31 January 2008

Scream for the squirrels!

Once again, the Super Bowl features an ad that focuses on squirrels. Fans will remember previous campaigns, including the famous "Running with the Squirrels," a high-tech company produced during a game a few years ago. Then there was the Trident chewing gum commercial in which a squirrel bit a dentist in a particularly, uh, sensitive nether-region spot.

This year, a Bridgestone tire commercial has decided to put Bushytails in the spotlight. Here is an excerpt from an article in Ad Age, the industry publication:

"The marketer's first Super Bowl commercial, which will air during the break between the first and second quarters, is dubbed "Scream" and shows how Bridgestone tires can keep a motorist from squishing a squirrel on the road. Shane Altman is the art director, and Mike Bales is the copywriter."

Not sure I like the idea of squirrels in peril on the road - and the magazine could have opted for a verb other than the slapstick "squish" in that description. I wasn't all that thrilled when I heard that a similarly imperiled squirrel appeared in the now-famous GEICO insurance commercial (in both instances the squirrel does survive, I happily note.)

But the suspense will be killing me, nonetheless.

And I do know this - while most folks will be screaming either for the Giant's Eli Manning or the Patriots' Tom Brady, I will find myself once again screaming for the squirrels.

29 January 2008

I got tagged for a Meme

A challenge to this squirrelmama
invoked a bit of high drama:
using poems, off-the-shelf,
reveal a bit of myself,
and personalize this world of blog-o-rama.

Now, as to those 10 (HERE I GO!)
it's stuff most of you really don't know.
I love peace (I'm no fighter)
and I work as a writer,
and last year rode in a little horse show.

When it comes to air travel, I'm contrarian.
I'm also a true vegetarian.
One of life's biggest perils
is my love of gray squirrels
(And I've never been Rastafarian.)

I don't have my own iPod nano,
as a child, though, I studied piano.
(I really love music
if I'm not the one who do's it.)
And I'm even a classical fan, oh!

You've probably got a wild hunch
that I drink coffee like a big sponge
OK yes, you are right
time now to say g'nite
If you've read this far, well, THANKS A BUNCH!

The shape of things to come

Strangely enough this year there are no tattered faces coming to the back door. No head wounds, only a few limping paws, and no patchwork or torn coats spattered with blood.

The injuries of squirrel mating season, usually most evident in the combative males who suffer most for it, just don't seem to be as present this year. This means I have fewer injured adult outsiders to fret over right now and, hopefully, in a few weeks there'll be fewer newborns to worry about too.

Are they not mating? I can only wish. Or practicing a kindler, gentler coupling? Who knows?

In the weeks ahead we'll see what happens, or doesn't happen. But for now the land and trees beyond my back door appear to be a peaceable kingdom.

24 January 2008

Football's "Squirrel Bowl"

Much to my surprise, and perhaps a bit to my horror too, I have grown to like football.

New Yorkers seem almost duty-bound to be loyal to the Giants and the Jets but, to me, those are New Jersey teams. "My" team is the New England Patriots. I admire their style, for the most part, and have enjoyed watching them kick butt on the field for the past couple of years.

Little did I know that this year, as the Patriots head to the SuperBowl to tackle New York's Giants early next month, there would be another quality to endear me to the Patriots. One of their newer players, Kelley Washington, acquired from the Cincinnati Bengals, does a touchdown dance called "The Squirrel."

You may (or may not) remember the squirrel who graced Yankee Stadium last year, and who antics found their way into the media and a couple of my posts here on this blog. I dislike baseball intensely but this Yankee squirrel actually added some real interest in the game, albeit temporarily. This squirrel did not dance, but he sure showed style sitting atop a pole on the playing field.

Now we have the football "Squirrel" - a lively victory dance Washington made up and then made famous while still playing in Ohio. The Patriots have scored quite a few touchdowns this year but Washington has kept his dance squirreled away.

