When I was a kid, we often had pets. Not just dogs and cats, but pets like chickens, guineas, pigs, toads, rabbits, deer or any other species that might need saving because they were sick or orphaned. We would nurse them back to health and we would usually release them back to their natural habitat with me crying and complaining the whole time that a deer is a wonderful pet to have. Sometimes, the inevitable happened and then I was crying for a different reason. Living near a thriving timber industry is just ripe for someone driving up in the front yard with a several baby rabbits who were found in the woods near death. And, that’s exactly how we came to have “Chimp” — a baby squirrel.
I was around ten when he was brought into our home. I was blessed with a mother who would pretty much allow me to have any kind of pet there was for having. She probably would not have allowed a snake — but, then again, that was never a problem because I’ve always been terrified of snakes.
Chimp was a great pet squirrel. He was very friendly and just the type of pet any kid would want. Many will think I’m making this up, but Chimp would sit at the kitchen table while my parents were playing cards. They would place a cigarette in his mouth and he would wear a tiny pair of wire-rimmed eyeglasses that belonged to one of my parents’ friends. Somewhere in the depths of family photos, there is a picture of Chimp at the card table with everyone in mid-1980s attire laughing at this squirrel wearing glasses with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth! I promise I would not make this up. I mean, really, why would I?
Nevertheless, when my 11th birthday rolled around, I decided to have several friends over for a slumber party. By that time, Chimp was larger. He was probably around 9 months old and we had built him a large brown squirrel condominium that sat in the front room of our house. Seriously, what family doesn’t want a large squirrel condo in their front room? On the day of my birthday party, I couldn’t wait to show my friends all of the clever tricks Chimp could do. I also knew they would be impressed with the natural habitat we had made for our little family pet. Chimp would run about the house, but he also loved to play in the branches and leaves we kept inside his home. It was with great delight, I decided to wake Chimp up and show my friends just how much fun it was to have a pet squirrel.
I don’t remember much about who was at the party, but I do remember as I was feeding Chimp that hot summer day in August something went terribly wrong. It could have been the giggling gaggle of 10 year old girls, or the fact that it’s just not a great idea to have a squirrel as a pet, but Chimp ran right up my arm and bit me four times as hard as he could. Chaos ensued… little girls were screaming (myself included), there were tears, there was blood — and it was the 1980s so there was likely Campho Phenique involved. Eventually, Chimp was safely back in his condo enjoying some peace and quiet and my birthday party resumed some sort of normalcy — which probably meant we lip-synced to Juice Newton songs all night.
And that, my friends, is how I survived a squirrel attack. The sign above would have been very helpful back then. And, I’m happy to say that Chimp lived happily ever after. Indeed, this is also not a lie. He lived to a ripe old age and I’m still a little leery of squirrels to this very day.