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The Wild Squirrels of Deadmonton

The Wild Squirrels of Deadmonton

This is the story of the grossest thing I witnessed while living in Edmonton. Or, Deadmonton as some would say. 

It was a few summers ago. July, probably. The fat dog wasn't quite a fat dog yet, more of a chubby pup, and my white legs gave envy to the glaring morning sun as I waited for the hound to whiz in the bush. Squirrels, out for their morning feeding, were dancing along the walls of the parking garage and adjacent town houses. My wife was sitting on the stoop, collecting the sun and watching the show.

Our little courtyard was suddenly abuzz with the chatter of the playful squirrels. Sali, ever diligent, stood as a hound dog should. Alert and pointed at the noise.

One of the smaller rodents made a jump from wall to wall, tucking some sort of bounty under an arm. What looked like to be a male was following. They make several changes from wall to wall in the corridor formed by the side of the complex and the garage. On the last round, the "package" was dropped.

The tone in the air changes from something of a jovial romp to audible panic. The chirps became sharp and short. Sali stirred. Animal nerves were on alert. My human brain struggled to make sense of what was dropped. It was small, scrunched up and pink. It looked like garbage. I was thinking, "Apples? Maybe?"

Sali became spooked, but she's not exactly an attack dog. With the hound rooted in place behind me, I give the leash slack and slowly approach the "apples."

Nope. Not apples. Fish, maybe? It’s slimy.

The squirrels get defensive. The bigger one scurried closer to the package as I crept in. I take another step and the sun ducks behind the parking structure. My eyes adjust. In a small puddle of wetness, crunched up like he hadn't yet been unfolded—was a tiny, pink and helpless newborn squirrel. It wasn't moving, but I couldn't really get in to look; I have a notoriously weak stomach and get thrown in to fits of dry heaves at the drop of a hat.

"Dad" is now clearly shouting at me. I walked away as quickly as I could and got the dog far away from that part of the yard. There were more chirps and Mom swooped in for the rescue. They were obviously nervous in the face of two humans and a hound, so the three of us retreated into the house.

Chip n' Dale Rescue Rangers. That's what I saw that morning, only with squirrels instead of chipmunks. It was still rodents saving things. Mom and Dad took passes at the baby like water bombers collecting their cargo, only drunk. They wouldn't stay on the ground for longer than a split second, and couldn't grasp their child sufficiently to take it with them.

I couldn't watch anymore. Once I realized that it was a Mom n' Dad rescue mission, my stomach started sinking. All I wanted to do was go pick up the squirrel and hand it back to its mom.

Two things wrong with that plan. One: I'd probably end up vomiting on the baby. That wouldn't end well. Two: Anything I could do, would end badly. I'd probably end up with a face full of squirrel fury and lose an eye or my nose or maybe even a lip.

So, I waited. Later that afternoon, prepared to see a dead squirrel baby laying in the concrete, I took my garbage down the path. The babe was gone, and my stomach came back out of my shoes. My heart was swollen with the thought of a family reunited.

It's only now as I write this I think that a cat probably got it. There's a ton of cats in this neighbourhood. I say that because my mind is filled now with my first brush with squirrel death. It's the circle of life.

Flashback. 

It's my little sis and me. We're young, I'm probably in junior high still, which means she's two years behind me. We're in the alley behind our house that leads out to one of the main drags on Grande Prairie’s south side. We crest the fences and approached the cross walk when Amorette, a then future dog catcher/veterinarian, pointed at a squirrel about to bolt across the street.

We're on one side waiting for the cars to stop, but no one is. The squirrel doesn't know, or doesn’t care—it bolts towards us. A Dominos delivery car was about pass us by when the little animal bolted into his lane. The pizza guy sees the rodent disappear under his field of vision and hits the brakes.

From where we stood, Squeevel Knievel was on two legs about to turn back, but when he realized he fit under the car he got cocky. He booked it down onto all fours again and tried for the curb not two feet away. As soon as his tiny hands touched the asphalt, the Dominos car let go of the breaks and caught his teeny arm under the tire. In the struggle, the little guy got his head caught between the tire and the street.

That was the only time I've heard bones crunch outside of a movie. Amorette was scarred and I guess I was too. She squealed and cried, and I had to tell her about squirrel heaven as we walked to the IGA. I felt like George talking about the farm, only this ended with candy instead of a mercy killing.

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