Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wildlife on the Homefront

Photo Credit: Wildlife Select

Isn't that such a pretty bird? It's a Red Winged Blackbird and I had a pair of them hanging around the yard today. I've never seen these birds before and frankly I'm amazed at the variety of birds I'm seeing this year that I have never seen before. Since I'm using pretty basic birdseed, I don't know what is different, except that maybe the bird population is finally getting back to Pre-K Days* and before that, well, I was working full time so was never here to bird watch and enjoy them!

I have been a busy bee today with housewifely duties- picking up the clutter, cleaning up, putting things away, dusting, doing dishes, laundry, filling feeders, diggin' up this to put there, trimming and inspecting plants, watering, and generally catching up on things that tend to fall to the wayside when I am piddling in the yard and focused on being outside.

Which reminds me, before I get to the rest of my story ... Virgos, we are a funny lot. I haven't met a Virgo yet who isn't a list maker. I try to keep notebooks for these things, but there's that clutter problem I seem to have these days {which is so UN-Virgo like behavior} and then I can't seem to find my notebooks, so I end up with scraps of paper all over the place. To-do lists for outside, to-do lists for inside, shopping lists, recipes I want to make {lest I forget what I bought those ingredients for}, notes for things I need to research, phone calls I need to make - it's crazy!

But today, I realized that I actually do this in my head too!

I never took notice of this before, but I sure do! Here's the conversation I was having when I realized this ... "Okay, run this to the compost and dump it, move the sprinkler, come back inside and throw the towels in the washer, and finish putting up the lemon juice in the ice trays." I knew if I didn't make a list, I'd forget something so yeah, I literally said this in my head, and frankly I've noticed, sometimes out loud.

But then... when I head out to the compost pile, I see some weeds that need to be pulled and I start pulling them, totally forgetting that I was going to move the sprinkler. Then, some pretty finches start flirting with me, so I start whistling back at them and talking to the lizards and the dragonflies who follow me around the garden, when I take notice of the bare spot in this southern facing garden where I can't seem to get anything to grow. Then I remember the pop-up volunteer Lantana plant I saw in the middle garden and think, "that would be perfect here, since the other two I planted here have done so well." So I go and dig it up, get some of the dirt out of the wheelbarrow and relocate it to the new bed.

If I'm lucky I remember to move the sprinkler before I get distracted by something else! All this while the washing machine that has now filled up with water, is waiting for me to fill it with towels and close the lid so it can get to work, and the lemons that I started squeezing but left half finished are still sitting there too. This goes on all day, every day - it's really a wonder that I ever do finish anything!

So, now the rest of my story.

But... a warning. This next part is probably not for the weak-hearted, so if you're super squeamish, well... ya might want to skip over this.

Last night when I took Boo out, I noticed something - an animal of some sort - struggling in the grass off in the distance. After bringing Boo back in, I went back out to investigate and discovered that it was a squirrel. Poor thing was alive, but weak and obviously dying, and he was literally covered in flies. You could just see the terror in his little eyes.

I had noticed him in the yard a few days earlier and knew he was injured - he was hopping like a rabbit and I could see from a distance that he appeared to be missing his tail. But, he kept ducking into obstacles when I tried to get close to him. Now that I had, I could tell he was a juvenile - just a baby.

Well, it was clear his injuries were really bad - one front leg had been bitten off and was just a stub, which was the reason he was hopping. His tail had been completely ripped off and the wound on his rear end was gaping and horribly exposed. It wasn't just his tail that was missing, but a hole had been torn in his rear end and it was pretty obvious that a dog had likely gotten hold of him. In his youth, he apparently had not learned how dangerous some dogs are.

After seeing him, I honestly don't know how this squirrel survived as long as he had, and I felt terrible for the little fella. I shooed away the disgusting flies and scooped him up with a shovel - he struggled, terrified, wanting to get away, not certain what my intent was. I carried him to the spigot outside to give him a good rinse, grabbed a pair of gardening gloves and placed him in a box, carrying him to the garage, where at least the flies wouldn't be crawling all over him. He seemed to become a bit more at ease, probably relieved to be away from those flies, who had already deposited eggs on his wound and yes, there were already maggots. I know ... its gross. My heart ached for this poor little animal. I couldn't help but wonder if he had let me get close to him before, maybe we could have stitched him up and saved him.

I soaped up some paper towels and washed him off, dabbed some tea tree oil on his wound which ran the maggots out, found an old pair of tweezers, and literally plucked the darned things off of him, drowning them in alcohol. I honestly don't know how I could stomach such a thing ... yuck ... {which is exactly why I ditched any ideas of a job in the medical field} but I'll be damned if I was gonna let that little guy suffer these last few moments of his life, so somehow they didn't even bother me.

Once his wound was cleared, I wrapped him in several layers of paper towels, and then tightly in an old towel - swaddled like a human infant. Using an eye dropper I offered him a little water just to wet his mouth - goodness knows how long he'd been laying there suffering - and he gladly took it. I even offered him a piece of seed meat from the bird feeder, which he took and chewed on. I've had animals all my life and many of them have lived into their 20s, dying of old age and taking their last breaths in my arms, so I knew this little fella was dying and I prayed that it would come soon to end his suffering.

