All Creatures Great and Small

Okay…I am NOT an animal freak. I grew up with the same dogs and gerbils and hamsters and turtles and fish tanks that most of my friends had. I had mouse in an aquarium in my college dorm room. I had hermit crabs at a daycare that I ran for a while. I kept continually reproducing hamsters in my Kindergarten classroom . (Just could NOT determine which was which in order to separate them!) We eventually had a rabbit and then a guinea pig and then a chinchilla. At home I had a dog and a succession of cats…and then a bird…..and an iguana. Now we share our space with two small dogs and a cat.

I have spent too many years teaching Kindergarteners to keenly observe and explore and respect the world around them to allow myself to knowingly step on a spider….or a beetle….or a dragon fly. I have a special affection for dragon flies. Older students eye me with curiosity when I catch the durn things and set them loose outside. So do my niece and nephew. I am the person who stops on the sidewalk after a rainstorm to toss stranded worms back into the flower beds. Sometimes my heart breaks when I see the various animals – road kill – alongside the stretches of highway and back roads that we frequent. One particularly hot summer – years ago – I was teaching Kindergarten on the Year Round program. Ponds and brooks and lakes were drying up and wetlands were receding. It seemed like there were more than the usual numbers of animals on the roads as they were killed while in search of water….or a safer habitat. I still remember the round eyes of the students in that class as they promised me that they would be verrrry careful of animals when THEY learned to drive cars. Animals were just looking for the things they needed after all….food, shelter and water….right? It was a basic Kindergarten ‘teachable moment.’

An animal freak? Nah…..not me.

This weekend my Princess was closing the door of our car in our garage when a baby squirrel fell from the rafters above her. After the initial shock had subsided, she ran for a soccer glove to hold him and put the stunned little guy in a box of leaves. He was twirling and flopping and finally settled down to sleep – probably from exhaustion. We put him near a tree in our front yard but it didn’t appear able to climb. He just flopped and twirled his way around in the grass. We put it back in the box and put the box near where she had found him, thinking maybe the mother squirrel would come for him and take him back to her nest….in our garage. Several hours had past since finding him and we were at loss with what to do. It was my sister who suggested calling the DNR.

On Mother’s Day.

I didn’t call them but I did the next best thing. I went online and did an internet search. It was actually very easy.

The Department of Natural Resources in our area maintains quite a long list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators. Heh. Imagine that. There are people out there that will take wild animals into their homes to feed them, heal them and protect them till they can take care of themselves. Rehabilitators will take in birds, raptors, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals and deer. The person that we called was only minutes from our house and specialized in small mammals. She said to bring our little guy to her as soon as possible. Upon hearing how long it had been since we’d found him, how big it was and a description of his fur, she had determined that he was probably a nursing nestling and in need of food….immediately. We hopped into the car with our bucket of leaves that held our sleeping baby squirrel and took him to the address we’d been told.

And we took him straight to the home of a true animal freak. Our rehabilitator had 17 baby raccoons of varying ages , a recovering baby black squirrel and a young fox with a broken foot….in her living room. She had just taken an orphaned fawn to another rehabilitator who didn’t have a 13 year old daughter obsessed with petting it. She said that deer need to be kept from bonding with humans in order to survive back in their habitats. She couldn’t guarantee that which is why she couldn‘t keep it. She did determine that what we had was a baby pine squirrel….and said it was indeed a boy. He sucked down a syringe of diluted puppy formula as if there was no tomorrow. Unfortunately our little buddy was exhibiting some signs of a head injury (the flopping and twirling) so she wasn’t sure if he was going to make it. Sadly, we left him behind – with the raccoons and the black squirrel and the young fox and the 13 year old daughter obsessed with petting and comforting wildlife. We are not sure how it is going to do. We are not animal freaks after all.

But I am VERY glad that there are people in the world that are.

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