On The Forest Floor...
High up in an oak tree, the five hairless, newborn squirrels nursed, curled tightly against their mother for warmth. Using her bushy tail like a blanket, she draped it over her latest family. When the time came for her to feed, she covered the babies with the leaves and bits of bark that made up her nest. Eyes still tightly closed, barely two ounces at birth, the little ones were completely helpless.
By the time the squirrels were three weeks old, soft, distinctive gray fur covered their bodies. Somewhere between five and six weeks of age, their eyes opened, giving them their first glimpse of their new world. Already agile and swift, with sharp curved nails, they played tag up and down the oak tree’s trunk, experimenting with jumps from branch to swaying branch. All but one.
At eight weeks, four of the young were foraging for acorns, hickory nuts, pinecones and other seeds. The littlest one was still eating from the stored supplies.
By the time they were four months old, the babies moved out of the nest, and mother squirrel was having her second litter of the year.
The smallest female from the first litter half crawled and fell out of the oak tree onto the forest floor. Her siblings had already scattered. She could hear her mother chattering nearby. Carefully, nose sniffing, whiskers twitching, she groped her way toward the fading voice. Her hunched, shuffling gait prevented quick movement. Turning her head side to side, she listened intently. By now, her family had departed, leaving her behind. It was survival of the fittest in the woods.
Soft paws scraped over rocks and roots as the little baby squirrel hauled herself over the obstacles. Her tail twitched with anxiety as she shrilly shrieked her distress. Nothing answered her calls for help. Heart pounding rapidly in her little chest, the squirrel continued her journey.
Within a short time, the little female panted and echoed her panic. Her little body trembled with fear and exhaustion. Curling into a tight ball, tail wrapped around and over herself, she stopped, too afraid to go on.
Suddenly, a strange vibration rumbled the forest floor. Twigs crackled. Closer. Closer. The cadence pulsated throughout her littl body. Unfamiliar sounds made her tremble.
“Mom!” Johnny’s keen eyesight had spotted the frightened baby girl. As the son of a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, he had helped raise many wild babies and knew that one lying so still on the ground was wrong. With gentle hands, he scooped the little gray ball of fur off the forest floor.
“What is it?” I walked up alongside my son to find him petting the squirrel baby. The little one snuggled into the warmth of his cupped hands, relaxing as a finger delicately stroked her. His soothing voice calmed her as he whispered to her, assurances of safety and comfort.
“Look, Mom,” Johnny said softly, as he held her out for my inspection. Dark slits with tiny eyelashes showed where her eyes should have been. “She has no eyes. She’s blind. I guess this one’s a keeper, huh?”
Carefully cradling his precious find, Johnny and I took the little girl home. It was love, with or without first sight.
We set up a cage, and Johnny christened the newest arrival to our household “Sonar.”
“Sonar. Sonar Squirrel, because of how well she hears,” he explained.
Soon water, peanut butter, sunflower seeds and corn on the cob satisfied her thirst and hunger.
Tentatively, she explored the safe confinement, a miniature forest complete with branches, stones and leaves. She discovered a bed of something soft and warm. Satiated and content, she cuddled into her new nest.
The blind squirrel had a name, a home and Johnny.
Sonar adored Johnny above the rest of the family. She eagerly responded to his voice, dashing into his arms as soon as he opened her cage door. “You’re my squirrel-girl,” he’d whisper as she would nibble his ears and run her soft paws through his hair.
Each morning, Sonar would search Johnny’s shirt pocket, squeaking in delight when she discovered the treat he’d carefully hidden there. After school, she’d curl around his neck as he did his homework. He’d tenderly brush her tail out of his eyes so he could see his books. Occasionally, Sonar ventured down his arm to help him, nibbling at his pencil or papers.
Evenings would find her sleeping contentedly on his chest while Johnny watched TV in the living room, stroking her soft fur. Before heading off to his own bed, he’d carefully tuck Sonar into her nest, wishing her sweet dreams.
Two years and one day after Johnny found her, Sonar passed away nestled in my son’s arms. Wrapping his little friend in his shirt, Johnny gently held Sonar one last time before burying her among our other departed critters.
At sixteen, my son was not too old to cry.
by Linda Mihatov [I lost the original title]
From Chicken Soup for the Soul: On Being a Parent
What looked like Sonar's curse, was really the Lord's blessing in disguise.
Have a great day...