25 July 2010

The toothsome truth

As the late rocker Jim Croce's lyrics advises us, you should always pick your battles wisely: Don't tug on Superman's cape. Don't spit into the wind. Don't pull that mask off that ol' Lone Ranger and ... don't mess around with squirrels' teeth.

Those ever-growing, razor-sharp incisors - the apotheosis of calcium gone wild - always win in any skirmish. These are teeth that can crack nuts and split bone and you don't want to cross their path enroute to dental disaster.

In Huntington, N.Y., at least one group of human dental practitioners has harnessed this simple scientific fact for commercial purposes. We hereby introduce Flossie the dentally conscientious squirrel - she appears to be a 13-lined ground squirrel, not a New York native - and Flossie is the spokesmodel not just for keeping your teeth sparkling and nutcracker-healthy between dental visits but for keeping your scheduled appointments.

She graces a postal card inscribed on the reverse with the following reminder: "We have reserved this time for your for your next dental checkup."

The card is downright cute, a word one doesn't normally associate with the dreaded dentist's chair. Combining dentistry with Rodentistry clearly has its perks and being cute is one of them. Indeed, I suspect those Huntington dentists may enjoy a greater-than-average compliance from even the most drill-shy patients who read the card and understand the ominous message hidden behind that engaging visage and those impeccably clean, well-flossed incisors:

Don't tug on the squirrel's temper. Be sure to spit into the sink after you get your semi-annual cleaning. And you don't mess around with Flossie.

16 July 2010

Autumn of our discontent - already?

Don't ever buy a calendar from a squirrel. They're convinced autumn is already here. Never mind that neither leaves nor acorns are dropping yet from the trees: Baby squirrels are.

This little newborn was received by, and photographed by Barbara, a rehabilitator friend of mine. The orphan is what's known as a "fall baby," not because the baby fell (though that is likely), but because the orphan's arrival on the planet at this moment in time signals the birth of the season of football, back-to-school, corduroy, marble-cover notebooks and harvest time - all right smack in the middle of the current 90+-degree heatwave here in the northeast.

If squirrels had their way, they would produce a calendar that would take us squarely from June to September, skipping the entire summer. Not that I mind, I'm a fan of cooler weather. But, much as I resent department stores' presumptuousness in hanging garland and playing Christmas carols in October, or weeks earlier, I am bothered by squirrels rushing the season. What's the hurry?

To every thing there is a season - and that includes squirrel baby season, I suppose. Squirrel baby season #1, and squirrel baby season #2. Lately they seem to blend together like one big mess.

But things could definitely be worse. Imagine if squirrels made timepieces as well as calendars. We'd be faced with an even more unfortunate prospect. People would be saying, "there's a squirrel born every minute," and the wildlife rehabilitators would be the real suckers.

11 July 2010

Skwerl'd Cup Soccer

This is Hammy, who, I'm told, would rather play soccer the conventional way than with acorns like the rest of his species. Hammy has thus been in training all year for his chosen sport.

Sadly, he did not make it to Johannesburg, South Africa for the football finals today, nor did he qualify to be part of Spain's team - which emerged the victor, despite the absence of his talents.

Besides, Hammy is not from Spain - he lives in Florida.

But Hammy will definitely be a contender in next year's Skwerl'd Cup when it is covered by ESPN (the Extraordinary Squirrel People's Network). Squirrels are, after all, naturals in this game:

They are terrific at faking out their opponents - recent news reports indicate they bury, dig up and then rebury the same nut as a way of deterring thievery by competitors.

Squirrels are also known for keeping their eye on the goal. And in this case the goal, most of the time, is FOOD.

And finally, squirrels refuse to be distracted by the mating call of the vuvuzela, whose ill-gotten cacophonies still have many humans' eardrums recovering from Post-Traumatic Stress.

It still isn't clear what a team of squirrels might do if they gained possession of the 18-karat gold trophy, which is a finely detailed sculpture depicting people standing beneath Planet Earth, holding it up. But keep your eye out for a revision of the time-honored design, with the new version sporting a few enterprising bushytails hoisting - and raiding - a gigantic feeder stuffed beyond capacity with birdseed.

In 2011, their cup - the Skwerl'd Cup - runneth over.

06 July 2010

Small but powerful

We love them because they are cute.

cute baby animals - Tiny Springtime Friend

We love them because they are baby animals. And for many of us, we love them because they happen to be baby squirrels, just like this tiny red squirrel, anointed with the title, "Springtime Friend" by the website, The Daily Squee.

Looking at this little creature, it's hard to believe there's a world of antipathy against squirrels out there - but there is. Is there hope that it could change within this baby's lifetime? Probably not.

The world is filled with pros and cons, supporters and detractors, friends and enemies.

Let's hope this tiny red emissary of good will is seen around the globe and spreads the word that there is more good than evil in so much of nature. This baby squirrel truly is a springtime friend, even now in the summer of our lives.

04 July 2010

Independence Day

In the nation known as Squirrel, there are no flags. There is no national anthem, no pledge of allegiance (except to acorns and other tree nuts) and no militia. This largely peaceful nation needs no commander-in-chief, has no policy on nuclear proliferation and, for the most part, runs its chief industry - foraging and the gathering and burying of nuts - as a "green" enterprise.

Into this nation steps the interloper human, raising and rehabilitating the orphaned, the injured, the sick and the near-hopeless. In this enterprise, there is one goal in mind: To someday create an independence day for each of these animals so they can reclaim their lives.

The idea is nothing short of revolutionary.

And so, just a few days before the United States' own commemoration of freedom, two female squirrels - named PeeWee and Feisty by their respective finders - declared their sovereignty and ascended to the world of branches and clouds. It was a triumphant moment for all of us.

A day or so later, a sickly squirrel on our property, felled by a severe case of malocclusion, was brought into veterinary care where it was determined her case was so advanced as to be near hopeless. She was riddled with infection and the roof of her mouth had been destroyed by her overgrown lower incisors. The next day, Reba succumbed to her distress and we brought her body home for burial in the yard where she had lived, at least for a time, comfortably. She did not die an anonymous death, her life was noted - as was her passing. Her life was one of independence until illness and injury took it from her. We had to only surmise she would not have wanted any other kind of life, if she could not live free.

PeeWee and Feisty made that abundantly clear as two individual squirrels, with individual personalities and individual histories, transformed themselves into fast-moving blurs of gray and asserted their birthright in the woods.

Independence, in whatever form it comes, can be a treasured possession.

Open the release hatch on any successfully rehabilitated squirrel, poised to return to the wild, and every day - any day - can be July 4.