Knoelle is in the trees now. At least I hope that's where she is.
She came into our care last September, a sickly, scarred, cat-attacked juvenile squirrel, found by some caring people at the barn where I ride. And with steady veterinary care and a remarkable spirit of her own, she eventually healed.
She grew. She thrived. She began to look out the windows of the little rehab clinic where we kept her and, no doubt, a longing for the wild, the place where she was born, stirred.
Springtime came. She cracked nuts, gnawed on a variety of things in her pen, buried edible treasures where she could, and her coat - her whole body - filled out. Her identity as a wild squirrel grew more certain as her gaze grew from docile to untamed.
When I set her free in the woods early yesterday morning, a piece of my heart went with her into the anonymous mass of trees. I confess: I did not want to let her go. Not this poor sickly baby, as I still remembered her. Not this delicate, brave young animal.
But she had come such a long distance from last September's chance at cheating death. She'd grown healthy and hardy and was owed this rightful completion of her journey.
And so I carried her small cage back out of the woods - this time, empty. And Knoelle carried forward with her life - and may it always be full.
I don't suppose even in the arcane language of squirrels, the lexicon contains an equivalent of "goodbye."
Perhaps that is best.