Ancient History

Follow Me?


The Monday squirrel

On Saturday morning, we went outside to the van. We were going to get the last of the school supplies. Sam found a very young injured baby squirrel lying under the van in the direct path of our tires.

At first, we thought it was dead. We gathered around and looked at the poor baby, a male, and were stunned to watch him take a breath. And then another. But the respiration rate was low at only 3 or 4 per minute. I’m no veterinarian, but I suspect this was too low for a baby of any species. With a gash in it’s side, it didn’t look promising. We speculated that it fell out of a nearby pine tree where squirrels were frequently spotted.

We had to leave. There was nothing we could do. My husband gently moved the squirrel with a shovel to a bed of pine needles under the tree. It was sunny, so he covered him with a small leafy branch to keep him more comfortable. I looked up “found injured baby squirrel” on my phone. There were many sites about rehabilitation and wildlife management. I clicked on Colorado, only to be sent to the Division of Wildlife. I knew they wouldn’t be helpful. Our neighbors had an entire raccoon family living in their chimney and the Division of Wildlife didn’t care. They said there was nothing they could do, so sorry, but if the neighbors killed or hurt the raccoons, they would be in big trouble. A baby squirrel near death? It was hard to believe they’d care.

As we drove away, I found a site that taught how to rehabilitate squirrels. I read it earnestly, determining that the squirrel at home was 2-3-week-old pup based on coloring, hair, and other features. It would need to be fed special formula you mix at home via dropper every 3 hours and kept warm. The site also provided instructions for releasing the squirrel back into the wild. It stressed that squirrels are not pets. Ever. I was up for it, but it was hard to admit. Why was I up for it? Wouldn’t it be messy and dirty and dangerous? I shouldn’t expose kids to a dirty little animal that any other day I bemoan as a pest.

We finished our errand. As we pulled into the driveway, I thought about what I might find. The squirrel was near death when we left. My husband and I went to the spot where the pup was left. It was gone.

There was no sign of it. The pine needles seemed undisturbed. A cat or bird could have lifted it away. In a moment of hope, I imagined the mother squirrel finding her baby, picking it up in her jaws like a mama dog, and carrying it back to the nest. I’ll never know.

These life-and-death moments happen constantly, continually, perpetually in nature. Scenarios like a squirrel pup falling from a tree-top nest are common. There’s usually nobody around to see it, to feel it.


On Sunday morning, the boys headed out to the van. They began to yell the news. There was another squirrel. It was not the same squirrel because there was no cut in it’s side. The Sunday morning squirrel was already dead. I watched for signs of life, deep breaths, shudders.

I looked up through the branches of the pine tree and wondered what was going on up there. If the pups were sick, the mother might be booting them from the nest to protect healthier pups. Or maybe a cat or raccoon was climbing up there at night since we found both the squirrels early in the day.


Monday morning, time for school. The kids had already piled in the van. I walked around to the driver’s side and saw another baby squirrel. I told the kids, who were all amazed and saddened that another pup had fallen to our feet.

It was moving slightly more than the Saturday squirrel.

But it was covered in ants.

I felt overwhelmed with confusion and anger. For three consecutive mornings, we were faced with the utterly helpless and defenseless. They weren’t easy to overlook. There was nothing I could do for them. The first disappeared, the second died, the third was literally under attack. I told the kids to wait, I’d be back.

I got gloves and a shoebox from the garage. I picked up the pup and brushed as many ants off his body as I could. The squirrel moved his arms and legs. Ants crawled in and out of his tiny mouth. I considered what I could do. I had a van full of children who needed to get to school. I had a young, sickly squirrel in my hand. If the mother had rejected the pups because they were sick, I couldn’t prolong his life. She would have the instinct to do what was necessary to protect other pups and herself.

I put the squirrel in the box so it wouldn’t be bothered by more ants. It was near death. I put the lid on the box, loosely. Just in case. I left it on a shelf in the garage.

And then I drove my children to school, telling them goodbye, sending them off with blown kisses and wishes for good days.

The Monday squirrel was dead when I got home. I had hope for it.

Is hope ever expressed in vain? I hope the hope never dies inside me, but it’s difficult to maintain these days. At least the kids were in their seats, buckled in. They didn’t see the swarming and the weak flinching.

Thank God for the beautiful moments when laughter comes easy, when a view takes your breath away, when life triumphs and blessings flow. I’ve learned to linger in moments I would have taken for granted before. Last night, my husband and I sat on a couch. He had Teddy in his lap. We were looking at a book Teddy received on his birthday. He was completely delighted by a page featuring a golden retriever puppy. “Dah! Dah!” he said over and over. Dog. Dog.

He leaned over and put his mouth on the dah, gently, giving it a kiss.

My heart almost literally exploded with love, wonder, gratefulness, amazement. Teddy’s dainty fleeting action lasted no more than two seconds. I embrace these moments wholly and utterly and completely when life doles out Monday squirrels. I mourn that over time it’s easy to slip into old patterns—the bustle of the day snatches away my ease and my eyes for small blessings.

May the squirrels stay in their trees forevermore.

7 comments to The Monday squirrel

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>