Friday, July 17, 2009

Cambridge 9-1-1 Squirrel Rescue Unit

7pm last night, the call came in, "Squirrel rescue unit needed to respond to an emergency. Squirrel jumped through apartment screen, stuck in window."

H and I were the closest unit to respond so we grabbed our gear, got into our grey jumpsuits, slid down the pole to our waiting squirrel rescue mobile...

*Okay* so that's the TV dramatization of last night's events..we don't actually have grey jumpsuits, we live on the first floor hence no pole (adding to list next time we move), and our grey Prius doesn't really qualify as an animal rescue mobile (and we didn't really need it last night). But wow, it felt like Reno 9-1-1 here last night (okay, I just watched one episode, please don't judge me for it!). Here's how it went down: 7pm, Amanda is browsing the web, specifically looking at Mihl's awesome Rote Grütze recipe and wondering if she can make it with red grapes. H is doing some Java programming thingey on his computer. Neighbor runs down the stairs of our building and starts buzzing our buzzer and pounding our door.

I open the door to see the neighbor whose kitchen is above ours, frantic. "A squirrel jumped through my office window screen and he's been running around my apartment and finally I trapped him in my laundry closet!" "Okay, ma'am, stay calm, we'll be right there," I said. *Okay* it was really something like, "NO! Really? No! Wow! OMG! Wow." Far less cool sounding than the TV version. I told her to give me a minute and I'd get H and some of our "gear." Gear included peanuts, the Goo carrier, and two pairs of really thick rubber gloves that my mom gave me five years ago when Squirrelly hit her teens and took to biting for a short spell (thank god she grew out of that!) to relieve her teenage angst.

We went upstairs and H went into the laundry closet to see if he could get the window open so the squirrel could jump out. R, our neighbor, vacated to let us do what we needed to do. Unfortunately, opening the window caused the poor squirrel to wedge himself up into the glass between the storm window and the regular window. We stared at him in dismay. "Oh no," H said, "he's really freaked out." I looked and I think even people who aren't so intimate with squirrels could tell by the poor guy's face that he was beyond panic. Suddenly the squirrel sort of flopped over, still stuck in the glass and his eyes half closed. We were almost convinced that he had just died. This unfortunately happens sometimes with small animals, especially bunnies. They can literally die of fright, most likely from a heart attack. We freaked and started trying to get the window apart when the squirrel started breathing again. In hindsight, I think what may have happened is that he panicked, was in an enclosed and hot place and that possibly made him pass out. Not sure but we think this is a good theory. Whatever happened, I can tell you that it was a darn good sight seeing the poor little fuzzball open his eyes completely.

The poor guy, wedging himself between the storm window and the unmovable inside window. That could not have been comfortable...

We blocked the opening to the laundry room with cardboard hoping that he'd jump out the window. According the a book I have from the Humane Society on how to handle such situations with wildlife, squirrels can easily jump from a two story structure to the ground without hurting themselves. He eventually unwedged himself from the window and sat on the window sill for two hours.

The Humane Society book, "Wild Neighbors," suggested just what we were doing as a first plan..leaving the window open. I have found in my five years experience with squirrels and now, Goos, is that it is simply no good to try to force them to do anything. The animal gets upset and panicked and you risk the chance of a bite and scratches. Better to let them come down on their own time. So we waited...

It was easy to go outside to see the progress. Twice the squirrel came down and rested on the bottom window sill. Twice he went back up into the glass area.

We could tell that he was really upset about having to jump down two stories but this puzzled us since how did he get up there in the first place since there are no trees right next to the building.

The bottom window is our bathroom window. The window right above it is from our neighbor's laundry can see a little fuzzy face on the left side of the window if you look closely. This is the leap the poor guy had to contemplate...

Meanwhile, we were pushing 8:30pm it would be twilight, that magical hour when squirrels drop whatever they are doing and go to bed. In our long experience with Squirrelly (she's going to be 5 year old next month! Big party!), we have seen that when the light hits a certain level, squirrels instinctively know it's nest time. We wonder if this is because owls and other natural nocturnal squirrel predators may start awakening at this hour..not sure but we knew this was not a good time for our squirrel to not be in his nest.

