Feeding one of the Triplets
— By Susan Eirich, Ph.D. —
The towels in the shoe box gave a suspicious lurch. There is Life in there!
Every day, they change. Ears a little perkier. Tails up across their backs. Three blind heads poking out from the edge of the box. I reach in to take one out for feeding and she gives a sudden, electric jerk as she feels my touch. Just one—but it’s the sign of a rapidly maturing nervous system, a harbinger of things to come. Before this, they had been helpless and passive. In a few weeks, their reflexes will be so quick it will be impossible to catch them or even track them with our eyes.
Oh dear! Their eyes are opening and the box is moving a lot—sudden jerky little movements. I know from experience what is to come: the trouble that goes along with something immensely alive and vital, curious and exploratory. As one experienced rehabilitator said, “First they are cute (with their eyes closed). Then they become naughty…” And I will have three of them.
A Scary Afternoon
Suddenly, I hear a piercing chirp—a chirp of utter panic. I rush over to the cage. One little boy—still blind—somehow escaped the box, and his survival instinct immediately drove him up the side of the cage. There he clung, a lost soul, not knowing what to do or where to go.
In the several weeks they have been here, that has been the only time I have heard that call. It must have been utter desperation, because a chirp like that would bring predators running.
I gently disengaged him from the wires and returned him to his siblings. Safe!!!!!
At this point, the three babies together weigh the same as their mother would weigh, and yet they are still demanding their bottle. How could she manage this? Producing enough milk for three voracious babies and keeping her own weight up while having to forage for food? Are they conning me?
A Week Later
Now, plump and sleek, they outweigh their mother and are still demanding their bottle. Mind you, they also have nuts and fruits and seeds. But they want their bottle! Some things seem to be universal.
A General Note on Squirrels
Anyone who could outwit and frustrate my brilliant scientist father deserves accolades, but even he never was able to prevent squirrels from stealing food from the bird feeder. The BBC did an entire documentary on trying to outwit squirrels, building an amazing, Olympic-quality obstacle course that required intelligence, out–of the–box thinking, persistence, and agility. The squirrels won. The documentary illustrated a combination of unbelievable resourcefulness on the part of the animals and a resolute refusal on the part of humans to recognize the intelligence of such a tiny opponent with an equally tiny (in size only) brain.
When we take time for reflection—which, in these modern times, we don’t always do—it seems obvious. Life in any of its miraculous forms has to be—and is—innately creative, resilient, curious, seeking, exploratory, intelligent, persistent. How else could it survive and adapt? Such characteristics are innate in the Life force that expresses itself through each of us in a unique way.
Sally the Hen is Outraged
Sally the hen gave an outraged squawk. I had nearly stepped on the right toe of her right foot. (Nearly. Not the same as actually.) In my defense, she had parked herself on the door mat, all spread out in the sun, directly in my path through the office doorway. I really had done my best to avoid her as I stepped over her, but she refused to budge. There is no pleasing some hens.
Zak Joins the Ski Team
Sometimes when I go cross country skiing (yes, there is still enough snow), Zak, Jean’s German Shepherd, comes along with Shota. Being older, he has trouble in the deep, soft snow that Shota dolphins through with delight.
However, that is not the point of this journal entry—it is for me to complain. When Zak came along, I thought I would have a reprieve from a white German Shepherd (Shota) attaching himself ferociously to my left ski tip. What I got was a different obstacle: Zak flipping Shota over as they engage in an energetic battle—directly in front of my skis. I would ask them politely to move, and they would—about 10 feet before reengaging. There is a huge field for them to play in, but it has to be directly in my path. At least the snow is deep enough that much of the sagebrush is covered and Shota can’t find it to pull it out and drop it in front of me. Small blessings. The sagebrush must be relieved, too….
Dr. Susan Eirich is the Founder and Executive Director of Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. A licensed psychologist, biologist and educator, her goal is to widen the circle of conversation about conservation to include the voices of all living beings.