Did you ever wonder how squirrels can run along narrow branches or wires as easily as you might drum your fingers on a table? Well, having a lost squirrel for a few days showed me their secret. Neurologically a squirrel’s body feels like a hand, there is particular muscular tension from hand paw to foot paw, left to right and vice versa. A squirrel’s belly acts like the palm of your hand to close and open as it lopes along. I would never have known that if I had not found Elmer Squirrel as an unweaned kit staggering across the sidewalk. I wanted to get him back up in the tree, but there were several trees and not one squirrel nest overhead. He cried when I put him down, so I tucked him into my sports bra for comfort (his comfort definitely not mine) and rushed around to various veterinarians trying to find help for him. No luck. Then someone told me about a woman who did squirrel rescue who worked at Illinois State University, but we could find no listing for her. Meanwhile, to keep Elmer Squirrel hydrated, I bought Gatorade nutritional sports drink, and he sipped eyedroppers of it with desperation. I named him Elmer Squirrel after the Looney Tunes character Elmer J. Fudd because their noses were similar and because the cartoon aspect cheered me in this increasingly sad situation.
For several days the little fellow fought fate for his life. I had to keep my own life moving forward while simultaneously trying to find someone with squirrel milk or equivalent to take Elmer Squirrel. By the last day he was weary of the battle. When I tried to give him an eye dropper of Gatorade, he would shove it away and wiggle to get somewhere else, anywhere else where there might be the squirrel milk which his little body needed. My last hope was to drive him over to Illinois State University, and search the myriad buildings that serve the twenty thousand plus student body. Good luck! After talking to people at about half a dozen buildings, I ran into someone who said, “Oh, yeah, I heard about her, she works at the Technology Support Center.” I hotfooted over there, only to find it was a closed security building with no access to the public. No one responded to the building intercom, so I went in on the heels of an employee who had access. Showing them Elmer Squirrel in my sports bra worked as a passcard. I waited in the foyer for about half an hour until a security guard came in winded and angry. About the same time the squirrel rescue woman materialized at my elbow and conducted me out to her truck in the parking garage, where she had a large gray wool sack of orphan squirrels. She rolled the top of the sack down revealing a squirming mass of fat little squirrels. I released Elmer Squirrel into the sack and he happily buried himself nose down into the warmth of the litter. I could not tell one from the other, all had the same little pug nose and fluffy tail. Elmer Squirrel would have companions and her special blend of faux-squirrel milk. She said she did this every year for dozens of squirrels. A blessing.
Caption: collage of Elmer Squirrel and his namesake Looney Tunes character Elmer J. Fudd—
note their noses are similar by Annmarie Throckmorton, 2017