My daughter brought home a squirrel.
It had been abandoned by its mother. Actually, we think that the nest had been destroyed to make room for a person house instead. So wee, little Theodore came to stay at our house. I have taught my daughter well. The first thing she did was sit down to the computer and Google how to care for an orphaned squirrel baby. She printed off sheets, a grand total of 32 pages. (She hasn’t grasped the concept of copy and print selection yet. Yes. Mother did have a heart attack!) She took her “manual” to the neighbour girl and the two poured over the comprehensive instructions of Squirrel Care 101. Together they stashed the little guy in the neighbour’s dog house for the night. They bedded it down with an old pillow case, some peanuts, and a dish of water. They were “vets”.
Around bedtime, I became curious about this little critter that was causing so much excitement and was the answer to their greatest dreams. I pulled out my camera to look at the photo taken earlier in the day. The squirrel was much tinier than I had thought. I actually thought that it was a fully-grown, newly kicked out of mama’s care squirrel. The baby in the photo was clearly just that, a baby. I began to worry. Babies need milk and warmth. They need comfort and care. A dog house was not the place for an orphaned animal. An intervention was necessary.
So midnight found me creeping through my neighbour’s backyard with a flashlight, praying with all my might that their dog that is really more like a horse was not put outside for the night. My daughter was terrified. She kept pleading with me to forget the whole thing. She was scared of a skinny eleven-year-old girl not the dog-horse! We both jumped when that girl came flying around the corner to see what we were doing with the squirrel. I didn’t give them a choice; baby was coming to live with us. The poor thing was scared and shivering, a lot like the two girls who should have been asleep hours ago. Quick as a wink the neighbour slipped back into her own cozy home. Thinking about it now, I wonder if her mother even realised she had escaped the house.
My giddy child scrambled to find the proper bedding and small dog kennel for the newly christened, Theodore. We settled him down in a soft flannel sheet with a toasty warm bean bag for heat. He buried himself head first into nest, the most adorable fur ball on the block. My daughter was sternly directed towards her own bed and I sat down to read her “manual”, all 32 pages. The internet has very clear information on orphaned squirrels. The pages included everything from what and exactly when to feed it to how to clean and care for its other needs to releasing it back into the wild. On every new section, bold letters marched across the page,
Find A Wildlife Rehabilitation Specialitist Immediately.
A wildlife rehabilitation specialitist? What is that?
By this time, Theodore had warmed up enough to feed a little. We warmed some ensure (which I am told was not right although I did get that off one site). We didn’t even have a syringe in our house. My kids have outgrown liquid medicine and I must have tossed the last one. I held the tiny squirrel in a towel and my husband poured fluids into a pen casing, an improvised straw. The baby, who we determined was about 5 weeks old, was starving. He drank double, triple the amount the experts suggested. His tummy full, freshly clean and bathed, he snuggled back into his nest to sleep. I returned to ponder wildlife rehabilitation.
What I discovered started a new dream for my daughter. She has decided she wants to be one when she is finished school. A wildlife rehabilitation specialist is just that. Someone who takes in the local wildlife who is sick, injured, or orphaned and cares for the animal until it is able to be released back into the wild again. It is an actual organization monitored with guidelines on care throughout Canada and the United States. I’m not sure how someone qualifies. I assume they must have to take some sort of training because I did see some sites with information about certification but the center where we dropped off Theodore was just someone’s home. The home was on several acres of forested land with several enclosures similar to a zoo. The lady who met us at the door knew exactly what to do with our little Fox Squirrel. She had Pedialyte to start him on and even had powdered squirrel formula. She was amazing with my daughter. She took the time to reassure her that the squirrel would be very happy there and made sure my girl understood how much work caring for a wild animal actually was and how delicate a process it is to make certain that the animal is not too domesticated to return to the wild. I was thrilled we had decided to turn the squirrel over. We left with promises of pictures posted on their web site so we can track the baby’s progress and a newfound respect for the people who give so much of their time for God’s little creatures. Most wildlife rehabilitation facilities are run entirely on donations and the time willing given by its volunteers. I don’t know if my daughter will ever be able to fulfill her dream of creating her own center but I fully appreciate and admire those today who are.