You can imagine my surprise, when I received an email stating that January 21st was National Squirrel Appreciation Day. Really? They have a day for this? Well, I do appreciate squirrels. Probably a lot more than most because we have a squirrel! Let me tell you how “Squirrely” became a part of our family.

In 2004, Hurricane France was looming upon us. As we moved all of our outside belongings to safety and carefully boarded up our windows and doors, a neighbor came to me with the tiniest little baby squirrel. His mother had gotten hit by a car and this little one fell out of the nest. His eyes weren’t even open. So I took him and placed him in a small dog kennel and began calling the local rescues. They were all closed in preparation for the oncoming hurricane! Google became my friend as I frantically searched for what to do for this little creature. I determined that he was only about 4 weeks old, so he still needed his mama.

The next morning, we began packing the car and sure enough, the neighbor showed up again at my door. This time with 2 more baby squirrels. They were in bad shape since it had been over 24 hours since their mama had died and baby squirrels have to eat every 2 hours. In the kennel they went with their brother. We loaded the car and evacuated our home, praying that we would have a home to come back to when Hurricane Frances was done with us. We were quite the crew as we had 3 vehicles, my husband, myself and our 3 children, a couple of the kids girlfriends, 4 dogs and 3 squirrels. We drove and drove through the most backed up traffic ever. The squirrels still had to eat every 2 hours during our adventure. In between feedings, I would put an overripe banana in the kennel and sometimes all you could hear in the car was their slurping on that banana!

We drove to Cedar Key. It was beautiful. We had a small cottage that was adorable. The town was old and quaint and we enjoyed walking around sightseeing. The next morning, we were woken by a knock on the door telling us that Cedar Key was now in a mandatory evacuation. NO!! As we gathered our things, I went to feed my squirrel babies. The 2 girls were now very weak. I picked them up and held them to warm them and try to feed them, but they died in my hand. They had been away from their mama too long before they were brought to me. It was sad to say goodbye to these tiny creatures.

Back on the road again, we made it to Georgia, but there were no rooms to be had because of course everyone else was looking also. We slept in parking lots in our cars. Finally, on the 3rd day, we found a room in what was literally a flea ridden motel. None of us wanted to take our clothes off to climb into bed even though we were exhausted as this place was too dirty. We slept fully dressed on top of the beds. In the morning, we woke itching like crazy. Yes....fleas! 

We turned the news on, in hopes of seeing news about our city. Nothing on any channel. It was like it didn’t exist! Did we have a home to go back to? We gathered up our belongings and headed out. What should have only been a few hour drive, turned into the entire day, but we made it back and our home, although damaged, was liveable!

Over the next few weeks of repairs to our home, I kept calling the sanctuary in hopes to get our remaining squirrel baby into rehab. In the end, the sanctuary would not be reopening due to the amount of damage they had sustained. No one wanted Squirrely! By now, he was accustomed to people and to our dogs. I could not release him as it would be a death sentence for him. He was now family.

Squirrels live an average of 1-2 years in the wild. They normally die because of predators, cars or malnutrition. In captivity, they live 10-12 years. Squirrely is now 14 years old. He has never lost his instincts. If the dogs get too close to the cage, he will hide his food and squawk at them. When they leave, he will frantically check all his hiding spots to make sure they didn’t find his treasures. If a hawk is on the wire, he will scream (yes scream). When we grill, he cries because the smoke scares him. He truly is quite a character.

So happy National Squirrel Day from us to you!