Here's hoping we see some fancy footwork next month in the end zone by Washington's teammates. I'd sure love for the Arizona game to become a victorious "Squirrel Bowl."

20 January 2008

Happy Squirrel Appreciation Day

It's the eve of Squirrel Appreciation Day, and there are many fine and appropriate ways to observe this holiday:

Have you hung up your stockings by the fireplace, ready to receive nuts at the stroke of midnight? Are you warming up your voice for the warbling of Squirrel Appreciation Carols? ("Deck the trees with lots of walnuts, qua-qua-qua-qua-qua.....qua-qua-qua-qua...
Tis the season we go all nuts.....qua-qua-qua-qua-qua.....qua-qua-qua-qua......
Don we now our Gray apparel.....")

Oops. Wrong holiday.
OK, maybe we're supposed to go hunting for multi-colored nuts that have been buried in the shrubs, singing "Here comes Peter Bushytail, Hopping Down the Squirrel Trail....."

Nope. Wrong again.

Shall we dress up, then, costumed as squirrels, knocking on people's doors asking for treats? Forget that. The squirrels already cornered that market, doing it 365 days a year, no holiday needed.

Should we set off fireworks? Fly our flags? Maybe hold a gigantic sale on bed linens, towels and other household items at all major department stores?

Here in the States, a lot of folks are already celebrating one federal holiday on Jan. 21, honoring slain civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr. But yes, it is also Squirrel Appreciation Day, and it's OK to recognize both holidays - though I doubt I'll get a day off from work just to stay home and feed the squirrels if I publicly declare myself as one of the faithful.

So how shall we celebrate? Well if you already appreciate squirrels, keep up the good work and tell others about the value of these wonderful woodland architects. Adopt a squirrel at a local wildlife rehab center - or at the Best Friends Sanctuary, to which I've posted a link above.

And if you don't believe in squirrels (or Santa Claus, for that matter), try for today to keep an open mind- for the former, if not the latter, and while you're at it, keep an open bag of nuts handy, at least for today.

Hey, you never know when a pleasant encounter with a squirrel can change your life.

18 January 2008

Where does a 1-ton squirrel sit?

(Answer: Anywhere he wants!!)

OK, admit it: Most of us have befriended some hefty big-butt buddies in the parks or our own backyards and paid homage to their bottomless squirrel appetites by tossing enough nuts their way to bring on a case of repetitive stress injury. These squirrels are the Mack Trucks of the trees, 18-wheelers among the arboreals, and their healthy heft has left me no alternative to buy in bulk so that I may continue to contribute towards their bulk.

So I am not surprised at hearing that researchers in South America have turned up the fossilized remains of a 1.5-ton rodent that lived 4 million years ago. Is a rodent the size of a Brahma bull supposed to be shocking?

Those of us enslaved by the daily rituals of pitching pecans and hurling hazelnuts know better. Inside the body of every one of these 1,000-gram cuties is a 1-ton ancestor screaming to get out. I dare anyone to tell me that the guy who hangs out regularly on the ledge outside our front door, gazing in through the bay window, doesn't have designs on our sofa - as well as the walnuts in a dish a few feet away. I'm surprised he hasn't found the doorbell yet.

Rodents have thrived for millions of years because, let's face it, they're clever. I figure it's only a matter of time before I come into the living room and find one of them snacking while seated on the loveseat, the TV tuned to "Animal Planet."

Millions of years later, they still know how to throw their weight around.

16 January 2008

Squirrel power (well, sort of)

The death of a single East Texas squirrel was broadcast far and wide this week, but it was less a sentimental obituary for a solitary rodent than a big news item.

Before he or she died, the squirrel had curtailed water service, shut off electricity, and forced the closing of schools in two area districts.

In all, more than a thousand utility customers were affected. The squirrel, sorry to say, got into a power substation in Big Sandy, about 100 miles east of Dallas, and did what rodents do: gnawed on the lines, a fatal mistake.

