There are no bad owners, only bad dogs

2004-08-17

A Squirrel's Tale (hah!)

I have noticed that people seem to find stories about squirrels especially hilarious. Maybe it’s just wildlife when it gets in the house in general and the madcap antics that follow. I have a squirrel story that ended tragically, unless you really hate squirrels. Then it ends like a summer action movie with absolutely no chance for a sequel.

A long time ago, I worked for a veterinarian. This was a kick-ass job as far as I was concerned. I got to hang out with animals all day, watch surgery, shovel dog crap, etc. One of the funner parts about the surgery was that I not only watched but I assisted, just like I was on ER. I got to shave animals before surgery (I have shaved many a dog’s testicle) and other fun stuff like lifting them off the table when they’re still anaesthetized. One part of assisting in animal surgery in Texas that may not happen anywhere else is that you get to hold the spit cup for the vet. I hadn’t had much experience with chewing tobacco before this, so the first time the doctor (all Texas vets are Aggies – it’s a law) asked me to hold his cup, I didn’t know what the hell he was asking. So he hands me a Styrofoam cup with about an inch of chunky brown liquid in the bottom of it, sticks another wad in his cheek, and scrubs up. It was my job to hold the cup so he didn’t contaminate his hands during surgery. Cool, huh?

But I digress. One day while doing my daily chores at the clinic, I went out in the back near where some old oil drums had been turned into elevated trashcans. They were mounted on a frame made of pipes so that when the garbage truck came, the cans could be tipped into the truck instead of lifted. They were attached with the spout of the oil drum on the bottom so icky wet leaky stuff could leak out. These oil drums weren’t used anymore because now we had a shiny new dumpster that held all of the icky wet leaky stuff in and baked it in the sun. I saw some movement at the bottom of one of these drums, so I looked inside. A baby squirrel had climbed into the drum, couldn’t get back out, and tried to exit through the spout. The spout was too small for the squirrel to fit through but big enough for him to stick his head through. What I had seen was the squirrel’s head poking through the bottom of the oil drum by way of the spout. Although the spout was big enough for him to stick his head through, it was too small for him to get his head out. He was stuck with his head in the hole and struggling to get out.

I went inside and got the vet tech. We tried to gently pull him out, but squirrel heads are kind of triangular, so his cheekbones were just too wide. We decided to make the world’s slipperiest substance and slide him out that way. We started with surgical lubricant, then added some shampoo and a few other things. We went back out and lubed him up, but still no go. We thought maybe if one of us pulled on his body while the other pushed his head, that might help. No one wanted to take the head pushing part since he was starting to get a little agitated. So we anaesthetized him. Put him gently to rest to we could free him without getting bitten, because no one wanted to go to the emergency room and get bitched at for being bitten by a squirrel. Once he was relaxed, we tried some more. He was stuck. So we called a welding company. They came out and looked at the spout with the sleeping, greased-up squirrel stuck in it, and told us that they couldn’t cut him out without burning him.

By this time, we had come to realize that he was just not coming out of that spout. So Gail got another dose of anesthesia, a lethal dose this time, and went out back with a knife.

She hadn’t bonded with him as much as I had.

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