He was born sometime in late summer and came down from the tree with skin as slick as a ribbon. Head to toe to tail. At first he was just something pink in the distance. Something pink and moving pretty fast. Skittish around the birds.
I got out the binoculars and took a look. Yep. It was a squirrel. And there was just the slightest powder puff of fur on the end of his tail. Like a lion. But not really. With the binoculars I could see the ripples of his skin. We named him Scrappy. Scraps, for short.
Some people said he probably had mange. I’ve seen mange — on dogs. When I was growing up in Kentucky our dogs got mange in the summer and had to be treated. Granny Wren, my mom’s older sister, made a concoction of lard and powdered sulfur. She stirred it with a painter’s stick (the kind you use to mix paint in the bucket) and slapped it all over their bodies. It was my job to hold the dogs while she performed this ritual.
Granny covered the hairless patches with a thick layer of her “sulfur salve” and then I let the dogs go, whereupon they ran in circles in the yard and around the house and then they rolled and slid in the grass trying to rub it off. I don’t know if it itched or burned or if it just felt yucky. When I was a kid I wished the dogs could talk and say what they were feeling.
Today I was wishing the squirrels could talk or at least understand. Through the local wildlife folks I found a squirrel rescuer and rehabilitator willing to take Scrappy for the winter so he can live indoors instead of face the arctic vortexes without a coat. The image makes me shiver.
Unfortunately, we didn’t catch the squirrel. He’ll have to spend at least one more cold night somewhere in the trees. He’s quite domesticated, actually, as he comes to our door throughout the day and gets peanuts. Today, however, I brought out the big guns in the nut world — hazelnuts (already shelled for convenience) and pecans (ditto) in order to coax him into the cat carrier. It worked, but he was too quick for me. Before I could slam the door he had grabbed a nut and slipped out like greased lightning.
Tomorrow, we try again. I have to get out early and buy a humane trap that will catch Scrappy and close the door automatically behind him. The squirrel rescuer and rehabilitator says the little guy is likely to go bonkers at first. There’s no way to tell a squirrel how much trouble you’ve gone to in an attempt to save his life or to calm him by saying everything is going to be all right. He’ll have warmth — a real luxury for a wild animal in winter.
I want warmth. I want to go someplace the arctic vortex doesn’t go. Mexico. The islands. Somewhere along the Equator would be good. Tomorrow would be good. I’m ready.
But, tomorrow, I’m going to be trying to catch a squirrel. Wish me luck!