Parade of lights

December 13,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

In my continued efforts to cheer up T. (she stayed home from school on Monday) I came home from work and we made these cupcakes, and T. licked the bowl clean. By 5:15 the kitchen smelled heavenly. At 5:30 a friend came by to check up on us. She sniffed the air. "Your house smells divine," she said. Then,

"How's T.?"

"How's Scott?"

"How's Willa?"

"How are you?"

We're all in recovery mode around here. My bronchitis is almost all cleared up, Willa got her stitches out yesterday, and T. soldiers on, waiting for the hives to dissapear. Scott tells me Willa was very brave at the vet. She has to wear her snazzy special collar for another week, just to make sure she leaves the incision site alone. But she is so much happier now that she's pain-free and on the way to becoming fully mobile again. We didn't have any doubts about whether she needed the surgery, but if we'd had even just one tiny niggling one, it would have vanished now that we see what a difference it has made. 

************

On Thursday the kids and I pulled up in the driveway and found a young squirrel dragging its hind feet. I had seen him earlier in the day, but when I went to track down a box to put him in, he had disappeared. When we came home there he was, unnaturally still despite our presence, bright-eyed, but because of fear and pain.

The kids were so sad to see him pitifully dragging his legs behind him, as he tried to find shelter behind the van's wheels, then the brick wall by the end of our driveway. We wanted to help him, but I wasn't sure how. I tried to explain to L. and T. that his back was probably broken, and that he more than likely wouldn't make it.

"Where there's life there's hope," L. said. "You wouldn't just say that about a person, would you?" He began pacing around the driveway, working himself up into a state of indignation. "Imagine giving up on a person because he couldn't walk!"

"Yes," T. chimed in. "Imagine that!"

The kids and I put the box and a towel next to where the squirrel was crouched, a sad ball of gray fur. We went inside, and I got them started on homework and afternoon snacks. I called our vet to ask them about the squirrel, and they offered to humanely euthanize him free of charge.

Ugh, I thought. I was by myself (Scott was due back from Texas that night), and just didn't relish the thought of loading up the kids and the squirrel and driving to the vet so they could put him to sleep. I had a pot of rice on the stove, too, and was defrosting potstickers, ready for dinner later. But then again, I also didn't relish the thought of the squirrel suffering in the cold, dying a slow death, or being mauled by a cat or taken away by one of the big barn owls or red-winged hawks that live in our neighborhood. I went back outside, put on Scott's heavy work gloves, and gently eased the little squirrel in the box. He made an angry screech and tried to swipe at me with his front paws, but then gave up, resigned to his fate.

While T. watched Arthur, I decided to search the internet for the numbers of any wildlife rehabilitators who could give me advice. I did connect with a nice woman who--surprise, surprise--rehabilitates squirrels (who knew?) and she told me that we live only ten minutes away from a small animal urgent care clinic that will assess and treat injured wildlife free of charge. We could take the squirrel there, and if they could treat him, she would pick him up later and rehabilitate him.

The kids were thrilled to find out that there was something we could do. I turned off the rice, and put the potstickers back in the freezer. We loaded up the squirrel, and drove the ten minutes to the animal clinic., where we turned him over to a nice vet lady, who gently took the box from us . She came out a few minutes later with our towel.

"Will he live?" L. asked the vet lady. She smiled kindly at my sweet-hearted kids, not at all impatient with the question.

"I can't say for sure," she said truthfully. "But he's in good hands now."

And we drove off into the cold, dark night, back to the promise of potstcikers and rice. The snaking red tailights of the cars in front were bright, like Christmas lights, a parade of hopeful hearts headed home.