Do animals know when someone is trying to help them?
Most of the time, absolutely yes, they initially have a natural fear of us, display defensive postures, yet calm down more each day. The severely injured adults are dangerous and the young are immediately aware and afraid of us. I seem to get the ‘special cases’ as the director says I have a different way that they accept easier. I rehab neonatals and orphans but they are scared and adults are dangerous.
This baby squirrel was abandoned by its mom, who returned for the other two I had rescued, but left her in the night. Dehydrated and hypothermic, she was close to death. I put her in my oversized bra, next to my heart to keep her warm until I got home. Being a wildlife rehabilitator, I did what was needed to save her, including sitting up with her, staying in my bra, feeling another’s heartbeat. After being throughly warmed and receiving a hydration injection, she continued to remain motionless. Later she started moving and crying for food. She opened her eyes while I fed her.
That night, she pushed opened the top of her incubator which I forgot to completely lock. I awoke to this incredible sight. A baby’s journey of love.
She had crawled across the adjoining coffee table and climbed/jumped onto the sofa as I slept. ‘Peeps’ returned to me, an unknown ‘giant’ that had saved her life. She knew I had saved her and she found her heart ‘spot’. My mom had died the week before and whenever I cried with grief, a lot, she would come and sleep with her paw out.
Being alone stressed her and I was unable to get her with another baby her age. I raised her and she would go ballistic unless she slept with me. We slept sitting up for several weeks. She would not allow anyone near her or me during her stay.
When she was a juvenile, I knew she was ready to go to a local rescue with an outdoor pre-release structure. Peeps, (named because she shrieked unless sleeping with me) was now with 20 other juveniles and gained the necessary survival and communication skills.
It would be selfish and illegal for me to keep her. I work for their release. Driving to the center, with her cage secured by a seatbelt, she looked at me the entire time. She was aware of a change occurring as this was a very different procedure. For the first time I would cry like a baby saying goodbye.
She came out from under her covers when I began talking about her to the director. I had brought her favorite treats, mandarin oranges and sunflower seeds and had a sheet of her personal habits.
Peeps came to the side of the cage wanting me to release her so she could crawl under my hair, which was favorite place her to hide. I saw the confusion and fear in her expression and body language. This is when I began crying again. We had become so close that I could tell by the look in her eyes that she was realizing that another change was occurring.
Peeps came to the bars of her transport cage and put her paw out to touch me. I extended my index finger with so much love to give her in return of her touch. This was our goodbye. I was almost sobbing now as I told her goodbye and that she will be safe and receive great care. I reminded her to stay safe from predators like we practiced..
She stood up and looked at me, as the director lifted her cage saying her name to comfort her. Peeps shrieked her alarm cry. She wanted me to get her as she scrambled towards me in her cage.
I was crying over losing mom and now over losing Peep’s company. She gave me an unusual amount of affection and comfort at a time when I truly needed it.
She would soon have a mate and become a mother. Fortunately, she never imprinted on anyone else and is in nature where she belongs. I’ve been told by the ranchers that she and her group are thriving and playing in the trees. She is safe and occasionally comes to the squirrel feeder.
If I kept her as a ‘pet’ it wouldn’t be right since she would probably live 8 years and the doctors don’t give me that long to live.
She would have been traumatized, having to change late in her life to an unfamiliar environment. I’m glad she got over our separation in two days of quarantine. She began with one friend and then a whole group of squirrels. She became the “Belle of the Ball”.
I miss her so much. She is an incredible being. I do hope this changes peoples’ minds and opens their hearts about these ‘problem animals’. Maybe we can see all wildlife with compassion and caring.
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