29 June 2008

Some Enterprising squirrels

These photos, by Poetikat, my friend and fellow blogger, are by far the best adaptive reuse I have ever seen of old, outmoded satellite TV dishes. See the great reception these dishes are getting from their new audience??

Perhaps these denizens of outdoor dining, supping in space-age luxury, look like visitors from the Planet Rodentia. "TAKE ME TO YOUR FEEDER!!" they might implore.

But no, look again - they are of our own Planet Earth. In fact, this is the voyage of the StarShip RODENTerprise - to boldly go where lots of squirrels have gone before. And every single one is a cling-on!

Congratulations, Poetikat, for giving this space-age crew their own marvelous new vehicle. Wishing them all many, many miles out there beneath that famous constellation, The Nut Cracker!

27 June 2008

Where the wild things are

I'm borrowing this post's title from a book by children's author Maurice Sendak simply because I love the very sound of those words - it is like music to me. Also, I love the image those words evoke together.

And, as it turns out, I love the news I have to report about where two of the wild things are that I care about: the first is the sweet female squirrel with the errant incisor growing out of her face - a squirrel who has been visiting us almost daily. Her photo can be seen in this blog's post of May 8, where I also report about a juvenile female squirrel in my care, one who came in with balance issues and extra toes.

I worried that the adult female would need trapping and her incisor clipped at some point because it would overgrow to the point of distress, infection - or both. I wrestled with ethical and emotional issues over this and, as it turns out, none of this is necessary. She is thriving! The tooth has not only failed to over, it does not seem to get in her way at all. The rest of her teeth seem perfectly functional and she is as healthy and bright-eyed as the first day I saw her.

My decision to leave her, where the wild things are, turned out to be a good call.

The slightly neurologic female juvenile squirrel, the one I named Massa, is meanwhile fully and happily accepted by her adoptive brother and sister in their temporary caging, where she climbs with the agility any squirrel would envy, where she eats and plays and yes, even engages in lively wrestling matches.

My decision that she may indeed be releasable after all is one I am feeling more comfortable with day by day.

They will both be living where the wild things are and living what I hope will be long, full lives.
The sound you hear in the background is me, sighing a deep sigh of relief.

23 June 2008

Music I've squirreled away

Rumors aside, that tap I just felt on my shoulder a moment ago was not a squirrel politely asking for me to crack open another bag of pecans: It was Poetikat, fellow blogger and fellow animal lover, tagging me all the way from Canada, for a meme.

Her request: List seven songs that are making your summer bright, she urges me. No matter if they have words (or not), if they're not particularly good, and no matter if they are of a relatively strange genre. Post these instructions along with the names of the seven songs and then tag seven other bloggers to participate in this musical ritual. Argh, that is the tough nut to crack, as my rodent pals would say.

Anyway, here goes:

"Put Your Records On" - Corinne Bailey Rae
"The Riddle" - Five for Fighting
"Dance with my Father" - Luther Van Dross
"World" - Five for Fighting
"Take Good Care of My Baby" - Carole King/Bobby Vee (either version)
"Busy Being Fabulous" - The Eagles
"Living Free" - Enda Keegan (http://www.prairiedogday.org/)
Better Days - Dianne Reeves

OK I cheated and named 8 instead of 7. I promise to dig a hole and bury one and pray for a tree to grow out of it.
And hmmmm, now who to tag?

19 June 2008

Queen of the acorns

This beautiful photo of a mother squirrel raiding a California bird feeder caught my eye. It was in the online edition of the Thousand Oaks Acorn, a weekly newspaper in Thousand Oaks, Calif., which by virtue of its name alone, must be a community second only to squirrel paradise itself.
The sweet creature pictured here was deemed Squirrel of the Month by the publication's editors - and indeed, each month a successor is crowned from among the digital entries submitted.
The Thousand Oaks newspaper deserves a thousand (or more) thanks. Their clever, creative way of encouraging readers to share their photographic talents, and respect for wildlife, is so simple. And apparently so very popular.
There are of course, enough squirrels on this planet to have a Squirrel of the Week, of the Day and even of the Hour. But we'll take our monthly honors for now and be ever so grateful.
Like this little mother squirrel, someone at that little community newspaper has chosen to stand up and go for something wonderful!

