the underground.
Toward that end, hope is barely more than a month away: On Groundhog Day, all eyes will be on the king of that underground. We may find a ringleader in Punxsutawney Phil. When it comes to the threat of being shadowed, Phil's the pro we need.
19 December 2013
We're not talking red-suited corpulent elf, the cold-weather one-day-a-year laborer who, during the rest of the year, is the biggest slacker on the planet. The nation has so many of those, anyway, it's impossible NOT to believe.
No, this Santa is diminutive, gray-suited and only a wee bit elfin. He's a nut-hoarding, tree-climbing, butt-shaking, tooth-chattering, foot-stomping Santa.
OK, so he's a squirrel. But he's still Santa.
Santa, who carried no luggage with him, wanted what was in our sack instead: Pecans, on this particular day. He showed up the next day wanting what was in our sack again: Almonds, this time, were the nuts du jour. There was no red cap on his head, but below his chin, and just above his chest, was the slightest suggestion of beard: White, fluffy and oh-so-jolly.
Fortunately, Santa stayed away from our chimney and fireplace. There is an animal cap up there anyway, so it's Santa-proofed for Santas of every size, shape and species. Besides, chestnuts roasting on an open fire didn't fit his agenda.
Now dash away, dash away, dash away home - at least until tomorrow.
30 October 2013
That's right: Starbucks is channeling its inner rodent. Something positively bushytailed, and unquestionably bright-eyed, has been happening at baristas' drive-through windows around the region - perhaps the country: Motorists are pulling up to take delivery of their orders and discovering that the previous driver has already paid their tab. Inspired to reciprocity, these drivers are, in turn, extending the same courtesy to the car in line behind them.
They are paying it forward by paying it backward.
Starbucks customers are simply discovering the selfless gesture that squirrels have engaged in for millenia: If you bury a small acorn and then walk away, it will still have been a worthwhile effort, because someone is bound to come along, dig it up and enjoy it. (Smartypants that they are, squirrels are also wise to the fact that it is easier to unearth a well-buried seed of an oak tree than to try and excavate a Mocha Frappuccino Grande decked in whipped cream. With all that dirt flying, there's always the risk of ending up with too much ground in one's grounds.)
Think of this Starbucks phenomenon, then, as humans learning to Pay the Acorn Forward; the hazelnut here may be the flavor of a hand-crafted, blended Frappuccino beverage in a tall glass instead but what's going on here still constitutes the seed of a grand idea. Though squirrels rarely enjoy a reputation for altruistic acts, and even less of a reputation for being baristas with a social conscience, the fact remains that most nuts buried by one squirrel have a pretty decent chance of being consumed by another. Or, if left untouched for an extended period of time, those nuts producing an even greater gift to the world: a forest!
Who says squirrels don't have a giving spirit?
So let the Starbucks customers continue to dig down deep - into their pockets as well as their hearts - and unearth the kernel of kindness, Squirrel Style. It seems the idea isn't nuts, after all.
15 October 2013
Stubborn, indolent Democrats and Republicans who populate Congress have shown very little fruits for their equally paltry labors but a lively bipartisan bunch of eastern grays has been enjoying the best fruits of all – the Presidential tomatoes – straight off the Pennsylvania Avenue vine.
And it's all occurred while federally funded gardeners are furloughed, reaping only the worst of a bumper crop of shame. Since the start of the shutdown earlier this month, no one has been paid to clean up here, so Washington, D.C.’s squirrels, ever the patriots, have stepped up to the plate. And cleaned that plate well.
And all the while, Congress sits and vegetates.
A greater crisis looms, America, and it is a direct result of this horticultural coup d’etat: Consider the now-looming threat of squirrel obesity facing our nation as this Harvest Without End continues, and will continue ad infinitum, until Congress takes some action to end it along with the shutdown.
The squirrels will not stop until they press some gnawing sense of reality into our lawmakers. We can be sure of it. Because once the White House garden is finally devoid of anything but remnants of the fertilizer so pervasive throughout our nation's capital, the squirrels will discover they are, sadly, no different from most American citizens:
Completely fed up.
07 September 2013
Sadly the squirrels never trademarked those early rodent gyrations or hired an agent or even an entertainment lawyer, or they wouldn't still be in the parks today, begging for handouts. The squirrels would OWN
Tooth-twerking is hot - but it's not easy on the incisors.
Still, at least the end result is something tangible. Or, more accurately, edible. Squirrels have actually transformed twerking into an agribusiness, and they are the captains of their industry. Where music once celebrated the Sultans of Swing, rodentdom pays homage to these Titans of Twerk.
As for the humans still mindlessly grinding away at it, the old-fashioned way - just remember that in the squirrels' eyes, this form of the twerk has simply bottomed out.