I can’t help busting out the ALL CAPS!
I’M SO DAMN EXCITED!!!
And what, you may ask, has me so excited? Nothing more nor less than the sight of an unmistakably gimpy squirrel on my patio. Yes, it’s Little Dude, so named because…because that’s what I call him, that’s why. Because he’s just a little dude.
But he is a little dude who might just owe me his life. It goes like this:
One day a couple of weeks ago I came home and went out onto the apartment building’s common patio to take a sniff of other people’s roses which they keep there, for they live in apartments, duh. And while I was out there smelling the roses I saw something on the edge of the balcony that looked, in my myopic haze, like the sleeve of a black jacket flopping back and forth, caught on the razorwire which festoons the building like particularly hostile Christmas tinsel. I thought it might be the last remnant of another would-be burglar, neither the first nor last to leave a souvenir of his visit behind on the pointy bits of our little urban fortress.
As I got closer, I saw it was a small black squirrel, with a barb piercing his right thigh. He was pinned in place, and obviously in distress, for he was crying. Not “making a cry of distress”; he was crying. I’ve never heard a squirrel cry before, but let me tell you, it’s got those dopey-ass bunnies and kittens beat all to hell. If you heard a squirrel cry you’d pick it up yourself, put it in your birdfeeder, and hail it a cab home when it was done.
You would, too.
Excuse me. I must blow my nose now.
That’s better. Where was I?
I walked over. The poor thing attempted to flee, but really couldn’t do much more than make a ragged ellipse around the blade through its leg. Now, squirrels are cute and all, and impossible to resist when they are crying, but don’t let anyone tell you a squirrel has no weapons, for lo, it became obvious to me at a certain point that Sciurus carolinensis, the Eastern Grey Squirrel (even if it IS black, as in this case) is not entirely defenceless. For indeed, it has long, sharp, pointy teeth and claws likewise, so at said certain point I realized I was doing more harm than good just frightening it and went and got my gardening gloves to try to pry the poor thing off the wire. I also got a small towel, which turned out to be a mistake.
Squirrels hate towels.
Why did I get a towel? Because when you work with horses you learn that you can get them to walk past anything, including nuclear mushroom clouds, provided they can’t see. And if you work with birds, you know to calm them down you throw a blanket over the cage and their little lizard brains go “Oh, sunset! I’m sleepy!” and they pipe right down.
I thought squirrels worked the same way. Alas, no.
When I threw the towel over the squirrel, whom I had begun to refer to as Little Dude, as in “Okay, Little Dude, just stay still and this will be easier for both of us. And don’t bite me, because I’ll bite you back and I haven’t had my shots, Dude,” two things happened.
- it went, insofar as a squirrel can go, apeshit. Squirrelshit, perhaps. It went there. It started throwing itself back and forth like a half-cartwheel, centred on that nasty razorwire pinion.
- it let off a really quite credible imitation of skunk spray.
I did not know they could do that. But boy, howdy, can they. Thank god for the towel (which I had to throw out later, but we’ll get there.
I’m writing this, by the way, instead of attending the AGM of the Alliance for Arts and Culture, which started an hour ago. I’ve been a member there for something like five years and never yet made it to the AGM: this time because of illness. Nothing serious, but I do not relish the thought of walking a half-hour there and back without easy access to a public washroom. This is the second meeting I’ve bailed on today, and I have another coming up at five-thirty, although that one is only three blocks from my house, so that’s safe. I think.
Anyway, so the towel at least intercepted the spray, but it caused Little Dude there to wig out entirely. I was unsuccessful at grabbing his leg, although he WAS successful at biting me and clawing one of my gloves off. He capped off his series of in-situ Arabian cartwheels by flinging himself right off the ledge of the patio and hanging by the hook through his back leg, causing a pathetic little river of squirrel blood to run down his belly and drop off his wee wee-wee in a heartrending manner, screaming and crying in tragically dying young squirrel fashion.
I did the least I could do, which was hammock him in the towel and plop him back up on the ledge, apologizing all the while.
Then I went back to my apartment to cry for a bit.
When I was done, I went back to see if he was dead yet. I figured the raccoons would get him eventually, and the event in “ually” might have passed already.
It had, or it had not. It was hard to tell, because he was gone and there was nothing left but some largish bloodstains at which several overfed-looking flies were sucking. And the barb on which the squirrel was caught has bent, probably when he flopped over, and thus he was able to get free.
Then I went back to my apartment to cry for a bit.
Cut to three days later.
I am out on my patio, hanging up laundry (this is the signal to God to make rain; I should rent myself out to tribes in Arizona, I’m telling you) and I see a cluster of shiny things on the ledge, so I walk over to see what they are and they all take off at my approach. Flies.
And where they’d been clustered, a splash of fresh-ish blood.
I look along the ledge up, and I look along the ledge down, and I see several of these, which were definitely not there two days ago nor maybe even yesterday.
Little Dude is mobile.
So I did what any right-thinking person would do. I scrounged around the kitchen looking for squirrel food (what, I’m out of Squirrel Chow? how can this be?) and poured some barley, some oatmeal, some beans and some black currants out on the ledge, with the result that a trail of ants have found their way onto my patio in the subsequent week.
Over the next week I keep track:
Oatmeal is a go. Barley is a go. Currants are a go. Ain’t nobody likes dried kidney beans, it appears; even the shithawks won’t eat them.
But I wonder who IS eating what’s being eaten. And one night when it thunderstorms I just break down completely and make a little squirrel house out of cardboard and put more food in it, with the result that now the ants have found their way right up to my patio doors. Swell.
But I keep looking, and I keep seeing black squirrels, although I do not know if they are Little Dude or not. I see one once that seems to have something white on its hind leg and I think maybe it’s bone and so when the squirrel stops to gnaw at it I yell at the damn thing to stop, and it looks at me like I’m crazy and goes back to gnawing at it, so I throw some kidney beans at it, which make decent projectiles and the squirrel gives up and hops away, limping.
That was a week ago.