The Squirrel Story

Monday night didn’t go exactly as planned.  I went to pick up Kristal so I could cook us dinner and show her the Sons of Anarchy pilot, but when we got home things were derailed by a loud thud as we walked the steps to my building.

Something had fallen from a tree in front of the adjacent apartment building into the middle of the street.  A car was stopped in front of it.  As I got closer I made out something in the debris of leaves and branches.  It was too pale, too small, too inorganic.  Then I got closer.

It was a squirrel. A baby, its tail still tiny.  I don’t think I’d ever seen a baby this close before, and it lying flat on its back, twitching, not looking long for this world. I cringed a little bit, then saw another.  This one was on all fours, but not moving.  I told Kristal what I was looking at, and tried to talk to the second squirrel. Hey, squirrel. You okay? He wasn’t moving his arms or legs, but I could see him breathing.  I jangled my keys close to him and he turned his head.  He was alive, and we could see one more inside the nest, though this one wasn’t moving. We had no idea what kind of condition he was in.

Kristal was worried that people would drive down the street and crush the dead squirrel, the live one, and anything else that might be left in the largely destroyed mass of what used to be a nest.  Neither of us wanted that.  We stood in the street directing traffic and trying to protect them as the sun went down.  She started calling various animal control agencies as I tried not to get hit by cars that were driving too fast in a residential neighborhood.

It was past eight o’clock now, and the last remnants of sun were gone. We were running out of options. She was on the phone with various police and other agencies trying desperately to find someone who could help us. Most people were closed. An animal control company in Long Beach could do it, but it would cost $200. Culver City was reachable, but didn’t have a contract with Los Angeles to enter the city/county and clean it up.  We were trying to figure out if we could safely move the squirrels and the nest to the grass, or if we could somehow get them into a carrier and take them to an animal hospital ourselves.  We were worried about being untrained, unprotected, and not knowing what kind of condition or mindset they were in, so none of these seemed like better options than finding a pro.

She would not be deterred. She called more numbers and asked everyone she reached for ideas.  She repeated numbers to me and I tapped them into my phone.  Finally, she reached someone who would be able to come out.  It would take 20-25 minutes, but we had found help for the baby squirrels.

We sat there in the dark, waiting, directing confused traffic with flailing arms and glowing cell phones. At one point some stupid woman decided it would be a good to flash her brights and not slow down at all.  Kristal nearly kicked the woman’s car to get her out of the lane and protect the squirrels.  It was pretty awesome.  Eventually I realized I could pull my car around and block off the lane with my hazards on so people would be forced to go around.  This made things considerably easier, and safer, for all.

Time had ticked by, and we were past the window we were quoted.  The live squirrel starting making a noise.  He still hadn’t moved and he had been closing his eyes.  This looked like the end.  Then suddenly, out of nowhere he rose up.  He began to take steps, looked at both of us, circled, and looked at the empty side of the road.  We didn’t know what to do, so Kristal tried blocking his path.  The last thing we wanted now that we were so close was to have him run into the street and get crushed.  As he settled down (staying alert, just not scrambling), the other squirrel in the nest, the one we couldn’t tell if it was alive or dead, started moving.  They had both woken up not a minute apart from one another.  We might have saved both of them, if only Animal Control would show up…

A large truck slowed as it approached our position.  It was Animal Control, at last.  The officer (?) exited the truck and surveyed the scene.  He took a glove and held it out for the first live squirrel, I’m guessing to check its temperament.  He asked if we had seen a mother squirrel, which we hadn’t, then returned to his truck.  There was something interesting about him.  He spoke softly and quietly, kindness and compassion in his words and actions.  As Kristal would later remark, he didn’t seem real.  In an age when most people do their jobs for the money and take it out on anyone they come into contact with, this guy seemed like he was exactly where he needed and wanted to be.  He removed a carrier (the same one I think I have for my cat) and prepped it.

As he was doing this, something pretty amazing happened.  The first live squirrel noticed the dead one on the ground nearby.  He walked over to his fallen brother and began to touch him, tapping at him lightly with one hand.  When that didn’t wake him up, he began to cry.  It was a heart-wrenching noise, but it gets worse.  He started nudging him.  Then he got on top, trying in vain to wake up his brother, crying harder.  Neither of us had imagined such a human reaction.  It was really eye-opening, and at the time eye-wetting.

The officer bagged the first live squirrel and took him to the cage.  As he tried to close the carrier’s door, the squirrel clung to the bars, preventing him from closing it and crying louder.  The officer didn’t get upset, he just carefully removed the squirrels fingers from the bars and closed it up.  Then he took the second squirrel, who was very much alive and did the same.  He returned for the third with a small towel and wrapped him up.  It was weird, it really looked he cared and was sad about this dead squirrel, not like he was just tossing out the trash.  He deposited it inside the truck and came back out to check the nest for any other critters.  No dice, so he talked to us for a bit.

He said that the first had some blood on or around its mouth, but he should be okay, and the second one looked even better.  The nest might have landed and then tossed the first one from it, so it’s possible their fall was largely cushioned.  Kristal asked what would happen to them now, knowing there was a good possibility that they would be euthanized rather than cared for or set free in the wild.  The officer told us they’d be delivered to a squirrel rescue center (which I hoped wasn’t some sort of code) and that they’d be fine.

That’s the story of how Kristal and I saved the lives of two baby squirrels and prevented a third from being crushed by cars.

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