A squirrel who thought he was human and feared no dog

Frank Lea Contributing Columnist

August 1, 2014

Last year seven squirrels, about two weeks old, fell for an unknown reason from their mother’s nest. A person found them together on the ground and left them at a local veterinarian clinic. People who work for a veterinarian clinic love animals — all animals.

My daughter Katie, an employee, took two squirrels to raise, another employee took two, and one took three. The baby squirrels required feeding of a special milk in a small bottle every few hours. Remarkedly, they all lived to maturity. Eventually they graduated to squirrel food.

Katie named her male squirrel Sheldon and her female Penny after characters in her favorite television sitcom. As the pair began to mature, Katie began taking them to the front yard to acclimate them to the outdoors. Our two dogs and four cats paid them little attention. After all, Katie was there and they knew to leave the squirrels alone. In fact, Katie has a photo of her dog Happy laying in the yard with Sheldon beside her. The two would climb a tree, but not very far up.They still needed the security that Katie provided.

When all the squirrels were about 10 weeks old, it was decided the time had come to set them free. There were several hardwood trees in the back of the veterinarian clinic. The trees would provide an ideal home for the squirrels. Besides, the employees had decided to provide food for them.

Most of the employees smoked. The rule was each could go out back one at a time to smoke. Whenever any would go outside, Sheldon would scamper down a tree, climb up the person’s clothes and sit on his or her shoulder. When a repairman came to work on the heat pump, Sheldon climbed up his clothes and perched on his shoulder.

It was obvious that Sheldon identified more with humans than his own kind. When Katie left work, Sheldon would follow her to her truck. She would pick him up and he would ride home with her in the cab. At home, she kept Sheldon in a cage in her room. Day after day, she continued to take Sheldon to work, hoping that Sheldon would bond with his brothers and sisters. She felt this would be best and safest for Sheldon.

It was Katie’s birthday when I answered the phone call. She was sobbing uncontrollably. Because Sheldon had no fear of dogs, Sheldon had wandered into an outdoor kennel with a dog in it. True to its instincts, the dog had killed Sheldon. His body was so badly mangled, the other employees would not let Katie see Sheldon. He was buried in the yard.

Sheldon, the special squirrel who bonded with humans more than other squirrels, was a sweet and innocent being. His innate trust of other beings caused his death. I think of Sheldon often. To me, his death says alot about the devious and sinister world that surrounds us all.

Frank Lea is a native of Gibson and now resides in Laurinburg.