I’m on vacation this week, so I thought it would be fun to have some of my favorite people guest post on Ember Grey while I’m away. If you caught my post a few weeks ago about my Wild Childhood, you know all about the wild animals (literally) that I grew up with. Today’s guest is my best gal, my mom, and she’s sharing one of her favorite stories about one of her “babies.”
“Mom! Peanut’s back!” This had become a familiar refrain from my daughter, Emily. I trudged, yet again, up the stairs to our bedroom and opened the window to let Peanut in. He jumped into my pocket and then proceeded to “chew me out” for leaving him outside.
For 18 years, I was a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. I took care of orphaned, injured, and found bunnies, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, deer, and birds. It was my job to heal, care for, and train them to go back into the wild. This took anywhere from days to months depending on the animal.
Peanut was an infant Piney Squirrel (also called Ground Squirrel, smaller than regular squirrels and live mostly in log piles or under foundations of homes and other out buildings.) A family found him (and then found me) and brought him to me before his eyes were even open. He was the only one I had at the time so he imprinted on me and thought of me as his mom. I bottle fed him with a tiny long nipple on the end of a syringe with a special formula until I could introduce him to his normal food group (his favorite being sunflower seeds which I often kept in my shirt pocket). He was content to stay in his cage on a heating pad in the laundry room or in my pocket for trips outside.
Eventually, I received 3 more Piney Squirrels (all from the same litter) and put Peanut in with them. He was incensed and would have nothing to do with them, choosing a corner of the cage for himself and chattering his displeasure whenever I came into the laundry room for feedings. When it came time to train them about the outside and how to hunt for their food groups (which I had been offering them in their cage), I would take all of them down to the woods near the creek to explore. The 3 siblings loved it, but Peanut would have nothing to do with the outside, and crawl up my jeans and place himself squarely in my shirt pocket. Every day we did this until the 3 siblings finally decided to stay in the woods…. but Peanut would NOT!
For weeks I took Peanut to the woods and creek, only to have him beat me home and climb up the tree near our front porch and out to the bedroom window where he would hang on the screen and screech until Emily or I would hear him and let him back in. Sigh. I finally changed direction and took him to the log pile near the trees suspending a hammock where he decided he WOULD stay if I would come to meet him every day for a visit. I would lie on the hammock and and he would climb the tree and sit on my chest and chatter until he fell asleep for a short nap.
One day, though, he awoke with a start and became very frantic. Danger was somewhere about and he was trying to warn me and encourage me to climb the tree with him. Not good at tree climbing, I looked around for a hawk or predator that had set him off. I could see nothing. Still, Peanut would not leave me or go to the safety of his log pile or climb a tree without me. Finally, I saw the problem. My husband had accidentally let one of our house cats out of the house and he was on his way to us. I tried to get Peanut to leave and even put him on the log pile, only to have him run back to me. And still the cat came. Peanut then began to bark like a dog (I didn’t even know they could do this!) to scare the cat away. And still the cat came. Finally, Peanut got on my shoulder and was determined to stay with me. This was a “David and Goliath” moment I didn’t want to be a part of, so I grabbed Peanut and put him on the log pile, ran and scooped up the cat and put him back in the house (with a scolding to my husband!) and back out to let Peanut know the coast was clear. He climbed all over me smelling where the cat had been up against my shirt and he started making awful wracking sounds and climbed off of me and just sat on the hammock staring at me. I caught on and went inside to change my “enemy smelling shirt” and went back out for Peanut’s approval. He climbed all over me again and seemed satisfied that I smelled like…. well, for what it’s worth… me.
Eventually, Peanut stopped coming to meet me and lived the life he was supposed to out in the woods.
And I? I never forgot him or his courage.
And I? I never forgot him or his courage.