“What is that?” My friend pointed to the left. We were walking home from school. A dog was barking at something on the ground and was ready to attack anything. We chased the dog away and got closer to see what his object of interest was. It turned out to be a nest that must have fallen from the tree. There was a newborn squirrel in it. He was so young he hadn’t even opened his eyes.
“What do we do with it?” ” I asked. âHow do I know,â said my friend. âI’ll take him home,â I decided. “Your call.” He was also nonchalant.
So I picked up the nest with the resident in it and carefully carried it home.
We are a family of animal lovers. The baby squirrel ignited my parents’ parenting instincts. Mom showed me how to feed the baby with a cotton wick dipped in milk. Dad got a shoebox and made it into a house.
The baby’s name was Cherry.
Cherry was carefully fed with the wick every two hours and was stroked by all of the family. After a few days, she opened her eyes. Cherry looked at the faces and hands that nourished and warmed her. We were family and she immediately accepted us to be her siblings or whatever.
Soon Cherry ventured cautiously out of her shoebox. We would pick it up and place it on a shrub in the yard. She looked confused at first, but quickly explored the area and made happy sounds. There were lots of other squirrels in the trees, but it was only Cherry who would climb up on our family members in the yard.
Cherry started to learn new tricks. Whenever we needed to feed her or just wanted her to be with her, Dad would stand by the trees and whistle. Immediately, Cherry appeared and climbed on top of him.
Our Alsatian adopted Cherry as a member of the family. He barked and chased the other squirrels, but Cherry could eat from his bowl.
Cherry always went into her shoebox at night. We gave him fresh food every time we had our meals.
One day, I saw our Alsatian bark against something under a tree. I went to check. Cherry was lying there on her side. Her eyes were closed and she was breathing heavily. The dog looked at me and continued to bark and wag his tail like he was asking me to do something for Cherry. I stroked her and tried to determine the reason for her distress. There were no signs of external injuries or other clues. Suddenly she stopped breathing. We were all shocked. With a heavy heart, we buried her. We did not have the courage to remove his house.
The writer is an independent contributor based at Patiala