13 July 2009

The price of compassion

An electronic dispatch from the China News carries a story about the tragic death of a Sri Lankan man. He died of head injuries suffered after a fall inside his well.

What makes this especially tragic is that his death was the direct result of a selfless act, an act of compassion.

The man had been cleaning his 60-foot-deep well when he saw a squirrel fall into the water from above. The squirrel had been on an overhanging branch and apparently lost either balance or footing. In what was to become an ill-fated act of concern, good-will and compassion, the man climbed back down into the well and scooped up the little squirrel, saving the animal's life.

His next act is perhaps what sealed his fate: He put the small creature, for safekeeping, into his pocket to make it easier to carry him back up. But the squirrel bit him - frightened, no doubt, by his sudden captivity. And that is when the man lost his grip and plummeted to his death.

There are no words to express how truly tragic this is. The loss of good people always diminishes life on this planet for every one of us, and this is surely the case here.

Sadder still is how the news service chose to characterize this story: It is carried under the publication's banner of "ODD NEWS."

I did not know that compassion and selflessness were considered odd nowadays, and I am sorrier still that it reduces this man's sacrifice - the ultimate sacrifice, it turns out - to nothing more than that.


Lone Grey Squirrel said...

A sad story indeed.

Cactus Jack Splash said...

Prayers for this man's family, what a truly selfless act

chet said...

I don't believe it. A person climbing out of a well would have his hands either above his head or at about head level. The squirrel was in the pocket of his shorts. So you mean the say, a squirrel got out of the pocket, climbed up the man's body and up his arm, and then bit his hand? If the squirrel was climbing, why pause to bite the hand?

squirrelmama said...

That hadn't occurred to me, Chet but of course you are right. I also wonder how a nearly-drowned squirrel could muster the balance, the energy and ultimately the bite that sealed this guy's fate. Unless he tried to grab the squirrel as it stepped on his hand. I guess there's no way to really know how it all came down, minute by minute.

chet said...

From curosity, I went to the Daily Mirror to read the original account, and the only major difference is that it states the squirrel then ran up the rope and disappeared.

No doubt the unfortunate man fell and died, but the circumstances may have been different--and a squirrel may not have been involved.

I would prefer to think of it as an accident, since it is too sad that a unselfish act could lead to death in such a manner.

squirrelmama said...

Good bit of detective work, Chet. I have to wonder whether people pieced together what they thought was the scenario, based on what they found - or what they thought they found.

Anonymous said...

This begs the question for us neophytes: When will a squirrel bite? When the little one was breathing her last breaths on my driveway, I wanted to pick her up and move her to a safer location. But I was concerned she might bite or become even more fearful. Yet you guys clearly pick up injured squirrels and carry them to veterinary care/safer places. How do you know what to do? Dallas

squirrelmama said...

Hi Dallas,
The concerns about moving or interfering with an injured squirrel are very real. You are correct, it can actually terrify a conscious animal who is already down; we are seen are predators. For another, the animal - if it has the strength - could bite. The best option is to consider safety for both animal and human. If the animal can be moved to begin with (in other words, no risk of spinal injury that would preclude that), using a thick piece of corrugated cardboard, a shovel, or anything else that prevents direct handling is usually good. Gloves, even wildlife gloves, are not always the safest bet. I count myself among the many who have been bitten badly, right through those gloves! Plus they don't give you much dexterity. A thick cloth or blanket is also a good protector of both squirrel and human.
It comes down to a judgment call, in the end, you really can't say there is one hard and fast rule until you come across the situation and have to size it up for yourself. I have an earlier post on this blog - I will try to find it - about a similar story. People in this story also saved a drowning squirrel but they used a safer method than simply grabbing the animal. I will see if I can find it.

squirrelmama said...

Here is the link


I didn't include it in the post but I believe the squirrel was given a pole, or broom, or shovel, or something to grab or climb into.

merinz said...

That is such a sad story

my backyard said...