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The Tale of Squirrel NutkinPosted Sunday, September 7, 2008, at 8:56 PM
Since Kristin had raised a couple of rabbits before, she persuaded her professor to let her take one of the squirrels back to her dorm room to raise.
We named her Squirrel Nutkin, after a Beatrix Potter story. Kristin kept her in a box with a heating pad in her room at Dearmont. When Nutkin was tiny, she had to be fed every two hours, so Kristin took her to class in a gerbil cage with a hot water bottle in the bottom, and I gave her a laundry bag, which the cage fit into. Several of her professors would let her feed the little squirrel after class.
It seemed as if it took forever for the tiny grey squirrel to open her eyes, but one day she appeared on top of the box and promptly jumped up on Kristin's desk, falling into a fish bowl. After that, she stayed at least part of the time in a metal gerbil cage and only got out when Kristin could watch her.
She was the most fascinating little animal we had ever seen, and everyone else who saw her felt the same way. People would say, "I didn't realize their FEET looked like that!"
When Kristin got an internship at Duck Creek, she left the squirrel with me, so I took her to school for the ACT class I had to teach at the end of the school year. I would let her out to roam the room when the kids weren't there, and she would jump and swing from chair back to chair back. (I had those old-fashioned wooden chairs)
When the kids were there, I would let her out occasionally, and she loved to run round and round on their shoulders. She also liked to run up our legs as if we were trees - and that caused some consternation when she ran up Tyler Cookson's leg - right into his baggy basketball shorts!
She liked to sit on our shoulders and nibble our earrings. And when I typed at the computer, she just went wild, trying to nibble at my fingers!
One hot day, I needed something from Lowe's, so Kristin had to stop there on the way home, and she didn't want to leave Nutkin in the car, so she just put her on her shoulder. It caused a good deal of consternation as she went through the checkout. That was when Nutkin was younger; as she got older, she became more daring, and we never knew when she would jump off our shoulders and get into big trouble!
When she came to live in my house, I let her have one of the spare bedrooms, ironically nicknamed "the rat room," because my kids used to keep gerbils who ran in their exercise wheels all night. Nutkin lived up on the top of the curtains, and one night we couldn't find her. We tore the room apart, looking everywhere. No squirrel. I went to bed, worrying about it, only to be awakened by my daughter, who said, "Mom, I found Nutkin." When I went in, there she was up inside one of my son's ball caps, which was hanging from a chain suspended from the ceiling!
I'll change the photo on this page, so if you check in a day or so, I'll have the cap photo on here. Oh, my gosh, it's so cute!
We realized we had to release Nutkin when she began to tear the walls up and eat the window sills... So my son Matthew built her a wooden house and put it HIGH in one of the trees at the edge of our woods a short ways out back. I saw her come to the bird feeder many times.
From a distance it's easy to tell the difference between a gray squirrel and the bigger red fox squirrels: The grays are smaller and faster - and when they leap from branch to branch, they "fly" vertically, with both feet hitting the tree trunk at the same time. I saw Squirrel Nutkin from my bow window the first time she came to the feeder from on high, so as to avoid the dogs.
I spent many an evening, too, watching her as she stayed at the feeder until dark, long after the red squirrels had gone to bed. I've noticed that grays do that. You won't catch a red squirrel out at dusk. I worried that an owl would get Nutkin.
She must have survived and done well, because for the first time in 32 years, we have both red squirrels and grays.
I don't know that I would ever want to raise another squirrel, but I have to admit that she was absolutely the most adorable little animal I ever saw - cuter even than a baby goat - and that's saying a lot!
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.