KLTV in Tyler, KWTX in Waco, KRIS in Corpus Christi and KXXV in Waco all told this story.

The media carries these items regularly, only the datelines change. In November of last year, the story played out in Ashland, Wisconsin, where two squirrels were killed along with the power. And Christmas morning was darkened in Chico, Calif., by yet another squirrel. Last month, it was Kennebunk, Maine.

One would think the utility companies might have caught on by now. If they don't care to avoid squirrel electrocutions (and presumably they don't) they might want to consider squirrel-proofing their facilities and even some of their power lines anyway. I am told there are actually such devices as "squirrel guards." Yes, it's a humane gesture and probably an expensive one at that, at least to outfit a good chunk of a power system, but on the up side of the equation, it would certainly help keep the lights on more often, thus bring a steadier and happier glow to their customers.

Yes and to us squirrel-lovers too.

11 January 2008

A post I'd rather not be writing

By the time I got home from work last night, by midnight, the squirrel was dead.

I know I wasn't terribly hopeful to begin with, seeing how he had begun circling a bit in his bedding, sporadically arching his back and having his limbs rigor. But I had hoped these neurologic signs would begin to fade as some of the medicine began working.

I suppose I'll always have hope, even a little. That's why I take squirrels in for care in the first place.

But this was a handsome young squirrel, and this kind of outcome is never going to be easier for me.

10 January 2008

Caution: squirrel crossing

Art imitates life, I suppose, but not often enough. When I blogged earlier this week about the new Monroe automotive parts ad campaign, I noted the episode had a happy ending - a young squirrel trying to cross a busy street is spared fatal contact with traffic.

The young male squirrel who is lying on his side tonight, twitching in a pet carrier in our spare bathroom downstairs, was not so lucky as the one in the ad. The little fellow is my first wildlife emergency call of the new year, and his rescuer, a worker for the local telephone company, Verizon, saw him get hit by the car - and then bounce. He somehow managed to get the squirrel out of harm's way before a second vehicle could come and finish him off.

"I couldn't leave him there," he told me when he phoned shortly after 10 this morning, asking me to help. "He would have been killed."

So now he is home with us. Will he make it? I wish I could say. He has been given some fluids and an analgesic that is also an anti-inflammatory, on advice of the vet. No bones are apparently broken and I have seen no bleeding. But he has pushed himself in small circles, on occasion, seeming to indicate some neurologic damage.

Like Miss Daisy before him, who arrived flat and unconscious on our driveway mysteriously in October, he will get the best care and attention I can offer in my limited way as a licensed volunteer caretaker. Beyond that, his fate is beyond me.

As the Monroe ad campaign notes, "Squirrels make bad decisions." Surely, this fellow did.

The Verizon technician who rescued him clearly wanted him to live.

So do I. So do I.

08 January 2008

Strutting their struts, and their shocks

"Save the Squirrels" is the name of a new ad campaign for Monroe Shocks and Struts now playing on the Web, featuring short dramas that make this point: "Squirrels Make Bad Decisions." (And squirrels do, of course, as we know, when it comes to turning some folks' attics into their nests, or when crossing certain roads.) It's at Save the Squirrels.

This clever campaign, devised by the Milwaukee ad agency Cramer-Krasselt, pokes gentle fun at the road-crossing scenario, utilizing squirrel figurines as the players in the drama. In the first one to be released (called "Acceptance") an adolescent squirrel is nearly killed by a passing vehicle as he runs, in a rush of proud exuberance, into the street to show his parents he just got accepted into college. (The prestigious Acorn State, no less.)

A car is bearing down but, thankfully, the driver hits the brakes - and not the squirrel. His bright academic future is assured.

So, I think, is public good will toward Monroe. The company, a well-known auto parts maker, has achieved just the right mix of sweet humor and respect for animals to pull off an otherwise difficult sales pitch. Bravo to Monroe, and to the creative spirits at Cramer-Krasselt.

