I am quite poor at rehabbing wildlife.

I had to let Phil go early to let him get established before termite tenting.

But he doesn’t yet know how to build a nest for shelter and warmth.
And it’s raining, his first rain. He has been sleeping out in the open on the highest, most sparsely-covered fork of the pepper tree.

When a tiny squirrel bobs at you with hopeful eyes, knowing that as a mammalian baby, his absolute favorite pastime is snuggling, do you let him into your hoodie despite his status as Rehabbed Wildlife / Go Forth and Be Free and Unadulterated by Human Contact?

Yes. Yes, you do. Because it’s cold outside, and wet, and you could keep him warm and know that he is at supreme peace.
Look at this face and tell me you wouldn’t want to give this mammal child warmth, too.

But one heartfelt, questionable decision led to another.

I snuggled him for a little while this evening, sitting on my porch, but dusk was approaching, and so was Phil’s window to climb the pepper tree to his sleeping spot. I had to squeeze my hoodie pocket from left to right like a toothpaste tube to squish him out despite his protesting grunts. I gently plucked him off of me, set him on the top of the cage that is still sitting on my front porch, and gathered my things; then, I again plucked him back off of me, and set him on the top of the cage, then carefully rushed indoors to wait out the waning light and give Phil time to go to bed.

Thirty minutes later, when a good twenty minutes of darkness had passed outside, I gathered my purse, phone, and keys to head out to grab dinner. I opened the door into the darkness and was gutted to find myself face-to-face with a damp squirrel baby shivering in the dim porch light, standing crouched with his tiny hands clasped in front of him, at the very edge of the cage closest to the handle of my door. He tilted his head and fixed a glistening eye squarely upon me. He had waited for me where I had left him.

A tiny, furry, barbed dagger of guilt lodged in my chest.

The very moment the screen door was open wide enough to permit his passage, he leapt onto me and rooted for my hoodie pocket. I gently dislodged him, placing him into the nest in the cage, and walked swiftly away and down the driveway. I was startled by a flurry of movement on the ground to my right, barely perceptible in the dark; he had followed me. I let him catch up and hop on, then walked him back to the cage, wrestling him into the nest before locking him in for the night. I then turned the porch light out completely.

When I returned with dinner, all was quiet in the cage. I snuck past while he hopefully stayed asleep.

Bringing him back into the apartment is the worst thing I could do with the impending termite treatment. I don’t want to give him any reason to try to find a way in while the gas is present.

But it’s so hard to know he’s out there alone in the rain. It’s the only reason why I hope that we get a break in the rain soon. Little Phil needs to learn to build his own shelter.

In the meantime, though, makeshift mom will have a nest here for him. Outside.

That moment when

…while sipping tea on your front porch on a fine Friday evening, you happen to glance over and catch a field mouse ever-so-nonchalantly cruising into your apartment via the very-slightly-ajar front door. You ever so subtly lean over to pick up your camera, which is your constant sidekick, but not subtly enough. Mouse sees you and books it back in the direction from whence he came. You quietly rise and tiptoe over to the alcove, following in its tiny footsteps, completely honed in to catch the slightest sound or movement amid the patter of raindrops….so very carefully, so very quietly…and then, out of nowhere,

WHAP!

you are pelted hard in the neck with a sharp, furry, half-pound grunting beanbag.

And you realize that you are in search of the source of months of rodent-caused destruction in your apartment with the help of an eager juvenile rodent.

Had you asked me a year ago what I thought I’d be doing on April 8, 2016, no, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have answered with this.

And yes, I jumped five feet and dropped my flashlight.