16 June 2008

Squellephants and other genetic challenges

In a recent audition for NBC's "Last Comic Standing," a would-be funnyman named Dan Cummins, who lives in Minneapolis, told the audience that the pet of his dreams would be half Labrador retriever, half squirrel and would be called a "squirrelador." The 90-pound rodent, he said, would be capable of swimming but also adept at scaling to overhead power lines.

I can't say I argue at all with the concept but, with all due respect to Mr. Cummins, I do think there are far better combinations utilizing squirrellian talents to their fuller potential.

How about a squellephant? Pachyderms are already the appropriate color and they also already share a propensity for peanuts. Granted, you may not want one climbing your leg or sitting on your windowsill looking into your bathroom but at least you know they'd be visible when they were crossing the street, especially in packs.

Or a squawk? No, not the sound a bird makes, but the even more unlikely pairing with one of the raptors known to pursue squirrels as prey. A squawk, of course, would not prey on itself but would definitely be able to ascend to the skies, at fantastic heights, as a useful escape to land predation by, say, a fox. And as sharp as squirrels' claws already are, just think of the climbing power those talons might give them!

My personal favorite might be the squorse. Pairing up with an equine could produce the black, grey, red and even white varieties - all genetically possible - and just think of the heights these creatures might achieve over cross-rail obstacles on the Grand Prix jump course as they carry their extra bushy tails high above their saddles!

Don't forget the possibility of a liorrell. With a big mane and a mighty roar, it will set upon your bird feeder, steal your seed, topple your trees with its mighty weight and then try to force its way into your attic.

To those folks who read this and bemoan the fact that "those rodents" are "ruining" their yards, think twice before you regret the presence of squirrels of any kind. Things could be worse, you know. This is something everyone must try to remember - because a squellephant never forgets!

11 June 2008

Into the woods

I think of them now. I think of them now, most especially, because the sun has set on their first day back into the wild. They have not lived in the trees like this since late last summer, as babies. Then suddenly, somehow their lives were interrupted and they landed in human care.

Now they are back in the wild, older, stronger, healthier and with muscles to carry them capably from branch to branch, trunk to trunk.

Two girls - both orphaned and having suffered the loss of siblings - and a boy - found by himself and cared for alone at first. All were brought to me as older juveniles and out of this ragtag trio, we fashioned a new family, an ad hoc litter of squirrels. They spent the ensuing cold season - what we rehabbers call "overwintering" - with us.

Today I carried them in a small holding cage into the woods and the door was opened on the rest of their lives. I have seen this dozens of times before but it never fails to stir me.

I think of them now, looking out past my office windows into the darkness, and I wish them a good first sleep, the first of many to come.

I wish I had brought a camera but perhaps it does not matter. When I close my eyes tonight, I will think of them again. And I will see them.

10 June 2008

Speaking of squirrels

Q: When is a noun not a noun?

A: When it is a verb.

I don't mean to be coy or even cryptic here, but the word "squirrel" is almost always a noun, and it customarily connotes the eastern grey variety, the northern or southern flying type, or one of two varieties of red - and perhaps even a whole population of terrestrial squirrels, including the golden mantled squirrel and the 13-lined ground squirrel.

That is a lot of squirrel! A lot of fast-moving, chittering, tail-flicking, nut-burying squirrel. Perhaps it is that very frenzy of activity that first made "squirrel" a particularly good candidate for doing double duty as a verb.

Look in the dictionary and you'll see that "squirrel" is very much a well-used verb in the English language. Its etymology of course rests in the animal from which the verb takes its name. We "squirrel" things away (usually money or small trinkets). And we can conjugate this verb: I squirrel, you squirrel, he squirrels, she squirrels, WE ALL SQUIRREL TOGETHER!!

