Greetings, Poetry lovers! A different kind of post this week...
Maybe my father-in-law, who passed away a year ago July and whose birthday is today (Sept. 10), was playing a little joke. How else do I explain the baby squirrel that fell right into my path on my gravel driveway Wednesday afternoon? Poor thing clumsily ran a few feet and collapsed beside a big potted rosemary bush.
Twenty years ago, on Reuben's birthday and the day before 9-11, I was picking up then-six-year-old Seth from their house late in the day, and grandfather and grandson greeted me with a surprise – an injured baby squirrel. Somehow I managed to keep the little guy alive overnight (its eyes weren't even open yet). When horror upon horror struck the next day, I became determined that while the world might be falling apart, I was not going to let that helpless creature die. (That squirrel's story had a happy ending; After keeping him through the winter, we released him the next spring.)
So on Wednesday this week, I was immediately transported back to that haze of days. This time, the squirrel was a little older (about six weeks old), but I feared, worse off. It wasn't moving, and I could see blood on its nose and mouth. Its eyes barely opened and closed. It was on soft grass, so I let it be. Mama Squirrel didn't come. Checking on it again, I noticed some large ants in bothering range. Then some drops of rain. Though I still thought the creature might quietly exit the world, I couldn't just leave it there to suffer with harassment and rain.
I wrapped it in a blanket and put it in a tub in a box under the carport. I tried giving a bit of Pedialyte in a dropper, but it wouldn't swallow. Soon enough, storm system Mindy's outer bands lashed our area for two straight hours, with near-constant lightning, sideways wind, and unreal amounts of rain. When it was finally safe enough to venture out, I was afraid to look in the tub.
The wee thing was curled under blankets in the corner – a bit cold I'm sure, but not too worse for wear. I transferred it to a small crate and put it on the screened front porch (and tried a little liquid again). It still had a bloody nose, but I was beginning to wonder if that was actually from hitting its face when it fell rather than some massive internal injuries.
I headed out to PetSmart and Walmart for puppy formula and a tiny pet nursing bottle, and a cheap warm blanket to cut up for more layers.
Trying to remember what had worked two decades ago, I mixed both substances (later reading that you are actually supposed to use only the rehydrater first). I was equipped with syringes and the little bottle. After some persistence on my part, I was amazed when the little animal took the bottle, grasping it with front paws.
I also heated a sock full of raw rice in the microwave, put it into another sock, and placed it in the crate. This helped keep the baby warm from time to time. Mostly, it just wanted to sleep. Which I didn't do much of that night.
Rising long before sunrise, I checked on my snoozing charge. It didn't rouse much to drink, so I tried again later. Mindy, in the meantime, sent more rain, flooding a few streets and our entire back yard. Couldn't blame the little fella (finally ascertained that) for wanting to burrow and hide, but with some coaxing I was able to get him to drink a bit more.
This season-of-life time around, I realized a busy little city neighborhood was not the best place to hand-raise a squirrel. All those years ago, we had 12 acres and two sets of extra little hands to help. So from our vet's office, I got the name of a wildlife rehabilitator in our area. (Technically, there are laws here against keeping squirrels without a permit anyway. But getting them to a rehabilitator is okay.) The kind voice on the other end of the phone and I met up at a shopping center, and she graciously took on another misplaced baby. She already had others she was rearing, and had received a copule of new calls after the storms.
It was hard letting him go, but a family farm on two acres with a competent caretaker was definitely the best thing for my furry September surprise. I so appreciate folks who volunteer to care for needy animals.
Thanks for reading this epistle; I'll keep the poems short.
The first is a haiku I wrote on the 10th anniversary of 9-11, back in 2011:
as ten years ago
Notes from the Gean, Dec. 2011
And, here, an excerpt for September 10 by Percy Bysshe Shelley in THE ILLUMINATED BOOK OF DAYS, edited by Kay & Marshall Lee (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1979):
There is harmony
In Autumn, and a luster in its sky,
Which thro' the Summer is not heard or seen.
As we all pause to remember this weekend, my hope and prayer is for harmony and lustre in the days ahead.
Thanks to the ever-talented Tricia for hosting the Roundup this week at The Miss Rumphius Effect.