We decided to go inside to leave the squirrel by himself lest our presence was delaying his exit. Our kitchen window is right next to our bathroom window so I worked on my Rote Grütze, chopping the cherries, strawberries and red grapes while I listened. A couple of times we heard some thumps and rushing to the window and then outside hoping to see the squirrel running across the grass. But instead, he was still in the window. We were getting really worried. We had no ladder either. We needed a plan B. We decided to take the cardboard out of the window which was easy because the squirrel was on the second attempt to wedge himself in the glass part of the window. We spoke to him softly. There is something to speaking softly to animals as you probably know. When they are panicked, a quiet reassuring voice can help calm them. I've seen it work with Squirrelly and also with the Goos. I suppose it makes sense because a predator wouldn't do that so maybe they know that intuitively.

However, I was dreading Plan B which seemed to be our only option and also the second option recommended by the Humane Society. Catch the squirrel in a blanket. I haven't done this with a squirrel. I have had to do this with my Goos when they start fighting with each other. It is very effective and safe for you/me. However, the effect upon a very pissed off companion animal who just bit his brother on the face (my Goos) is very different than that upon on a panicked animal who is stuck in a scary place. I didn't want to freak the poor guy out but I knew the blanket would. But it also was the only other idea that we had. So we took the cardboard out of the window so the squirrel could get into the laundry room. And then we waited. For a long time.

We were starting to fret that what if the squirrel didn't come down, what would we do? We had no idea. Then suddenly, thump, thump, and a scratching noise. Luckily my neighbor's laundry room door was one of those vented style doors where you can see in at a certain angle. We heard a few crashes but didn't see the squirrel on the floor. And then suddenly a big metal sounding noise and quiet. By now it was 9pm and it was completely dark outside. I cautiously opened the door expecting the squirrel to be crouching in a corner or lunging towards the opening in the doorway. But nothing. On the window sill, the nuts we had placed to lure him down were gone and in its place, he had kindly left little squirrel poos and a whole lot of pee all over the window sill for my neighbor to clean up. He had finally jumped out the window! We don't know if he finally got his nerve up or if just the darkness masked how high the leap was and maybe that made it easily. Whatever the reason, we knew that squirrel was heading straight to his nest, probably exhausted after his adventure. Hopefully, never to repeat it again.

So we packed up our gear (which we didn't really use except for the nuts), slid down the pole (okay, climbed down the stairs to our apartment), and knew that we had to be ready for the next call. Because you never know when squirrels will get stuck. But we do know that the Cambridge 9-1-1 Squirrel Rescue Unit will be ready!

I want to get matching jackets with "CSRU 9-1-1" on them but I don't think H will go for that. Oh pooh!! Needless to say, the Rote Grütze will have to wait for another post!


For the Love of Guava said...

really... jackets?? I feel like capes and masks would be so much more appropriate.... :)

Tara said...

Ooh, that was riveting! I agree with Guava, you should get capes! They are very dashing and you'd really look like the heroes that you are!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE real life super heros! It's so stressful when YOU know you want to help them and not hurt them but THEY are just terrified. Great story - I read every word and felt all stressed out and then very relieved.
I did the blanket-catch years ago with a bird that flew/fell down the neighbour's chimney and was flying around her living room. Hated to do it, but it worked, and I know that little guy was happier outside than in!

Amanda said...

Oh capes! it!! Great idea! thanks guys!

Jes said...

Poor little squirrel! I'm glad he made it down eventually. And I can't wait to hear about the rote grute!

Ricki said...

Glad the squirrel survived the ordeal!

Re: your comment on my blog, yep, I'm a Libra. :) (and opals really ARE the best stone!)

Mihl said...

Something similar happened to us when we were in Lisbon. It was a pidgeon though. You are superheros!
oh, and make the rote grütze with grapes and tell me how it goes.