Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Serializing this story, keeping you all on pins and needles, reminds me of Ronald Reagan's old joke that my father loved to tell, about the family with the miraculous pig. It had saved them all from a fire. It went out and fetched the paper every morning. Etc. Etc. It was TERRIFIC! It was SOME PIG.
A visitor noticed that it had only three legs and commented on the fact.
"What's to become of this wonderful animal?"
"Oh, we're going to eat it," the farmer replied.
"EAT it? You're going to eat this wonderful pig that's saved you from a house fire, that fetches your paper every morning?"
"Yep," the farmer replied.
"A pig that good you don't want to eat all at once."
You who have been flapping your hands (oh how I loved that comment!) should remember that I still have a book to finish. Why would I disgorge the story whole in one huuuge post with 50 photos? It took me an entire day (and a long one at that) to construct the series, and I mean to ride it awhile.
I have to!
When we last left Zick, she had her hands full of squirrel.
I cannot tell you all the instant effects of being suddenly thrust into the position of caring for something so dear and at once so alien. There's a rush of oxytocin, the awww such sweet babies! hormone. I checked--was I letting down? Close...durn close.
Then there's the need for information. Googling "feeding baby squirrels." Then there's the moment of panic. I'll be honest.
I'm a licensed rehabiliator, but I'm skilled only at caring for birds. That's not to say I couldn't learn to be a mammal rehabilitator, but my learning curve would be very steep, and I needed to give these babies the best chance I could. There is a LOT to know about raising mammalian neonates. What I know you could put in an overturned thimble:
Keep them warm, clean and dry. Feed them...something. All night long. All day, too.
One thing to love about feeding baby birds: They sleep. All night. Yes, they get you up at the buttcrack of dawn, and you feed them every half-hour until you drop exhausted into bed, but once there you CAN sleep. Not so with mammals. You're up two, three times during the night. On call for the foreseeable future, and sleepless. I don't do mammals. I did two of them, and one is in college now and the other one only wakes me up when he sleepwalks. Thank you very much, I'm done raising neonate mammals.
I was worried about internal injuries. I didn't like what I was seeing on the bigger baby. The smaller baby looked OK. Remember that baby.
OK. Get them home. Then get help.
It was clear to me they'd been without food a long time. They were only faintly warm to the touch. I could fix that.
Warm them up. Make them a nest. Put them in the little Playmate cooler with hot water bottles. The flip-top one I use for baby birds and yogurt, too.
Now call someone who knows what to do. Just what people who find baby birds do, who wind up calling, email, texting, and Facebook messaging ME. Answering as I do sometimes scores of queries every day, it was interesting to be on the "HELP ME!" end of that equation for once. To have all my fingers crossed that someone knowledgeable would actually pick up the phone when I finally found the number I was looking for.
She was home. My squirrel angel. I exhaled. I introduced myself and launched into the story. I saved her the trouble of asking "Where are you?" (a question I must ask of every single caller) by giving her my location first.
The only thing I had on hand that seemed remotely suitable as food was baby parrot hand-feeding formula. It might work, being grain-based, but I sensed these babies needed something more milklike, as they are mammals, and their teeth were only just coming in. She agreed. What I really hoped was that she'd be able to take them off my hands, do this thing right. But being a rehabber myself, I didn't want to come at her squawking, "Take these things! Make this YOUR problem! Now!"
which is what we wildlife rehabilitators hear all day long.
I'm always on the receiving end, and I know how that feels, to have an anonymous caller re-route your day, and probably the next couple of months of your life, with something they've just picked up and desperately want to get rid of.
She agreed to take them, and I could hear her getting busy mixing up warm formula, washing and prepping the tiny bottles she uses. I said a prayer of thanks, spared the precious babies my ham-handed attempts to feed them and jumped in the car with a cooler full of warm sleepy squirrel.
I cannot tell you how sweet it was to see these little creatures take sustenance after their ordeal. I'll just have to show you.
From here, it gets interesting. Because Angel told me some things about fox squirrels I hadn't known.