Pedagogy of the Plants

A White Lie Saves a Flying Squirrel

with 2 comments

The weekend morning routine includes a handful of skate spots around Normaltown.  On the way back from a chilly session at the former Navy school, a dead mole lies in the fetal position between a misplaced frat house and a bank much younger than the magnolias surrounding it.

The mole turns out to be a baby squirrel blindly inching itself into the sun, and out of a phone pole’s splintered shadow.  Despite direct sunlight, shivers match rapid, shallow breaths.  I sit down next to him in the middle of the sidewalk diverting a jogging hipster and a familiar homeless man briefly sharing a route while avoiding eye contact.

In this moment, Tolstoyan questions aren’t easily answered.   After I stroke downy gray hoping to share a warm touch, will its mother – watching from a branch above – now reject her tainted son like a fledgling thrasher thrown into someone’s yard during a storm?  Earlier a pair of hawks not far from this spot were startled by the sound of urethane wheels on cement.  Could I deny them, or a feline neighbor, a hot lunch?

Three fast food franchises are within throwing distance, so I run across the street into one without a single customer that offers smaller burgers and hot dogs.  The cashier listens to a middle aged man with a skateboard explain that he needs a container of some sort to rescue a baby squirrel across the street.  She asks the manager, who responds, “Don’t you need some gloves?”  The free, hot dog sized container becomes a Sciuridae gurney (and hopefully not a polystyrene coffin).

Once back across the street, his condition’s the same, so I try to make him comfortable.  Repeatedly stabbing a branch into manicured grass under outstretched magnolia limbs like elephant trunks,  a small patch of earthen bedding is carved.  This morning I won’t heed a grandfather’s lost advice to  “always replace your divots.”

Walking rather than skating to avoid a bumpy trip home, I run into one of my students swinging wildly from a dogwood branch.  His mom mentions a chicken now roaming the neighborhood, and a baby squirrel they rescued last year and took to the UGA Community Practice Clinic.  After adopting a puppy recently, the family of kindred spirits now includes two dogs, a cat, and a fish.

Now home with cats quarantined in the bedroom, I call the clinic.  The woman puts me on hold briefly after I describe the fuzzy guy, then asks if it’s visibly injured.  Luckily, my student’s mom warned me about the stipulation: They only treat injured wild animals.  “I think it fell from a tree, and maybe broke something because it’s not moving.” I say.  She says to bring it in.

An anxious man with a thick southern accent is milling around outside the clinic door holding a dachsund with rear leg paralysis.  I buzz the front desk, and a technician lets us in.  Doctor Gentry arrives and says, “Oh, Glaucomys volans… a flying squirrel!”  He mentions that they’re nocturnal and rarely seen, while pointing-out the stripes of black along its sides lining extra folds of skin used for gliding.  I complete the paperwork, grab some literature to share with the class, then head home.

Twenty minutes later, Dr. Gentry calls with an update.  “I gave him some puppy formula, and he perked-up immediately.  He doesn’t appear to be injured in any way, just cold and hungry.  A local squirrel rehabber is coming this afternoon to pick him up.”

A life is saved.

Written by Cameron Brooks

December 27, 2011 at 3:55 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Loved it. What a wonderful and touching story. Sometimes a little white lie is all we need to save a life…

    Scriptor Obscura

    January 21, 2012 at 4:51 am

    • Thank you. The vet gave me the rehabber’s contact information, so I’ll be able to keep tabs on the little guy’s recovery.

      Cameron Brooks

      January 21, 2012 at 5:59 pm


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