One morning in early February, I heard the dogs barking. Now, dogs bark, so dogs barking is not unusual. But their bark sounds different when they are focused on something close. And this was their “trying to get to it now” bark, so I went outside to see what was going on.
Clint, our oldest dog at 14 1/2 years, was trying to dig around the end of the downspout while Dusty and Abby were barking at it. I could hear scratching sounds coming from the inside.
Uh oh. It could only be one thing: The Squirrel.
Not “a” squirrel, but “the” squirrel. That’s because we have only one squirrel. Our house sits on what used to be pasture land and for decades the only trees there were Mesquite. Oh, and one dead hackberry, but it’s been gone for more than 10 years. We just didn’t have squirrels.
Until a few months ago. Then both of us saw a squirrel from time to time, usually in one of the oak trees or on the picnic table, eating the bird seed. (Hubby grew the oak trees from acorns. There used to be three oak trees, but somehow our puppies shredded one sapling to bits. It never had a chance against them.)
And now our squirrel was trapped inside the downspout. Over the years, we hadn’t kept the downspout area clear, so dirt accumulated and grass grew there. The exit was blocked and the squirrel couldn’t get out.
I took the dogs back into the house, hubby got out the shovel, and removed the grass around the downspout.
No squirrel came out. Maybe it’s waiting for us to leave, we think, so we do, giving it enough space (we hope) to realize it can make its escape. About an hour later I realize that didn’t work. I think it’s still trapped.
Out come the metal cutters, and hubby slits open the downspout, pulls it apart and has to remove lots more dirt and grass. There was no way the squirrel could have gotten through all of that. With the opening now clear, the squirrel slides down, just a bit. It’s not mobile, however, and hubby has to pull it out.
I don’t know how long it had been there, but probably the time was less than a day, otherwise the dogs would have found it the day before. Still, the temperature was down to freezing that night and the squirrel must have been scared when the dogs tried to get to it.
It was alive, but very still. It was cold and traumatized, exhausted from trying to scratch its way out. I popped some old towels into the dryer to warm them up and wrapped the squirrel in them.
Well, now what? Where to put it? I carried the swathed squirrel around in a bucket for a few minutes, like a kid in a reverse Easter egg hunt: I put the bucket under the rose bush, moved it to under an Italian Stone Pine, then near the tractor, eventually standing in the driveway holding the bucket out, turning this way and that as if it were a magnet and I was looking for the North Star.
We ended up putting it in one of the dog houses in a kennel where we could keep the dogs away from it.
That squirrel didn’t look so good. We kept checking on it and it was just not moving much at all. Taking pity on it, hubby put it in a small pet carrier, still wrapped in the towels, and brought it into the laundry room. After a few hours, it started to look better.
It was time to set it free. There was that question again: Where? We didn’t know where it lived, really, because we had seen it in several different places. The best place seemed to be near the two oak trees, as that was near where we fed the birds (and we knew the squirrel ate the bird seed) and we kept water there for the birds, as well. Hubby set the small carrier near the base of one of the trees, opened the door and let it be.
I checked the carrier the next morning and the squirrel was gone. We didn’t see hide nor hair of that squirrel for more than three weeks. This week I saw it running near the Crepe Myrtles and we’ve seen it a few times since.
Is this “our” squirrel or “another” squirrel? We’ll never know, really. I hope it’s “our” squirrel. I want her to tell her descendants the story of how we saved her life so they know not to get into our attic, chew on the electrical wires, and start a fire. Is that too much to ask?