Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Baby Squirrels

Sophie and Mable

Sophie and Jake are fostering two orphan baby squirrels (gray squirrels) through St. Francis Wildlife Association, and today I got to meet the little cuties. They're all arms and legs, with harmless, soft, gripping claws and very short brown fur. Their tails are narrow and silvery, and their eyes are still tightly closed. Sophie and Jake carry their babies carefully wrapped in little wash-cloth blankets.

Sophie has named her squirrel Mable, and Jake named his Cuddly. Both kids know how to carefully feed their babies with a syringe (the squirrels grip the syringe with their little fingers just like a human baby would hold a bottle). Sophie and Jake are very good and gentle with the squirrels.

Last night Mom told me some pretty funny stories about Jake and Cuddly, how it was when the two of them first met yesterday afternoon. "Jake was carrying his squirrel around in this big towel because he's still kind of afraid of him even though they're such good friends," Mom chuckled. "And of course the squirrel didn't mind one bit; he was nice and cozy in that big towel."

Jake was full of ideas about parenting his squirrel, Mom told me. "I think we should have Family Night tonight, Mommy," he suggested. "We can watch TV together and spend time with our squirrels. Doesn't that sound good? And then tomorrow we can watch a movie with them. And then the next night we can have ice cream; we can have Ice Cream Night, Mommy. Doesn't that sound like a good idea?"

"Oh, that's a terrific idea," Kris said.

Then Jake began to worry, Mom said, because he remembered that fostering isn't forever; the goal is to set the squirrel free when it's grown so it can live a natural, healthy, independent life.

"But do I have to set Cuddly free?" Jake asked. "Mommy, do I have to?"

"Yes," Kris said.

"But that won't be for a long time though, right, Mommy?" Jake said. "We won't have to let them go for like four or five years, right?"

"Um . . . " Kris said.

When I arrived at Jake's house today to see the squirrels, Jake came out with his hands under his shirt; he was hiding something under there, and he had a little smile on his face like he was keeping a great secret.

"What have you got there?" I asked. "Is there perhaps a baby squirrel in your shirt?"

Jake shook his head and pulled out this stupid video game, Call of Duty, that he's been talking about for the last six months. Mom finally got it for him despite Kris's objections.

"Oh, no," I said. "So I guess this means I'll never get to talk to you again? You'll be too busy playing Call of Duty?"

"I'm not going to play it until five," he said. "Mommy says I can play it at five. I've got an Xbox now, you know."

"Oh, I know," I smiled.

I waited outside a minute, talking to Mom and Kris, and then Jake came out again with his hands in his shirt.

"What have you got now?" I asked.

"My squirrel," he said, smiling his little proud, teasing smile. "I can feed him! I know how to feed him, Leslie!"

"Jacob!" Kris said. "Bring that squirrel right back inside!"

"Getting pretty brave there," Mom teased, "with that squirrel under your shirt. Last night you carried him in a towel and today he's right there under your shirt."

"He loves me," Jake replied. "He just loves me so much."

And we went inside and fed and held the babies, and then we put them back in their snug little box, where they tunneled deep inside their cozy wash-cloth blankets and took a little nap.

Mable again. Unfortunately, all my pictures of Cuddly came out blurry.

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