04 January 2008

A sobering reaction

What driver among us hasn't swerved to avoid (or at least try to avoid) hitting a squirrel?

A news report from Wales (cut and pasted below) tells of such an incident, which left the young motorist trapped in her vehicle after it rolled over. The driver was also drunk, apparently, as police tests later disclosed.

What I find interesting here is that she wasn't so bombed that she became unable to react to the animal's presence and thus save its life. Perhaps, if anything, her inebriation caused her to over-correct her momentary detour, thus nearly costing her own life instead.

Driving is a matter of difficult judgment calls. It's wise to try and avoid hitting anything - a person, certainly, and an animal, absolutely. But reactions to such living obstacles require the kind of agility that doesn't imperil the driver, in tradeoff.

All the more reason to never drink and drive. You never know who else is sharing the road. And you want to make it home alive, regardless.

Here is the story in its entirety as it appeared on the Web site, ICWALES

A WOMAN who swerved to avoid a squirrel, ended up rolling her car and becoming trapped, Pontypridd Magistrates Court heard.

Fire officers had to free Jessica Perry, aged 20, of Ely Street, Tonypandy.

She was breathalysed some hours later in hospital and was found to be twice the drink-drive limit.

Perry pleaded guilty to driving her Renault Clio on August 15 with 160mgs of alcohol in her blood. The legal limit is 80.

She also admitted driving without due care and attention.

Dave Pugh, prosecuting, said that the accident took place at about 1.15am near the Coed Ely roundabout on the road leading to Talbot Green.

She lost control and went up an embankment. Every panel on the car was damaged including the roof which suggests the car may have rolled over.

When the emergency services arrived, Perry was trapped in the car and she had to be freed by firemen.

She gave the blood sample for analysis at 5.10am – four hours after the accident.

Neil Foley, defending, said that Perry swerved to avoid a squirrel which was running across the road and that’s how she lost control.

But he said that she accepted that the accident was probably caused because of the alcohol in her body.

District judge Vivian Manning-Davies said he was very concerned as the defendant was only 20 and could easily have killed herself.

“This is an alarmingly serious case for a young woman of just 20,” he said.

“I expect your parents to be as concerned as I am. I have a daughter not much older than you. I need a full picture of you and the only way to get that is for a full report to be carried out.”

He adjourned the case until January 23 for pre-sentence reports to be made.

01 January 2008

2008, a tough nut to crack?

You've got to love a city that, at least in the eyes and hearts of squirrels, knows how to do New Year's Eve right. In Raleigh, N.C. ("the city of oaks") they drop a Big Acorn - not a Times Square ball.

To squirrels this is merely the most routine of acts. After all, they drop acorns from trees every day - at least during the fall - and many of us have had the questionable thrill of being beaned on the head by one or more of these very identifiable flying objects. The comic strip, "Mutts," even features squirrels engaged regularly in target practice on tops of unsuspecting fellow critters' heads.

Perhaps in some parts of the U.S., where red squirrels predominate, New Year's celebrants might consider dropping a pinecone instead. And prairie dogs, cousins of the arboreal and terrestrial squirrels, could inspire the ceremonial descent of dandelion greens or bales of tall grass. Hardly dramatic or speedy but it sure would make a pretty sight.

While we're at it, let's retire Dick Clark and some of those other celebs who've made their names in Times Square and get ourselves a master of ceremonies more befitting the theme of all this acorn-heaving - Punxsutawney Phil is still asleep (and he has his own holiday) so New Year's wouldn't necessarily be the groundhog's calling but perhaps the networks can woo Tufty the squirrel, American squirrels' UK cousin, or even the cartoon world's Rocky the flying squirrel? Or maybe one of the squirrels from that infamous GEICO insurance commercial?

The theme of it all? "Let's go nuts for New Year's"

It's something to think about. It would certainly give the squirrels of this country something to chatter about.