Tuesday, 4 October 2011

HOW I "BAGGED" A SQUIRREL

In the previous post, I described how my house rabbit became alarmed when I put an exercise bike in my bedroom. The sudden appearance of this large foreign object in the place he considered safest completely flustered him. The thought of Gideon's astonishment still makes me chuckle. It reminds me of another time when an innocent prank caused a certain squirrel extreme consternation.

In the autumn of 1975, I boarded at the head office of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind in Toronto. After the weekday training and mobility course sessions, our instructors allowed us an hour of leisure time before supper. A fellow student casually remarked to me one afternoon that squirrels lived in the park behind the training centre. Having never seen those animals in the flesh, this gave me an idea. I bought some unsalted peanuts from a local convenience store, went to the park before supper, and scattered a handful around the bench. Then I sat down and waited.

After a minute, I heard rustling noises amid the leaves above me. Two black squirrels climbed timidly down the tree trunks, snatched the peanuts, and ran back up. They soon learned that I was harmless and that I provided a feast whenever I sat in the park. Before long, they not only stayed on the ground but boldly strolled within a foot of me.

My following of bushy-tailed freeloaders grew until I had half a dozen black squirrels, a few grey ones, and a tiny tawny fellow dining confidently at my feet. Encouraged by their acceptance of my hand-outs, I decided to test the limits of how hard they would work for treats. I placed peanuts on my shoe, on the bench next to me, and tossed them directly behind their tails. Finally, I placed a few peanuts in a paper bag and waited to see what would happen.

One bold black squirrel sniffed at the opening, then crawled inside to seize a peanut. Feeling the paper enveloping him, he panicked. The other squirrels scattered as a white object with a black behind zoomed across the lawn, spurred on by my raucous laughter. The moist grass weakened the paper so that it tore, freeing the frightened rodent. He raced for the nearest tree with all thoughts of peanuts forgotten. Though I hadn't intended to "bag" a squirrel that day, the trick provided me with a memorable highlight of my stay in Toronto.

Likewise, I treasure the memories of those pranks I once played on my house rabbits. Many hilarious vignettes, similar to this post, are included in my When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) memoir. Click here to read more about this book. You're also welcome to contact me directly for more information.