25 March 2008

Why does no one take notice?

Pulling out of the driveway this morning to run an errand, I saw the very thing I dread whenever I am behind the wheel: Some motorist had struck a squirrel on our quiet street, probably within the hour, and left him to die.

How could no one have noticed?

This is a residential area, not a lot of traffic, and rarely is there a need for excessive speed. This squirrel no doubt was among many we had fed just a few hours earlier at our back door. I have no doubt he was a regular feeder in our yard.

How can someone hit an animal like this and not have noticed? How could someone not have stopped?

And so I came upon his body, just as I was about to pull my own car out of the driveway, and ran to get him out of the middle of the road, where he had died. He was still bleeding despite the life that had already left him. It is a quiet street, there is not a lot of activity and yet, no one noticed. Or if they did notice, they didn't seem to care.

A man driving an SUV suddenly rounded the corner and was bearing down on the both of us as I knelt in the street by the body. I wrapped the squirrel gently and stood up, holding his little body high, and in the direction of the SUV, so the driver could see what I had just recovered from the road. The vehicle was marked with the insignia of the local volunteer fire company - many firefighters, I am sorry to say, often come barreling through our streets even when no alarm call has gone out.

The man shot me a very indifferent look. Who knows, it could even have been his own car that, moments earlier, struck this squirrel.

True, this was a small moment in an otherwise large and busy day and most people would not bother to stop for a small dead squirrel in the road, as I did.

And that is OK. I would much prefer, if next time, they stopped - and took notice - to keep more of them alive.

16 March 2008

Squirrel for a day

American TV used to have a show in the early 60s called "Queen for a Day." Its popularity was drawn from its ability to tug at, if not completely unravel, the public's heartstrings. Women would appear on camera and go head-to-head (or tearduct-to-tearduct) with heart-wrenching stories of personal difficulty, and the one who left viewers drenched in the highest possible ophthalmic tsunami would wear the crown and carry off the financial bounty to help solve her considerable woes.

Now we have Squirrel for a Day. At least two news items in the past week have placed people nicknamed "Squirrel" on opposite ends of the popularity spectrum: From Middlesboro, Tennessee comes news of the death of David "Squirrel" Newton Cardwell, a Vietnam vet, proud father, avid golfer and obviously someone who - as his newspaper obituary states - was beloved for his sense of humor. We have no clue as to why he was called "Squirrel" but it is obviously a term bestowed with great affection for a man who will be missed within his circle of family and friends.

At the other end of the bushytail is news of the arrest, reported in Idaho media, of "Earl the Squirrel," a fugitive from Oregon. Unlike the Tennessee "Squirrel," Earl Leslie Wayland Jr. is very much alive and was wanted on felony warrants for what is described as a "one man crime spree" that included burglary and battery. It is doubtful that this "Squirrel" monicker was given by an adoring public, circle of friends or even law-enforcement authorities.

Clearly, squirreldom is in the eyes of the beholder, depending on how you feel about rodentia and the derivatives thereof. I vote tonight for Cardwell's variety of the species, who tugs at my heartstrings, even with the little bit of information his newspaper obituary provided.

A life well lived, which was obviously true in his case, makes us all glad to be squirrels - if only for the day.

05 March 2008

Praise for the purple squirrel

Question: Why is this squirrel purple?

Answer (choose one):

1. Because he isn't ripe yet

2. Because his mother threw him in the laundry with all the purple T-shirts

3. Because he fell into a glass of merlot

4. Because he became a serial killer in a vineyard
5. Because Barney the Dinosaur sat on him.
Correct answer: None of the above (but nice try anyway)
A Purple Squirrel is a rare breed, a one-in-a-million job candidate - as I have learned from reading the blogs and web sites of several recruiters and employment specialists. Our company is downsizing and lots of folks are making every attempt to aspire to Purple Squirreldom.
A Purple Squirrel is the "PERFECT" candidate who fulfills all the qualifications that describe a job.
In short, a Purple Squirrel is a tough nut to crack. We should all try to become like the Purple Squirrel.

03 March 2008

Squirrels take Manhattan, and what a deal!

Mark Garvin, it seems, is the Donald Trump of New York City Squirrel Real Estate - except he is a most benevolent creator of high rises.
Garvin is also the Cecil B. DeMille of metropolitan planning - he does things in a big way.
He may also be the more mature Harry Potter of wildlife wizardry - he made something dazzling and wonderful happen instantly, and made so many people and animals happy.

Here is an Associated Press account that ran in the media recently. If I had Mark Garvin's e-mail address I would write him personally to thank him, and I'd urge all of you to do the same.

NYC Man Pays Hundreds for Squirrel Homes
NEW YORK (AP) — What may be the cheapest rooms in Manhattan are made especially for squirrels. A self-appointed protector of squirrels has paid to have soft-pine boxes made for the critters and had them placed in trees at City Hall Park.
Mark Garvin said he paid a "couple hundred dollars" to have each of the boxes made. The Parks Department installed three at the park.
Garvin, a biologist, said he and his wife appointed themselves caretakers of about 60 or so squirrels at the park after 9/11.
"That whole park was coated in white dust," he said. "The animals were dying over there, so that's when we really got determined."
The Parks Department also maintains refuges for squirrels at other city parks, as well as shelters for animals the agency deems important because they feed on pests.
Citywide Parks Ranger Capt. Richard Simon said squirrels have many uses.
"Old people like to feed them and the tourists like to see them," he said. "They're just very friendly, and they're cute."

01 March 2008

Fat city

And now, let us celebrate corpulence.

Our prime embodiment of Rodentian Avoirdupois, pictured here, is named Sumo. She appeared on our property in 1995 and was the first squirrel I had seen who possessed no neck. She was able-bodied, agile, and large in every way - including appetite. She is pictured here on a platform feeder where she would often enjoy a 12-course meal much in the style of Henry VIII.

Her lack of a well-defined neck in no way hampered her from bending down and touching her toes, and then touching any food strewn about those toes.

It is winter, and the temperatures have suddenly reaffirmed the season this week, and so I have been thinking lately about Sumo - an icon among all squirrels for her nice reserve of "fuel to burn." In December of that year, we humans struggled along with oil heat, gas heat or perhaps wood in some stoves and fireplaces, but Sumo efficiently burned her 9 kilocalories per gram of fat, a rather clean-burning (if not lean-burning) engine.

Sumo visited us steadily for not quite a year before moving on or otherwise taking leave of us. I miss her in a big way....which is of course, the only way one could possibly miss a squirrel like her.