This is a story about a squirrel we have been watching all summer. We have several bird feeders and a bowl of squirrel food in our back yard that we replenish regularly. There are five squirrels and three or four chipmunks that spend their days at our feeders, filling up and going back to hoard.
Across the street from us live three outdoor cats. They have made the neighborhood their own and there is one that travels regularly into our fenced back yard. Anywhere else in the yard, I say hello to the kitty and I am kind to her and call her by name. But inside the fence is off limits. Inside the fence, she gets yelled at and sprayed with the water hose.
I want our woodland creatures to be safe.
So this year, early in the spring, there appeared at our feeders a squirrel that was missing most of its tail.
At first, we said, "Aw, isn't it cute? What a little fighter! Maybe it got away from the neighbor's killer cats? We were rooting for this squirrel. And then one day, we had the chance to look at him a bit more closely.
Turns out the little guy is also missing part of his front left foot. Either that, or it's mangled; it's hard to tell from our vantage point at the window, or on the porch, about 20 feet away. We'd love to go inspect him up close, but for some odd reason, he won't allow it. :)
So we watch from the window (through the screen, thus the crappy photos) and we look for him each day, hoping he's still there. He always is.
Then one day we got an even better look at him. It turns out he's ALSO missing his BACK left foot. Yes really! The poor little guy is missing his tail and both feet on the left side, yet still he manages to hobble across the yard at a pretty good clip, and I've seen him scurry up a tree.
As I was taking these photos that day, he stood up and then leaned down to eat some sunflower seeds, at which point, he toppled over on his face. We all saw it and we didn't know whether to laugh or cry. He soon righted himself, shook himself off, and went on eating.
The other squirrels clearly accept him, which was a big concern of mine. Moreover, I've seen them sort of defer to him when he shows up at the bowl of food. While they often chase each other off or "guard" the food, they always show respect to the crippled squirrel.
Here is a photo of his left side where you can clearly see that he is missing his back foot. The front isn't as easy to see, but it's missing, too.
Squirrels don't live long in our area. Either they become lunch for a hungry eagle or fisher cat, or they are hit by cars. Some have even missed jumps and died from a too-far fall to the ground. And of course there are the neighborhood cats. Yet here is this crippled squirrel with a will to live, eating each day, running up trees, and doing squirrel things.
In reality, I know his days are numbered. They're all on borrowed time, so he's a walking (limping) miracle. I know there will come a day when we won't see him anymore. Until then, whenever I see him out there, I smile.
Copyright © 2012 - Paulla Estes