Wednesday, Apr 25, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Mary Alice Powell

Animals' game comes to sad end

Saturday morning and there was no project on the calendar. The laundry was done. The dead geraniums had been picked - 52 blossoms this time, plus a basket of dried leaves.

Suddenly, I saw trouble from the second-story window. Digby was standing over a squirrel. It was on its back, lifeless. I screamed, "Oh! No!" grabbed a bath towel, and ran through the house and garage to get to the squirrel.

Since he was adopted four years ago, Digby has been relentless in his efforts to catch a squirrel. He watches the long-tailed rodents from one side of the two-acre yard, and when one comes down from the trees, and when he thinks it's not paying attention, he walks ever so slowly and light-footed toward it. I have told him 100 times, "You'll never catch a squirrel. They are quicker and smarter than you will ever be."

And I truly never thought he would. Often times when I have watched the dog-squirrel antics from the porch, it seemed that the squirrels were engaged in a game of "catch me if you can" as they raced up and down the tree trunk, keeping just out of Digby's reach as he stretched up the trunk as far as his body would take him.

The limp squirrel was picked up quickly and wrapped in the thick towel with only the button nose left out. I carried him to a table in the garage and gently petted his back and head as he breathed heavily and offered little resistance. Seeing one up close, I thought squirrels are really cute little animals that I have always taken for granted.

The TLC continued as I put some birdseed near its mouth, then a couple pieces of dry dog food. After all, that's what the squirrels are always trying to steal. After a half-hour I returned to inspect the patient and noted he had moved out of the towel shroud, so I moved him back. On the next visit, the squirrel showed signs of being able to walk. So I picked him up, again in the towel, and placed him on a tree trunk. By this time, he had been named Joey.

Joey showed no signs of recognizing the tree or being able to dig into the bark with his sharp claws. The next step was to place him in the center of a high, leafy bush where he would be protected as he recovered, which I was certain he would and perhaps become a pet. Again, food and water were placed nearby.

But when Joey tried to run from under the bush to what he must have thought was a safer place, it was evident that he was far from recovered from the fall. This time he was placed gently into a deep box in the garage, where he would be safe.

I could keep Joey tranquil and safe in the box over the weekend and on Monday take him to a vet if he wasn't much better. In the meantime, Digby watched the entire procedure, showing no indication of wanting to harm the patient. Sullivan, too, stood by with an occasional meow. It was a family matter to save our furry friend.

I will never believe that Digby maliciously caught the squirrel, because he was just standing over him on the ground, showing no effort to complete a kill. I prefer to believe that the squirrel fell during the early-morning chase.

The story of Joey has a sad ending. He died in the box. I felt bad and still wonder if I should have interfered or let nature take its course.

In remembrance of his fight to survive, corn-feeding stations have been placed on high branches in the yard for his squirrel pals to enjoy. They are easily made. Just pound long nails through boards. Impale the ear of field corn on the nail - not your hand - and secure the board in the tree.

Do you really think I am a silly old woman for such antics?

Don't answer.

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