She appeared among the other squirrels on my hillside about a month ago, a few weeks after the unexpected loss of my cat, Dickens.
The wrinkled, diseased and mostly hairless skin on her little body told me that something was very wrong. Her head was constantly sweeping to the right, as if she was motioning you to look behind her.
She would grab a peanut and sit back on her rear legs, shaking back and forth and side to side as she nibbled on the shell. She’d fall over constantly, but would pick herself up and get back to her peanut. I began calling her Shaky.
I emailed pictures of her to the wildlife center here in town. The veterinarian said it looked like she had some kind of parasitic condition, probably secondary to whatever else was going on with her.
Shaky showed up every day. She was used to seeing me in the yard and would come over for her peanut treats, hopping like a bunny on my hillside. She could go uphill fairly well, but downhill usually resulted in a lot of tumbling until she was stopped by a tree trunk.
Still she carried on. She was clearly very sick, but she didn’t care. She seemed to be happy…even joyful. And watching her flooded me with that same joyous feeling.
And then Shaky took a turn for the worse. She was mostly blind now, and had become very wary of me.
A few days ago, on a hot 95 degree day, I found Shaky chattering on a high tree in the woods across from my home. I knew she needed water, and when it came to water I was the only game in town.
I grabbed my yard tools and began cutting a path through the thorny blackberries. Blood ran down my arms and legs, but I was determined to do whatever I could to make it easy for her to get across the road to my yard
With the path cut, I put out water, seeds and peanuts…and waited. Eventually she came down from the treetops and stumbled around until she found a peanut. I cheered for her success…and then I sobbed.
The following day I saw a very feeble Shaky for the last time. She found one of the peanuts I threw in her direction and crawled under my fence. I watched her roll down the slope and land near a tall fir tree, still clutching the peanut. By the time I came around to the front she had disappeared.
I would have cared for Shaky under any circumstances, but my need to help her was so strong I felt it all the way down to the depths of my soul. I didn’t realize why at first, but now it’s crystal clear to me.
I’m a caregiver by nature…that’s just me. I took care of all the angel critters who have left my life over the years – some for weeks, some for much longer. All, that is, except Dickens. I didn’t know until the day I lost him that his body was filled with cancer and our journey had come to an end.
There was no time to brush his glossy black fur. No time for one last catnip–filled frenzy on the cat track. No time to hold him in my arms and breathe in his magic, filling myself to overflowing with his magnificent spirit.
I didn’t have that time with Dickens…but I did with Shaky.
I have to wonder if Dickens sent her to me. Or perhaps Dickens decided to show up on earth as a sickly squirrel so we could have those last precious weeks together that we were denied when he was in feline form.
I know that Shaky is gone now, and is soaring through the stars like Rocky the Flying Squirrel. I didn’t need to be there when she left this life. I’d already done that part with Dickens. It was the time before that I had missed.
I’m sending a great big heartfelt thank you to one very special angel squirrel…and also to Dickens, her co-conspirator!
Peanuts and purrs,