In which DD’s heart melts into a puddle of love for a trio of furry orphans…
Illustration by Jenny Lamont
It was a chilly morning, around the time of the big mountain fires in Cape Town, and we decided, on the spur of the moment, to take a different route on our morning doggy walk. Happily walking along, suddenly Sammy had her ‘let-me-at-it’ stance but I couldn’t figure out what she could see… Then I realised that James was also frozen to the spot. As I stepped off the pavement to investigate, I very nearly trod on what at first glance looked like a dead rat. Of course I did a splendid girlie scream – until I realised I was looking at not one, not two, but three adorable baby squirrels!
James had moved the very excited dogs to the kerb and was yelling at me to quickly pick them up! What? Me? The girliest of girls… But knowing I had to move fast and powered by adrenalin, I put on my ‘big girl pants’ and carefully scooped up the first little grey bundle. Relieved he was still alive – and equally relieved that he didn’t bite – I cuddled him into my bosom. I reached for Squirrel Number 2, who squealed and looked intent on biting me. Wondering exactly how sore a baby squirrel can bite (but knowing I had to save them all), I went for it, tucked him to my chest, and grabbed Squirrel Number 3. Success! Then I realised we still had halfway to get home! Heart pounding, sweat pouring and three tiny baby squirrels squirming against my neck, we continued.
It wasn’t long before the feisty one, Rupert (James named him – he can be odd like that), had scurried up my neck and was getting very lost in my wild and crazy hair. I was forced to stop and ask James to help get the little blighter out. James had that look that falls between “I have to be a man here” and “I don’t do little squirmy creatures with claws and sharp teeth”. He puts up with a lot living with a crazy animal lover and in this instance I was so proud of him. He managed to untangle Rupert and handed him safely back to me. NO WAY was I losing any of those babies now!
Heaven alone knows what people must have thought… with my head tilted way over to the left, and both hands clutching firmly at my chest, I am sure I didn’t look very well at all. Then I had to master the uphill back to the cottage, which, even without little squirrels, is a mission! James and the girls trotted ahead, offering words of ‘support’ like “are you okay?”, “will you make it?” and “not much further”. Notice, never the words “should I take them off you?” – not that I would’ve entrusted them to anyone at that point; my heart was a puddle of love!
Back home, we had a very excited Sheba (whose biggest dream is to catch a squirrel), Sammy-oh-just-let-me-see-them-mom, and well-and-what-do-we-have-here-Arty to contend with. I slunk into Aaron’s room with my three charges and James went in search of water – he says it was for me, but I think he needed to have an inward man-scream from all the excitement. I wiped their teeny bloody noses (we suspect the wind blew them out of the tree, although it may have been a case of another male squirrel throwing them out) and tried to give them a little water, but they, too, just wanted to catch their breath. They were so adorable!
What to do? I’d recently noted Four Paws South Africa’s number and quickly called Brett for advice. On recommendation I called Margot Wilkie, aka the ‘bird lady’, ‘squirrel lady’ (or as she says, known by the neighbourhood kids as ‘the dragon lady’). This true animal angel gladly took them in. I take my hat off to animal rescuers like her. I did later whisper in James’s ear that “one day I’d love to be like her” – I think I heard him groan. But, between you and me, nothing beats rescuing and saving lives!