Your comments are reminding me of this essay, which I wrote several years ago for Minnesota Monthly magazine. They won't mind if I paste it here, I'm sure. (There's no squirrel in the photo, just a nice picture of Boscoe and Toby together, up North):
I can't tell you exactly when the squirrels moved in, but it was some time after we put up five bird feeders and a birdbath. One day I suddenly realized that our yard had become a squirrel Club Med--dozens of squirrels hanging upside down, hands grubbing away at sunflower seeds, mouths working furiously as they spit out the shells. Squirrels knee-deep in the birdbath, splashing, drinking, doing the back stroke. I like wildlife, but squirrels look a little too much like rats, and they eat pretty much all the time. We started going through 25 pounds of sunflower seeds every week.
So Doug and I taught the dogs the word "squirrel." Say that, even in a whisper, and Toby and Boscoe are on their feet, flinging themselves at the door, eager to get loose and do some damage. They burst into the yard barking and racing around in circles. The squirrels, by then, are up a tree or over the fence. Toby usually runs at Boscoe and barks ("YOU FOOL! YOU MISSED THEM AGAIN!") and Boscoe cringes.
And then, a week ago, they caught one.
The squirrel must have been clumsy, because it fell off the house right in front of both dogs; they barely had to move to catch it. Toby lunged and the squirrel panicked and dashed at Boscoe, who chomped onto its leg. I screamed. The squirrel screamed, louder. Doug yelled. Boscoe dropped the squirrel, which jumped onto the side of our house. It scrambled up the stucco, dragging one leg, and crawled under the awning. We threw the dogs into the garage and slammed the door. The peaceful morning suddenly felt grim. I was horrified at what we had done and filled with guilt by the sight of the damaged, trembling squirrel. We stood in silence, aghast.
And then, high above us, we heard a call, a melancholy cross between a cry and a whimper, a sound of fear and loneliness. At the top of our roof, at the very peak, a small face appeared. A small triangular squirrel face, with pointed ears. A small squirrel face calling to its wounded mate, who clung to the wall above our door and didn't move. The second squirrel scrambled to where its mate had fallen and sniffed all around. Then it sat straight up, like a gopher, and called. Slowly, it retraced the path of the tragedy--here's where Toby lunged, here's where Boscoe bit, here's where the squirrel staggered off--and every few feet it sat up, looked around, and called. This was worse than an episode of "Nature," because on "Nature" it's not your fault that the baby wildebeest gets taken down by the ravenous lions. Here in our yard, we had only ourselves to blame.
By now, the second squirrel had made its way to the stoop. Its mate was hanging above, spread-eagled like a drying pelt, but the second squirrel never looked up. It sniffed, and then it stopped and called. Doug tried encouraging them. He made comforting little squirrel-like chuckles and spoke softly--"It's OK, buddy, you can come down now"--but you can't blame the squirrels for not trusting us.
The second squirrel fussed away, down the steps and over the fence, still calling that haunting cry. In the garage, the dogs whimpered. The wounded squirrel didn't move. We considered our options: We could knock it down with a broom, we could wait it out, we could leave. I wanted to stay and watch the drama unfold, but I knew things would go more smoothly if we weren't around.
So we tossed the dogs into the Jeep and headed out. When we came back, we wondered, would we find a search party in the yard? Dozens of squirrels, a half-foot apart, trudging through the grass in a row? Would there be a vigil tonight--squirrels with farmer's matches ablaze, singing? I had had no idea, up until now, that squirrels had any kind of private life. I guess I knew they mated, but I never knew they cared.
When we got home, the yard was deserted. There were no squirrels--none in the trees, none on the feeders, none clinging to the stucco above the door. I worried that the squirrel had crawled away to die. I put the dogs inside, just in case. That evening, rounding the front of the house with the watering can, I happened to glance up. There were the squirrels, lounging in the eaves trough, chewing on twigs, paws hanging over the side as though they were drunk.
Our beady little eyes met. I felt a rush of relief. Languidly, they pushed themselves out of the gutter and headed up the slant of the roof, one of them limping. As I watched, my relief changed to horror: They were headed toward a hole that I had never noticed before, under the eaves--a hole that clearly had been chewed into the side of our house. A hole littered, no doubt, with peanut shells and little beer cans and straw and, almost certainly, baby squirrels, who will emerge in a few weeks and be introduced to the wonders of our Club Med back yard. A hole that I knew, even as I stared at it in dismay, I am too burdened with guilt and remorse to do anything about.
Black And White...
2 hours ago