The Squirrel Raises the Stakes

I admire tenacity, I really do. However, my ongoing struggle with our intrepid squirrel continues. In the last few weeks, well first of all it’s been uncommonly warm, so the flowers keep blooming and my guardianship of them grudgingly continues. I did give up on even trying to stop Brother Squirrel from destroying them. Just to mess with me, he’s completely ignoring the begonias and has instead adopted another tack. He is now using our deck as a storehouse for his winter food supply. I found one morning piles of hickory nut husks – his treasure trove –  one of which was heaped into the top of one of the flower pots. Exhibit A: 

In case I didn’t get the point, Brother Squirrel left a partially eaten hickory nut on the railing. Exhibit B (below): Point taken! Territory marked!

Now here’s the curious part. There are no hickory trees surrounding the back yard where the deck is. There are maples and oaks – the usual. So I am imagining that he’s hauling these nuts from wherever the nearest hickory tree is (one by one?) and depositing them onto the porch which is elevated. There’s effort involved. Is this some sort of evil genius at work here?

In my fantasies of what makes Brother Squirrel tick, I see what may be his “end game.” I imagine him in our home, lounging in the recliner – maybe wearing a smoking jacket – with his paws (?) behind his head, and a big old smile on his face; while we are huddled and shivering out on the deck scratching to get in. 

I know that I haven’t even gotten to the endless battle with the family cat, and she too has upped the ante in her efforts to usurp power. Are she and Brother Squirrel having secret meetings, late at night with the screen door between them like Pyramus and Thisbe in A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Are they trading pointers and sharing strategies?

There is more to come. Of that I am sure.  

Peace

Clare Irwin

Clare versus the Squirrel…and the Cat

We’re having summer weather still and it is perfection. I’ve spent more time outdoors than blogging which makes me feel guilty. But, I know that in short order it will end, so carpe diem is my motto of the moment. I can see the subtle changes, the green of the trees is muted, some are changing color just a little. The song of the earth is different too – plenty of birds, but less birdsong in the early morning and early evening. There are a lot of monarch butterflies around, I tried to capture a photo of them, but they move too fast for me. They’ll be heading to points south soon; I wish I was going with them.

Where I live we have a family of squirrels who live in a hollow of a tree off the porch, and they look adorable when they are peaking out of their little home. They’ve been with us for a while, especially the male, the alpha male, of the brood. I recognize him because he has a mark on his right flank. Normally he and I have a good relationship. He has the run of the place and I enjoy watching him doing his gravity defying leaps and twists. However, depending on what flowers I plant in the spring, that is when the cold war begins. He loves to tear and dig up and eat all the flowers. I come home at the end of the day and find the carnage strewn over the deck. So, I Googled what squirrels don’t like and some sites said hot sauce or pepper flakes, another said coffee grounds. I was getting weary of replanting everything so I started putting out the hot sauce and flakes. That seemed to work. Then we rearranged the flowers and suddenly the hot sauce wasn’t enough! Was he taking an antedote? I decided it was time for the coffee grounds. Which worked. Yet the obvious purpose of flowers is their beauty and their flourishing, but with the hot pepper and the coffee grounds – it’s a mess. From a distance things look nice, but on close inspection – well it’s just ridiculous. 

About a month into the coffee ground period I stepped outside one morning and found, nearly at the first step, a nice little pile of squirrel poopies! How’s that for throwing down the gauntlet? This was a clear protest. Okay! So he wants a war, we’ll have a war! I upped the coffee grounds and things settled. I did make the huge mistake of looking on the internet for cleaning up the “droppings.” One guy has a website meticulously documenting every kind of wild animal poop with descriptions and photos. Amazing. Who has this kind of time?

