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Karla Stover

Orphans of the Storm

        Broken tree limbs, downed power lines, bridges closed and ferry system shut down—all stuff of storms in the Pacific Northwest.  However, one post-storm, spring morning while driving to work, I heard that the previous night’s gully washer had caused another problem.  Squirrel’s nests had been knocked out of trees and animal rescue organizations had a surfeit of orphaned babies.  Their representative put out a clarion call for foster parents.    
        Wow!  That sounds like fun.  I can do that, I thought.  Squirrels are so cute.  At the first red light, I wrote down the phone number to call.
        When I got to work, I scoped out a place I could put a box of the family Sciuridae during the day while I worked, and where I could retreat to give them little bottles of food and some TLC.  At lunch, I called the rescue group.
        “I heard about your need for squirrel baby foster parents,” I said, “and I’m really interested.”
        “Well now, isn’t that nice,” she said, “but before adoption can be considered, I have a few questions.”
        “Your name?”
        “Karla Stover.”
        “Where do you live?”
        “Oh well, now, that’s a bit of a problem.”
        “How so?”
        “Well, the babies were orphaned in Seattle.”
        “That’s okay,” I said.  “I can drive to Seattle and pick up a few.”
        “And then there are their physicals,” she added, as if she hadn’t heard me.
        Say what?
        “Well, who administers the physicals?”
        “A vet.”
        “We have lots of vets in Tacoma, and running water and everything.  My husband and I have gone to the same vet for years.”
        Levity wasn’t her strong suit.
        “Yes, but it has to be a wild animal vet.”
        Okay, now I’m sensing roadblocks—the result of animosity and distain Seattle feels for Tacoma.
        “Well, I’ll ask our vet if he can give them their physicals,” I said.
        “No can do, I’m afraid.  We already have an approved wildlife vet ready to take them on.”
        “Maybe I can drive to your vet, then.  Where is he?”
        Lynwood!  That’s about a hundred miles from where I live.
        Still, I persevered.  “I I could do that.”
        “Every week?”
        “Every week.  The orphaned babies have to be checked and weighed weekly.  We want to make sure they’re getting the best possible care.”
        “Are they vaccinated for hanta virus and Lyme’s disease?” I asked.  “Do they need Frontline?”
        Perhaps she sensed my sarcasm.
        “I’m sorry,” she said, “but we have strict rules and regulations about who qualifies to adopt our orphans and how they are to be raised.”
        “They’re rodents, for gosh sakes.”
        “You see, right there, that statement shows a flippant attitude.  I’m sorry but you don’t qualify.  Goodbye.”
        Jeez!  Take it down a notch, lady.
        About a week later, I got a knock at the door and when I opened it, two little kids handed me a box with three squirrel babies in it.  “Here,” one of them said, “Mom said we should give them to you.”
        I didn’t know who the kids were, who their mom was, or why she thought I should have the care and responsibility of three not particularly attractive squirrels.  Suddenly, reality knocked the romance of the idea out of the ring.  Nevertheless, I graciously accepted the box and carried it out to the garage.  Then I tried to put dishes of water and sunflower seeds—shelled, I might add—in the box  Nasty little buggers.  Their only interest was in trying to bite the hand that was attempting to feed them. 
        After a few days, when it didn’t look like they were eating, I decided I’d better turn them loose in the backyard where we have apple, cherry, pear and filbert nut trees.  They scampered for safety.
          Ever since then, we’ve had squirrel families eating the filberts, biting holes into the fruit and, not incidentally, digging up my bulbs.
        All without physicals or mailed reminders for booster shots.