“Feeling bad doesn’t help anything. Now you know for next time.”
Her words, though gentle, stung like a slap to the face. I sat, remorseful, at her dining room table as she fed a baby squirrel with a syringe. I marveled at the baby-like movements of the squirrel, whose front paws reached for the life-giving liquid.
So like a human baby.
My guilt was almost tangible. I could have done more. I could have acted sooner.
I watched the critter cling to life and I wanted to cry.
We’d found her curled up near our porch Saturday night, and as she scampered around in search of food and her mama, my faith in the ways of nature was strong.
We shouldn’t bother it, I told the kids. It knows what to do.
Even now the words pierce my soul. Cleverly disguised lies.
Truthfully, I didn’t want to get involved. So I convinced myself I didn’t have to.
Another day passed and the squirrel spent most of it curled in a ball, trying to keep warm.
My thoughts began to shift: What could I do anyway, even if I wanted to help?
By Monday morning, we thought we’d lost her. Later, she moved some, but she was sluggish.
“We can’t watch it die,” my husband said. I agreed, but I still felt powerless. What did I know about caring for a wild animal?
So, I did what I should have done earlier. I Googled “abandoned baby squirrel.” But even in finding a helpful Website, I hesitated.
Bring it in the house? Pick it up? Feed it Pedialyte?
Lord, I can’t do that.
I placed a call to a wildlife rescue center in a neighboring county and waited. I tried to distract myself with dishes and cleaning but I couldn’t concentrate.
Life hung in the balance right outside my kitchen door. How could I pretend otherwise? <Click to tweet>
I started searching the house for a box, and I wondered if we even had a dropper. Our kids are way past the baby and dropper stage, and I was pretty sure we were ill-equipped to handle a situation like this.
My husband got home from an errand, and we sprang to action, feeling it was better to do something than nothing.
We were about to attempt a feeding when the wildlife rescuer called back and gave me the number to the closest rescuer to us. We would need to bring the squirrel in. It was beyond our ability to help.
We prepped the box. My husband gently lifted the squirrel and placed it in, adding a warm water bottle. He fashioned a lid with air holes. We were going to wait until our daughter got off the bus, but I felt an urgency I couldn’t explain.
So, I left my husband at home to wait for the bus, and my son and I got in the van and drove nearly an hour to the squirrel rescuer’s house.
I prayed the whole way. Please let it be alive. I imagined the horror of delivering a dead squirrel to a rescuer. Only later did I find it funny in a strange way that I was praying for the life of a squirrel.
Miss Janie made us no promises. We might have been too late. I’ll e-mail her in a day or two to find out if the squirrel survived. The possibility that she might not hurts my heart.
But this experience has taught me some valuable lessons and has given me some thoughts and beliefs to wrestle with.
- Believing God created the world and all that’s in it isn’t enough. If I believe He created the world and animals and people, shouldn’t I also care about taking care of those things?
- If I think of it as “just” a squirrel with no purpose or plan in the world, then how long before I start thinking, oh it’s “just” a homeless man or it’s “just” a bunch of kids on the other side of the world. I think about what’s happening to the bee population and how that will affect all of us. We are not isolated from the rest of creation, man or animal.
- I don’t have to save everything and everyone but I need to be available to whatever and whoever crosses my path. God didn’t ask me to save whales or dolphins. He let a squirrel fall from a tree in my yard. That doesn’t mean I have to get my wildlife rescue license. It just means I have to do what I can where I am.
- Rescue is always risky. <click to tweet> The squirrel might have had fleas. It could have decided to bite one of us. It might still die. But it was worth it.
- Because driving the squirrel to the rescuer’s house was the most energized I’d felt in a while. I had a mission, a purpose, even if it was brief. Every day can be like that if I have the right mindset.
- It’s possible to worship the Creator through His creation without idolizing the created. But I’m still wrestling with how to live this out. I like to eat meat. I’m not suggesting no one ever hunt animals or that we try to make a world where no one or nothing ever dies. I just think in a lot of ways, we humans can do better.
- The world is full of unsung heroes. Miss Janie is one of them. Our squirrel was the 354th animal brought to her since March. Her den was full of cages of squirrels and a couple of opossums. She has given her life to rescuing animals. Her passion inspires me.
This morning, we saw another squirrel in the tree. It was bigger with a bushier tail than the one we rescued. Janie told us to be on the lookout for more young squirrels because the nests have two or three most of the time. It terrifies me to think that I might have to rescue another squirrel. But, God help me, I’m keeping my eyes open.
If you find yourself in the same situation, Google “wildlife rescue” and look for a link to your state’s list of animal rescuers. I never knew I’d need that knowledge, but now I have the number saved in my phone. I may not know what to do, but I have a direct line to someone who does.
I’m sad that I’m so far removed from Adam, whom God tasked as caregiver for creation, that I don’t know what to do with an animal.
And this I know: I’ll never look at a squirrel the same way again.