Sunday, January 15, 2006
Wobbly the Squirrel
A few weeks before Christmas, John suddenly noticed a squirrel that seemed to be extremely sick. He called me over, and we peered at it through our second-story window to the ground below. He could barely keep his balance; he was trying to hold a seed and eat, but every time he picked up his front paws to lift it to his mouth, he fell over and rolled along the ground. We felt we were watching his last moments. “I wonder what happened to him,” John said. We watched, unable to not watch, for a few moments, as the poor animal fell, struggled to his feet, and then attempted to eat. It was so odd, to see a squirrel without balance, struggling so. We distracted the boys away from the window, so they wouldn’t see the silent scene that was taking place below. And then suddenly, John said, "I wonder if he has been poisoned."
The thought struck me hard. Perhaps that was what had happened to him. He was obviously struggling with something. Poisoned. Who would do something like that? It seemed unthinkable, yet we knew that in our suburban neighborhood, with many houses along greenbelts such as ours, the wildlife often ended up irritating people to no ends; squirrels chewed holds in roofs, raccoons took over attics, and bobcats ate cats.
I could not get the vision of that poor struggling animal out of my mind. The whole day, I thought about how awful people can be, how cruel it was to harm animals in any way. The image of that squirrel, obviously nearing his end, struggling to eat and rolling this way and that on the ground because he was unable to obtain his balance, simply would not leave my mind. I thought about him all day, and at night I dreamt about the poor squirrel.
The next morning, we looked out the window, and he was still there. John threw out more seeds. He rocked this way and that, struggling to eat. By this time John had looked up information on poisons, and it looked like that wasn’t the case after all. We watched. Perhaps he had been attacked, and had injured his spine trying to get away? We looked more closely, and it seemed he favored one side. A stroke? Other squirrels ate nearby, scurrying to and fro, scampering up and down the trees, scolding and digging. The odd movements of the singular squirrel who could barely sit up were a stark contrast to their movements.
Day three. The boys now were watching too. We explained we had no idea what had happened to him, and that we thought he was living on borrowed time. They watched, and we talked again – for the 100th time since I got suddenly sick three years ago – about how quickly life can change.
But as each day passed, the first thing we looked for in the morning to see if that squirrel was still around. John named him: Wobbly. Sometime in that first week or so, John saw the neighborhood cat come into the yard and head straight for the squirrels under the trees. In a flash, he was on the deck, throwing a potted plant at the cat, who ran away. The boys watched in glee, yet for us that old question of where to draw the line at interfering with Mother Nature came up. But we couldn’t help it – we were glad we had given Wobbly another day.
Wobbly became part of our home life. On Christmas, John got a candle with tiny pinecones all around the base for decoration. “For the man who throws us seeds. From the squirrels.” The boys are now old enough to get this sort of concept, and get into it. “Look! Who would have thought the squirrels were making candles with those pine cones!” “Look what the squirrels made for Dad!”
It is now nearing the middle of January. We are on Day 27 of straight days of rain – about to set a record for this area. The hummingbirds are still coming, the woodpeckers make their stop. And wobbly is still here. He seems to have gotten better. He doesn’t fall over as much when he eats, and has gotten very good at leaning against the roots or trunk of a tree to help maintain balance. He can run up trees…a little crooked, but up, up, up just the same. He seems to have more awareness, and scampers, in his own wobbly way, around the yard. The other squirrels occasionally intimidate him, but for the most part ignore him. Through all this incredible rain that just will not stop, Wobbly is, Wobbly is, Wobbly just is. A squirrel with scrubby fur, leaning on things to keep his balance, doggedly digging for food, running awkwardly up trees for safety. Each morning, he gives us a little piece of hope.
No matter how much longer he is there, I want to keep Wobbly in my heart. This year, I want to live like Wobbly. No matter what, I want to work with what life gives me to the best of my ability. Even if I have to lean on things for support. Even if I have to try a little harder than when I was younger to get things done. I want to be like Wobbly, a determined squirrel who faces each day squarely, and doesn’t give up.