First--something of an apology.
An apology because I know I expend far too much digital energy typing tales of creatures that don't speak here on this (infrequently updated) blog. I'm sure accounts with actual dialogue would be a great deal more entertaining than my latest encounter with winged and four-legged creatures. But I do this for a few reasons:
1. I'm fascinated by animals and nature. Strange things happen there. Strange things that I think are worth telling other people about.
2. Being a single woman who lives alone with a dog--you tend to get a little more attuned to animals, spending a significant amount of time around at least one.
3. I believe animals do communicate. I'm not saying they have higher order thinking and can solve complicated tasks or anything, but I do believe in their own little animal ways, they are capable of telling the rest of the world what's on their minds (even if it's something simple, like FOOD).
Don't worry--I'm not to Amy Adams
status just yet, conferring with chipmunks and ordering rats and pigeons to make my house sparkle. But my interest in the natural world probably isn't going to go away. Especially not when weird things happen to me.
Do you remember the children's book, "Are You My Mother?"
It's this cute little tale (which I mistakenly thought was a Dr. Seuss book until I just looked it up on Amazon) about a baby bird who loses its mom and hops all around the neighborhood, asking other creatures if they might, in fact, be the bird's mother.
This SO just happened to me.
Casey and I were out on our walk. She was being particularly stubborn, trying to make it clear to me that she would rather be napping in the cool air conditioning rather than taking a few laps around the neighborhood in the 90-degree heat. But I wanted a real walk, and so every time she tried to make a beeline for the house, I pulled her back onto the path I wanted to take. She finally yielded and let me drag her up to the Katy trail.
When we walk on the Katy, Casey is not one to stick to the path itself, much preferring the weeds and brush alongside the path. I often find myself walking through thick grasses and muddy puddles to accommodate her sniffing along the fence line. And so that's where we were tonight, right up against the treeline, looking for grass or animals or whatever goodies she could find.
About 20 yards from where we hopped on, Casey was ambling happily along when some movement behind us caught my eye. I turned and saw not far behind us a tiny, baby squirrel, probably no longer than 7 or eight inches with a thin but bushy and quivering tail and bright, shiny squirrel eyes, staring up at me. I don't think I had ever seen a baby squirrel before and it startled me--even more so because it didn't seem to be afraid. Fortunately, Casey hadn't seen the runt and was still tracking whatever she was smelling up ahead. Not wanting to cause trouble (and knowing Casey's reaction to squirrels) I turned and kept walking.
Except the damn thing was following us.
No doubt about it, I turned and he stopped and sat up, looking at me, tiny hands in front of his chest and head cocked just so slightly. I stopped. Then it came running up behind us, right up behind Casey's back legs, so close he probably could have nipped her.
Not knowing what to do, I stopped. Casey, wondering what all the stopping and starting was about, stopped and turned as well, finally noticing her fan behind her. She lunged --but not menacingly and I was able to hold her back without much force. The little guy was not intimidated. He sat right where he had been, convinced he was in the right place.
Then he started to cry.
Seriously, have you ever heard a baby squirrel CRY before? It damn near broke my heart. It was this loud, high pitched bark that sounded like a cross between Casey's squeaky toys and a crow's caw. He opened up his tiny little mouth and barked at us, as if to say, "Help me! Help me! I'm lost!"
Not wanting Casey to take action, I decided to start walking again. I turned and saw he wasn't following, but wasn't moving, either. I had visions of the next dog on the path coming on him and swallowing him whole, in one tremendous gobble. I stood for a minute.
A group of three women came up, and saw the dog straining at the leash in the squirrel's direction, and then noticed the baby. "Awwww! It's so cute!" "Did it fall out of its nest?"
"It must have," I said. "It followed my dog like it thought she was its mother."
"Let's take it home!" "What should we do?"
Little guy, suddenly frustrated with all the attention, started to cry again.
"Awwwwww!!!" "Does its mother have to come get it? We can't touch it, right, or she'll kill it?"
"I don't know," I said. As one of the girls inched toward him, finally, he retreated off under a tree, where he at least would be hidden from other walkers and dogs. Satisfied, the women walked off.
Casey and I turned too, resuming our walk. I was surprised that Casey had been so calm. Even though she seemed curious, I don't know that she would have attacked the thing--but I was fairly sure that he was too young to know he should have been afraid.
It's a funny thing to think about--the idea that there is an innate innocence in every creature. That fear may be a learned behavior. That curiosity and trust are the natural responses of most living things, traits that must be unlearned through experience and exposure to the world.
I hope my little friend finds his nest and gets to live long enough to unlearn.