I can’t help busting out the ALL CAPS!


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.

But no.

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?

Ah yes.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

23 thoughts on “DUDE NOT DEAD!!!

  1. A story that makes me laugh and cry. You’ve touched my cynical heart, my little squirrel whisperer. I shall eagerly await to hear what you have done with the ants.

  2. Also: my sister’s going to kill me. I understand she spends a pretty penny at Lee Valley making sure the squirrels don’t get at her bird feeder.

  3. The gratitude reflex does not develop for some time, it’s true. At least it didn’t try to spray you!

    Mind you, I’ve no idea if Little Dude peed on my patio, because thankfully it is drained.

  4. Wow! We both have animal rescue stories to tell although they do have different endings. Last week I came upon a fawn all tangled in a wire fence with three broken legs and screaming in pain. The little one was terrified at the sight of me but I wasn’t there for long. I ran back to the house to get what was required to put and end to the suffering, suffering that obviously had been endured for hours. I blogged about this incident here http://thistimethisspace.com/2008/06/21/just-passing-through/

  5. Something so pathetic about an injured animal. For all the times that I’ve called squirrels “tree rats,” I would hate to be faced with a little dude hooked on a fence like that. I’m glad you helped it–that’s a good impulse to listen to. I believe such things actually make a difference in this world, that it matters how we care for our fellow travelers on this earth, even ones that stink and scream and bite.

  6. TT: the poor thing! And I can’t imagine what the doe must have been going through as well. That’s one of the bad things about wire fencing: it’s not very visible to animals. And a fawn wouldn’t know what that stuff was anyway.

  7. The Little Dude abides.

    writinggb about covered it for me. Quick and clean is the way I prefer my animals to get whacked. I’m even trying to switch to organic steak for that reason.

  8. I’m just saying a free range bison-wrangler might number you among his acquaintances…is all. And as Nic Cage said in Con Air, “On any other day, that would seem strange.”

  9. I love your little squirrel dude story. I would have done the same thing and been happy as hell if I got some sign he’d come back. I laughed about the squirrel house cuz, yup, I would have done that too.

    I started a frog pond three weeks ago, which has turned into a frog swamp and now is teeming with pollywogs or tadpoles are whatever they are called and I’m constantly stalking the mama frog to take her pic and put on my blog. Yeah, there is definitely something wrong with me. Enjoyed your story though.

  10. I live in Chinatown: if I made a frog pond I’d have poachers!

    Glad you liked the story. If the frogs get out of hand remember: deep-fried is the best way to serve frog’s legs.

  11. @Stiletto:
    C’mon–do you know how many squirrels it takes to make a pound?

    Seven, more or less … depending on what neighbourhood you live in. No reason I know that.

    But more importantly, do you know how much work is involved in catchin’ squ’rls? This Raincoaster we’re talking about, not Elmo Lincoln!

  12. Hey, I could bait a hook with a walnut, throw it on the patio, and have a fat, juicy squirrel in seconds. If I baited it with cupcake, I could get a twenty-pound raccoon.

  13. Indeed! Seriously, all it takes is one. You could sell it to a family for personal use. After I ran over the family rabbit, my uncle made a stir fry.

    I swear.

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