Last week we agreed to take on the challenge of rehabilitating a baby squirrel that had fallen off a roof and onto its head. There were many discussions with our boys — #1 and #2 — regarding the premise that the hopefully mended squirrel would soon be released back to the wild. It wasn’t a pet, or mascota in local parlence, it was a wild animal, and wild animals aren’t usually partial to being stuck in a pocket for lengthy periods of time.
Over the first few days the damaged squirrel alternated between happily active and woefully lethargic. Tiny massages were applied. All bathroom functions were carefully tracked, and met the known standards. The mood around our house was directly related to the current health of the squirrel, and at times it felt like we needed not only a veterinarian by a psychologist. Per the advice of the friend experienced on this front (the one that had bequeathed the squirrel) we secured a stash of goat milk for the ongoing bottle feeding of the intermittently thirsty squirrel. After yet another round of discussions about the miraculous powers of goat milk, #2 pondered aloud, “Where do the mommy squirrels in the wild get their goat milk?”
Sadly, on day four, shortly after a lackluster feeding the squirrel gave up the fight. Upon discovery our boys questioned everything about life on this planet, particularly the fact that something as sweet and innocent as a baby squirrel would meet with an untimely death. Rage turned to tears, and eventually, despair.
That night the boys couldn’t stand to look at the now-defunct squirrel. I promised to aid them in the burial process the following morning but it appeared I’d be doing that on my own. I put the tiny cadaver in a bicycle inner tube box, which I then placed in the freezer for safekeeping as 12 hours of exposure in the rain forest was likely not to improve any aspect of this issue.
The next morning I was surprised, and pleased, to learn that the recent rehabilitation failure would not impact their desire to try again. In fact, Things #1 and #2 demanded the opportunity to not only attempt to save another injured animal but to actively seek training the area as a prelude to opening an entire operation dedicated to the rehabilitation of sick or injured animals. I was tasked to secure land suitable for the housing of said facility and then construct it — preferably by the time they got home from school.
#1 dug a small hole in the midst of a heavily flowered part of a nearby bed, and we all took turns holding the inner tube box and saying our final farewell to our small, deceased friend. The lure and advertised power of goat milk reappeared as well, so I was sent to fetch a small container of it to accompany the squirrel on it’s passage over the river Styx (our conversation the night before had covered a lot of religious and mythological ground).
The service ended with #2’s hand-crafted (criollo) tombstone.
I hope our boys follow through on learning more about how to help injured and orphaned animals. I also hope that their overly generous, sensitive hearts can handle the lows that likely outnumber the highs. Lastly, I hope the container of now rancid goat milk buried with the squirrel is left unmolested during our tenure here in this house.