Then I made my second mistake and looked up the best way to clean up the area. I had already removed, with a paper towel, the offending pellets, and then figured I better do more than that or Brother Squirrel will make this his new bathroom. Well, the alarmists were out there in full force- you can get this from squirrel urine and feces, you can get that – and THEY ARE ALL FATAL! Maybe I should just burn the house down, sow the ground with salt, and call the undertaker and short hand the whole thing. One suggestion was to use bleach and dish liquid. I’m sure I did more harm to myself inhaling the bleach fumes than from the gift Brother Squirrel left me. I also called my friend who’s a nurse, and she said as long as I didn’t handle it with my bare hands I should be fine. This was in a voice mail and she added, “Clare, think of all the s%$t you touched and put in your mouth when you were a kid and nothing happened!” She’s absolutely right! We went around barefoot through deep woods and fields all summer long, God knows what we touched and walked on. One of our dogs used to enjoy eating deer poop. And, as my dear friend said, NOTHING HAPPENED!

In the last week the coffee grounds are not working! Does Brother Squirrel have super powers? Was he bitten by a spider whose diet was hot sauce and coffee? So there’s been a bit of tension because I’m just trying to get the flowers to make in through the next weeks until a cold night decides everything. Then Brother Squirrel can have it. But it’s a battle morning and evening. As I am writing this he is lying on the railing of the deck, lounging in the sun and looking right at me. He’s a real agent provocateur.

The other morning I found him in the same position and went to shoo him off, and I must have startled him because he jumped and lost his footing for a second. I felt terrible – I’m attempting to draw boundaries not give the poor thing a coronary. Then I remembered one winter a couple of years ago. It was relentless, one blizzard after another, the kids hardly had school and people were starting to crack. During that long winter of discontent, Brother Squirrel came to my back door and looked mournfully at me. There was so much snow he probably couldn’t forage. I swear if I had opened the door he would have come in and we could have all sat by the fire with graham crackers and milk and waited the winter out. I started to leave him little plates of chopped apple and other fruit and peanuts in shells, and I would find the plate quickly emptied So all this nonsense now seems like a bit of a betrayal – weren’t we cool?

In the final analysis I believe the animal kingdom will defeat me and maybe that is as it should be. I was going to also discuss the unending power struggle with the family cat – who is 14 years old. That’s 70 in cat years. She’s also a female, so there’s that. Happily she’s still pretty frisky – I guess 70 is actually the new 40? Either way her will wins out over every issue. No quarter is given with her. Ever. You would think I would learn, but am I foolishly trying to bring some order (which we all know doesn’t exist) into our world, and animals don’t bother with order. Let’s face it they’re both smarter than I am.

To be continued…

Clare Irwin

To All the Pets We’ve Loved Before…

…and will again and after.

Bull Dog

Bull Dog

A dear young friend of mine lost her beloved pet this past Thursday night. This young lady is a special soul, intelligent, sensitive, creative and loving. A wonderful person, beautiful inside and out. She possesses the pale beauty and perfect features that one sees in paintings of the Northern Renaissance — I am thinking of Jan van Eyck as an example. She loved her pet and cared for her in a fashion that was so touching. My heart aches for her loss. Many of us know the grief of saying our goodbyes to the pets we love with all our hearts: dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, all of them. Of course there is other devastating grief. But I am thinking of this unique and wonderful bond we are able to have with these beautiful creatures who simply love us.

Girl with horse

Girl with horse

Whether it’s a pet from long ago or a recent loss we hold the memory of them in our hearts. They stay with us always.

Baby Mice

Baby Mice

I remember vaguely a movie where a man thinks he has died and gone to heaven. He awakens on a beautiful deserted beach and a dog comes happily running up to greet him. The man says, “Oh, I was hoping there would be dogs here.” Nice. I’m hoping and believing that all the creatures we love will be there too. I recall in prep school singing the lovely Anglican hymn, “All things bright and beautiful,/All creatures great and small,/All things wise and wonderful,/The Lord God made them all…I realize that not everyone shares this belief, but I hope all can take comfort that wherever our lovely pets are they are happy and frolicking and forever beautiful and well.

Black Cat

Black Cat

Clare Irwin

P.S. I hope you will share your remembrances of your much loved pets with me.