While I love the noun - why else would this blog exist? - I am starting to revere the verb as well. Squirreling, let's face it, is the ultimate protector of our solvency when the economy goes sour. Squirreling ensures we will have plenty in times of great need. It is synonymous with hoarding.

Answer these questions honestly: How many squirrels have you seen at the bank applying for loans? Or being harassed by collection agencies for nonpayment of bills? How many squirrels stand on the streetcorner with a tin cup, begging for you to spare a dime for a cup of coffee (hazelnut flavor, of course)?

The squirrel is a model saver because the squirrel practices the art of squirreling. Indeed has perfected that art.

It's an image you might just wish to, uh, squirrel away. You never know when you're going to need some good financial advice.

08 June 2008

Off topic but still fun

I have been tagged by Tobi at http://tobietal.blogspot.com/ and in appreciation of this gentle tap on the shoulder from a fellow blogger, I'll attempt to answer a few of the requisite questions posed:

We had just taken in a little rescue dog from off the street, believed to be a Lhasa-poodle mix, and after cleaning her up and trying to adopt her out, discovered she had already decided the home she'd found would be the one she'd keep. She's still with us, too.
I didn't believe it was worthwhile to buy vitamins, too many pairs of shoes or Lottery tickets.
I believed anything worth doing was worth doing well. I still believe it.
I had more hope for the future....but back then I also had 10 more years in my future than I do today.

Just five? Hah!
1. Feed the squirrels outside, feed the rehab squirrels inside, distribute meds as needed, clean cages, and change the charcoal pre-filters in the air cleaners.
2. Take an early morning ride on Beau and hope he doesn't lift his tail and grace me with his usual post-ride delivery of horse poo whenever I loosen his girth.
3. Cook. It is my joy to cook on the weekend because the pace of my weekday life is so horrific. Cook stuffed peppers with polenta. Cook a pasta-cheese torte. Cook corn-on-the-cob.
4. Sit, relax and enjoy a good strong cup of freshly brewed coffee.
5. Practice my Tai Chi forms, which really stink right now.

I'll have to opt out of this one since I don't eat except at mealtime.

I give thought to this every day of my life. I wouldn't change a thing, not really, except to bail out of my current job and devote myself to more volunteer work - beyond the wildlife rehabbing I presently do. I'd set up trust funds for a few selected charities (medical research, animal rescue), and also ensure that members of my family were cared for, for the rest of their lives, without worry.
What an easy, and happy, question.

Westbury, New York
Hyattsville, Maryland
Middletown, New York
Queens, New York

Now who shall I tag?

06 June 2008

Not by nuts alone

We all crave variety in our diets. For squirrels, sometimes hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans and other tree nuts just don't do the trick. The sameness of the day to day diet is enough to drive a squirrel, well, NUTS.

The squirrel in this lovely musical video has discovered a mighty fine alternative. He's putting on the Ritz. Literally.



02 June 2008

Freedom day is coming

For me, the real test of a wildlife rehabilitator comes as the answer to several questions:

1. Do you love these squirrels enough to lose a night's sleep (or several nights' sleep) in order to see them through the night if they are critical?

2. Do you love these squirrels enough to pay full price for veterinary services if the best vet who can care for them, providing surgery, X-ray or medicine, is not one of those professionals who has made the decision to donate his services to wildlife?

3. Do you love these squirrels enough to ensure a clean and healthy environment throughout their stay with you, keeping their food and water plentiful?

and finally....

4. Do you love these squirrels enough to open the door to freedom, saying goodbye to them forever, when the time comes?

When that time comes, they leave your life as suddenly as they once entered it. It is their right to reclaim their place in nature's plan, and it is our privilege as their caretakers to see that they get to that point.

The three squirrels in my care since late last year are ready to go. Freedom is coming for the two girls and one boy who are in my outdoor "pre-release" pen.

Soon the woods will have new dwellers.

The answer is "yes," "yes," "yes" and of course "yes." I love them that much.
And more.