Animals can't speak, but one thing I have learned is that you can certainly read a lot from their eyes, and it was there that I saw this transformation from the terrified little squirrel I found laying in the grass, to this little guy who was calm now and at peace. It was just amazing.

He curled up in the towel and I held the towel to my chest, against the warmth of my body, where I'm sure he could hear the beating of my heart. I had no fear of him biting me now at all. He was content and just laid there peacefully. After awhile he began to have convulsions. He stiffened, struggling to reach out with his one remaining front claw, reaching for something to steady himself. I offered my finger and he grasped it as his little body shuttered and his heart stopped. I imagined that at least for those final seconds of his short life, he must have felt some comfort, perhaps as he did in the protection of the nest against his mother's body, when he was first born not long ago.

I don't think that I'll ever look at a squirrel quite the same again.

*People seem to get uncomfortably silent when I mention Hurricane Katrina, though honestly that is an important measuring stick for those of us who lived through the experience. Still, I decided to just start referring to it as Pre-K to take off some of the pressure.


  1. I am glad you are on this earth. What a good person you are. Your story just shocked the heck out of me, because you showed such strength of mind and heart to save that poor squirrel from suffering. I don't really have the right words to say except you really are incredible.

  2. Oh my gosh! You just made me cry! But, in a good way. I have always had this odd connection to animals - of all kinds. Sometimes I swear I feel like Dr. Doolittle LOL!!

    My heart just hurt so bad for this little fella. I'm glad he had some peace in the end.

  3. You're a good woman...and a great cook!

  4. Thanks Sherri! I dunno... I just felt compelled to share about this little fella and how he touched my heart.

  5. Mary, I just happened to find your blog. I'm so glad I did. I'll be back often.

  6. Poor little squirrel. He was lucky (as lucky as a maimed, dying squirrel can be, I mean) to have you in his final moments. Saint Francis would be proud!

  7. Aww, what a nice thing for you to do. Poor little squirrel.

  8. God was surely smiling down as He saw you tending to His creatures. I think that was a wonderful thing you did. It actually made me cry. I'm glad you were there to help him.

  9. I cried when I read this post this morning. I had to wait a while to come back and comment. You did a wonderful thing--God bless you!! Sheila in NC

  10. Hey, Mandy here, you left a comment on my blog so I thought I'd return the favor. But wow, that story is amazing. I honestly can't say that I would have done the same thing. You are such a good person. :)

  11. God bless you for such a kind act! Your story made me both incredibly sad for the poor little squirrel and glad that there are such compassionate souls on the earth!

  12. What a wonderful, kind, courageous thing you did for that little squirrel. Reading your story, I cried and felt so bad for the little guy. He was lucky for you to be there to help him and comfort him in his last moments.

  13. ohhhh..... dang it. I was all ready to joke about your distraction (like mine) when you segued into an "emotional" story, which brough tears to my eyes.
    Very nice thing you did.
    You really can tell tons by the eyes, can't you?
    Very special story.

  14. Hi Mary, wow! I am literally in tears. Words cannot express how wonderful of a thing you did. I was imagining every thing you said and I just broke down.

    I always knew you were a caring person, but this just this took it a step further.

    Love ya,

  15. How compasionate you are! Poor little guy couldn't defend himself against a dog.
    Years ago, I rescued 3 baby squirrels that had fallen out of our tree. I tried to save them by feeding them milk out of a doll bottle. I even got up at night to feed them, but I guess their injuries were too bad, because none of them survived.
    I'm glad you're an animal lover!

  16. I seen red winged blackbirds while fishing last weekend. We have quite a few of them, and yellow headed blackbirds.

    Have you ever done a post on how to start a compost pile and maintain it?? Things like when is it ready and how do you remove what is ready if you're continually adding to it.... I would like to start one but don't know where to start :)

  17. Mary what a great story and I am so grateful for wonderful people like you.
    I too would like to start a compost pile but don't know how. Would you post some tips to help us that would like to try it. Thanks Judy

  18. Thanks everybody for your sweet comments - sorry for all the tears though! I thought about that little fella all day today - especially when the other squirrels were playing in the yard while I was out there.

    Yes, I have thought about doing something on compost and will try to get to it asap! There really isn't much to it to be honest - you just have to know what to add and what not to put in there and you have to start it this year to have compost for next year if you're planning on doing it the old fashioned (cheap) way.

    I'm no expert on it, but I have the general idea and have created some nice compost in my little corner, though I've had a little scamp of a raccoon getting into it this spring, and I haven't been turning it enough, but I still have plenty of worms, so it's still alive.

    The only thing is that if I post about it I'll actually have to do it up proper LOL! Right now, mine is just well, a pile, not properly contained or fenced. I'll try to get something together on it though!

  19. Mary what a wonderful person you are to help the little bird. i feel privileged to have made your acquainance! God blee you!

  20. Such compassion, if only we as humans were so compassionate with each other! God Bless and Loves You!

  21. Thanks ;) I'm really not special in any way shape or form, but I do have a kinship with animals - to me that is a true form of unconditional love.

    Thanks for all of your comments!! {{{{{HUGS}}}}}


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