Welcome to "Me So Thorny!" Get it? It's a play on words that implies 1. I'm not taking this too seriously, 2. I get excited about gardening, and 3. I don't think my mom will ever read this blog.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
I didn't use to mind squirrels. In my mind they were just harmless little animals that looked like they were having a great time chasing each other and showing off their stunt man-like ability to jump from trees to rooftops to fences. Oh, sure, there was a time in college when I was convinced that the squirrels on campus were absolutely targeting me with pine cones but I confess to having had a perverse enjoyment of that. It was like having a daily obstacle course on my way to class. Okay, maybe "daily" is overstating it, but whenever I went to class it was like an obstacle course.
Then I got a dog and everything changed.
For the last decade I have more or less adopted my dog's innate hatred of squirrels. Nothing about the nature of squirrels has changed in those years, of course, but their presence in my yard has resulted in a nearly endless concert of barking and destruction. When a dog sees a squirrel, it wants to kill. And when that dog lives with a gardener, what ends up dead is usually just the plant that was going to bloom in a few days had it not been snapped in half by a 90-pound canine on a blood-thirsty crusade. And I have blamed the squirrels for this.
But lately my dog has been slowing down. His hips just don't work like they used to. He will still attempt to gore a squirrel if he has already been up and walking for a while, but more often then not, he will simply issue a few protesting barks and then lay his head back down as if to say "to hell with it." It's sad that he is slowing down because it makes it hard to put off thoughts about what comes next for him. But if I'm honest, the less aggressive personality is kind of a nice change.
So with the dog slowing down, the squirrels have been amping up. Apparently, word has spread throughout the neighborhood's Squirrel Syndicate that it is now safe enough to venture into my yard to glean the fallen bird feeder seeds or scrounge for whatever else squirrels like to eat. They come by so much now that it's getting to the point where I actually recognize some of them; this one in particular:
I have had several close encounters with this particular squirrel including one startling episode in which I embarrassed myself in front of several passing motorists. I pride myself on being a protective father and I was trying to live up to that role while walking my daughter home from the park when the squirrel in question surprised me by running along the fenceline that bordered the sidewalk . . . right about eye level for me. I won't say I screamed, exactly, but a decidedly non-manly noise did escape my throat and, for the benefit of the drivers with their windows rolled up, the noise was accompanied by a less than courageous looking juke move that did not involve shielding my ward.
Um, anyway, you might be wondering how I know that it's this one squirrel and not one of the dozens or hundreds of look-alikes belonging to the Syndicate. And if you're not wondering that, please start wondering about it so you don't waste your time focusing on the paragraph above. The reason I know it was this squirrel is easy. Check this out:
See that bulge in it's stomach/chest area? It looks like a camel's hump on the wrong side. Here's another view:
Eating a stick? What for?
Is it pregnant or is that some kind of tumor? Hoping that it was pregnant, I typed in "pregnant squirrel" and did a Google Image search. Judging from what popped up in the search results, I have definitively concluded that my squirrel is probably not pregnant as this is what a pregnant squirrel is apparently supposed to look like:
This freaks me out. On many levels.
So it looks like my backyard squirrel has a large tumor growing on its chest. Since I started by saying that for the better part of the last 10 years I have adopted a hatred of squirrels it wouldn't be entirely genuine if I claimed to be totally broken up about my squirrel's condition. But I can honestly say that on some level I think that it's too bad. I know it's a "circle of life" thing and terrible things are happening all around the world every day. But like all things, when trouble comes to your own backyard, it makes it feel more real and you wish there was something you could do to make it better.