Earlier this week I was reminded of something that happened two years ago.
Two years almost seems life a lifetime ago, with the Global pandemic taking over everybody's lives in the last 18 months or so, but at the same time it seems like only yesterday.
I'll start, like every good story, at the very beginning.
I was pottering around the house when I heard a kerfuffle going off in the conservatory.
The disturbance being caused by two very excited terriers.
The dogs may look docile enough when at rest but there is nothing they like more than chasing squirrels. If it runs or climbs they will chase it and they can get quite volatile, the younger one often turning on his comrade in his frustration at catching nothing. In fact their only saving grace is they never actually do catch anything.
On this particular afternoon however it seems the squirrel had come to them.
The how or why I will never know but a baby squirrel had been cornered in the conservatory. To say the the dogs were excited by this turn of events was an understatement. The noise was quite deafening.
I quickly got the pair shut in the house and turned my attention to the small defenseless creature cowering in the corner.
I say cowering. It really wasn't. Frightened by the noise, possibly. Too young to comprehend the probable outcome if the dogs had reached it, almost certainly.
I thought the best possible solution was take it next door and hope it's mother would come to it's rescue as it had most certainly fell out of the *drey at the top of the garden.
Of I trotted to the house next door and roused the neighbours from their peace and quiet on that warm September afternoon.
We decided it would be best if we let him go at the bottom of the garden where he was less likely to be spotted by the ravens and magpies and more likely to be found by his family.
That was what we thought was best
This little squirrel however had a differing view of the proceedings. I put him down and we walked away. He ran after us.
I took him back up the garden, put him down and quickly walked away.
He was having none of it. He ran after me, leapt at my leg, shimmied up my jeans and hid himself in the oversized painting cardigan I was wearing.
So I went back home with a baby squirrel firmly and contentedly nestled in my cardy.
I had stern words with the dogs but didn't expect a lot of sympathy from them.
They have seen squirrels as fair game for a long time.
Now at this point it is probably fitting to point out that although I do like wildlife, and I love red squirrels, I usually have no time at all for the greys. Rats with bushy tails is the usual tag attached to them. They wreck my bird feeders and dig up my lawn, not to mention they have no qualms on stealing and eating birds eggs and their young.
But, this was a baby and, I have a predisposition to care for young animals no matter what.
The only option open to me was to let the squirrel stay in the conservatory, lock the conservatory door from the house. Put up a child gate to the open door outside to stop the dogs getting in but allow the squirrel to get out and use the back door as the main entrance to the garden.
This I think confused the dogs more than having a squirrel in residence as we rarely, if ever, used that door.
I put my Cardigan, all scrunched up, on a chair and that's were he slept. That became his nest.
Squizzel had settled in
The dogs became used to our house guest and although I wouldn't have left the three of them alone, they tolerated each other amicably enough when I was around.
So Squiz lived in the conservatory.
He was exceedingly friendly and overly confident around the dogs. I knew though that he couldn't be a pet, as cute as he was now I was certain that a hormonal teenage male grey squirrel wouldn't be.
The conservatory door was only closed at night so he was basically free to leave whenever he wanted.
For the first few days he would only go outside if he was taken out and would only stay there if I was nearby. Gradually he began to venture out on his own.
After just over two weeks he was spending more and more time outside and I decided it was time he left us.
I couldn't just leave him to his own devices though. He'd been living the life of Riley here and it would be enough of a shock for him to be shut out of the house and have to live in the big bad world without taking away his food supply and comforts of home.
I went to town building him a home
I cut a hole in the side of the shed. Put a wooden box inside with my cardigan in it so he didn't feel too abandoned and added a shelf to the outside where I could put his food.
I introduced him to his new home and stopped feeding him anywhere but on the shelf. He took to it surprisingly quickly.
After only a few weeks of being out on his own I saw him with another squirrel and knew he was going to be alright.
He'd come for his food when I called him but for the most part would stay away.
As the weeks passed into months he came less regularly and I stopped feeding him.
He is after all classed as vermin and the dogs are still predisposed to chase fully grown squirrels so it's really not that safe for him to come visiting.
I do get a little emotional though when I think about it and will always remember him.
Has it changed my opinion of Grey Squirrels. Well, no it hasn't and, if there was another baby that needed my help would do it all over again? Of course I would.
*drey - the nest of a squirrel, typically in the form of a mass of twigs in a tree.