Midway through March of this year, when the pandemic really started to set in, my boss told everyone at the corporate office that they could start working from home.
The next day I worked until about 2 pm and I heard my wife talking to our neighbor, so I went outside and he mentioned how he hated being cooped up inside and would rather be working. I joked that we could cut down the tree that was dying in my front yard.
To my surprise, he took me up on it. But it was not the first surprise of that day.
After cutting down some of the major branches we noticed two baby squirrels were in the tree.
Once the tree came down, these two baby squirrels started this screaming, barking sound. One chased my neighbor into the street. The other went to my neighbor’s tree. I grabbed a laundry basket and captured the one in the street. Later that night, my neighbor eventually coaxed the one in the tree down and brought him over to me.
After nestling them in a towel and putting them in my garage I called around for someone that could help. I was directed to a squirrel lady who said I could bring them to her but I should put them out for the mother to take back in. I needed to put them near the tree they were in and as high up as I could put them.
The next morning I put them in a basket up in a tree but by 10am the mom had not come by.
Where I had put them was a little far from the tree that had been their home. I put them on the stump of that tree and made a makeshift shelter for them.
By noon one had vanished. We hoped it was taken by their mother.
That afternoon I took the other squirrel back into the garage and gave him some pecans and blackberries.
For the first week, he seemed to only want to hide.
We would try to make our guest feel loved and held him as much as we could. I would keep him in my jacket hood or pocket feeding him pecans and cleaning up the crumbs afterward.
We had an Easter basket with a towel that he would stay in and we would put him in our backyard playhouse which was elevated. At first, he would stay in the basket all day and at night we would put him back in the garage. Eventually, he would get out and explore the playhouse where we arranged sticks for him to climb and leave nuts for him to find. In time, we would feed him by hand.
One day our guest decided to take his leave. Thinking we would never see him again, we were totally surprised when he returned for dinner.
We only referred to him as “Baby Squirrel” not thinking of him as a pet that we would keep and thus name. We tried out a few different names but none of them ever really stuck. He was more of a free-spirited neighbor that hung out around our house and wouldn’t turn down a meal of pecans.
At first, he would come down from the tree and grab a nut and head back up into the branches to eat. I would start to put a pecan on my shoulder and he would take the pecan and sometimes perch on my shoulder to eat.
After a few nuts, he would hang around and I found out he liked to play. Simulating a squirrel running up and down the tree with your hand would make him “chase” you and after getting him a little tired out we could pet him. When he was done, he would bolt away but usually come back that afternoon for more dinner and tourney.
All the while there was this older squirrel that we assumed had to be his mother. But she didn’t recognize him and would chase him away if we were not around. We called her Jelly Squirrel since she seemed to be jealous of her territory and the free nuts Baby Squirrel was getting.
After a time we began to call her Big Mama.
We would start to leave out some nuts for Big Mama while we fed Baby Squirrel and they seemed to be okay with each other. Sometimes when we weren’t close they would chase each other around. Once I stepped in and scared Big Mama when she noticed how close I was. Baby Squirrel jumped into my arms from a tree which was unlike anything he had done before. I could tell he was intimidated by her since she was twice his size.
One day a few months ago, Baby Squirrel took off and we have not seen him since. I like to think he met a nice girl squirrel and they have a large squirrel family in the works. Either way, I really miss him.
But our squirrel escapades do not end there.
Big Mama would still come around for nuts and when putting nuts out for her, I would edge closer and closer and wait while she approached.
One day I just sat at the bottom of the tree and held my hand up to her and she tentatively came down the tree and ate not one but three pecans from my hand.
I did not see her for a while but soon my son was feeding her. And then she would let me feed her too.
My son has been able to start petting Big Mama when he feeds her which is something I am pretty jealous of.
I wrote once about when a bird flew to me and how much I felt like Snow White having a pure heart that animals feel comfortable flocking to. But this experience was even better.
All you have to do was tear apart a family’s home, kidnap their babies, wait for Stockholm Syndrome to kick in, bribe them all with small amounts of food and even you could feel what it is like to be a Disney Princess!