A year ago tomorrow,
my dear friend called to tell me that she had found what looked like a baby squirrel curled up in the middle of the sidewalk while walking her dog, who wanted to eat the little thing. She told me that she was terrified of rodents, but didn’t want it to die, and said it didn’t look like it had much time.
I drove over to where she reported seeing the baby, and lo, in the smack middle of a concrete path with absolutely no cover to speak of, there lay a tiny lump of fur.
No sign or sound of mama or other babies nearby, I removed my sweater and gently scooped the baby up, turning him and running my fingers over him to check for injuries. He was quiet, and cold, but breathing.
A postal-service truck pulled up to the curb near me as I held the little one, and a mailman hopped out. There were two babies here yesterday, he said, watching. One looked like he was able to climb better, and disappeared into this planter here. I never saw a mother.
He wished me luck as he went on his way.
The best, wisest decision would have been to turn the baby over to a certified rehabber.
But I selfishly envisioned him living a grand life in my immediate neighborhood a mile away from where he was found, starting in the magnificent ficus and pepper tree “kingdom” in my apartment’s sideyard…
and backed with the experience and advice of my friend and coworker who has rehabbed squirrel babies, and the advice of GTers, too!, I instead took him in and named him Philip, after Philip “Pip” Pirrip, the protagonist of Great Expectations, who was a gentleman, and an orphan, too.
I got very lucky in how it turned out.
My neighbor kindly took over formula feedings when I had to be away, and once Phil started to wean, we both regularly went out and gathered local fruit, seeds, grasses, branches, and nuts for him to sample in addition to rodent block and veggies. I started to take Phil outside in a smaller cage for hours at a time to (re-)familiarize him with outside sights, sounds and scents, and then, we camped out overnight.
Phil was with me for a month. On the morning of April 6, I took his cage outside, opened it, picked Phil up, and launched him at the nearby pepper tree.
It has been the greatest gift that he has not only survived, and thrived, but has still visited from time to time. He maintains wild wariness around everyone aside from an occasional close-range visit with me.
This is Phil today. Being Philip.
I have uploaded many of my Phil videos to a public playlist on YouTube, organized chronologically starting on the night he came home: