Monday, November 8, 2010

The Porkster

My little friend Porky
   I had a very special friend once that merits being memorialized on my blog.  We bought our house in September of 2002.  I can’t remember exactly when I started feeding the birds in our back yard but it was sometime that winter.  What I discovered was a little red squirrel that seemed to enjoy the food as much as the birds.  That summer I began the task of clearing out the strip of garden space in front of the greenbelt area that had been neglected for several years and was overgrown with weeds and other foliage.  I spent a lot of time out there and this certain little squirrel got used to me immediately and would let me get really close to her.  I then began enticing her further with peanuts.  I don’t know who was more nervous to begin with, the squirrel or me.  I started using peanuts in the shell because there was some distance between my finger and where she’d grab.  It took a few days but I was elated when she grabbed the first nut from me.  It wasn’t long before I was feeding her shelled peanuts or burying them in my fist so she would poke her little nose in my hand trying to find it.  There is just nothing that says love like little squirrely fingers wrapped around mine while she chewed through her peanut.  Sometimes I would put the peanut on my shoulder and she would run up my legs to reach her prize.  I would turn to look at her and my face being so close to hers kind of startled both of us!! She was always hanging out in our backyard; I had only to call her and she’d come running.  One day my friend Angie was visiting and I called for Porky and within a few minutes there she was.  Angie was quite flabbergasted, she hadn’t really believed me!  I can’t tell you how much time I spent at the squirrel tree that first summer, I was totally enthralled with my little friend. 
Naked baby
That year, for Christmas Chris gave me a squirrel hut which we placed high in a spruce tree. I envisioned Porky making that her home but instead she stashed nuts there.  Squirrels usually have several stashes placed strategically around where they nest.  They don’t hibernate but if it gets very cold out they stay put until it warms up a little.  She was a busy little squirrel in the summer, running nuts from the squirrel stand to her stashes all day long. And of course, keeping vigil over her territory.  No one was allowed in.  Every year in June or July she would bring her babies to the stand to eat, and then they would proceed to keep us entertained for weeks. Squirrels are not inherently agile, they definitely have to learn a few things in their young squirrely lives.  Baby squirrels (technically they are called kittens) are a funny bunch....they chase their siblings relentlessly going around in circles up and down the trees.  When they first venture out of the nest they are about 4 weeks old.  The difference between a baby and an adult is very slight but babies have heads that are disproportionate to their bodies.  One time a bunch of babies showed up who had fur around their heads and back ends but their little bodies were bare!! I worried endlessly about them because it was a particularly cold June that year. 
Baby squirrel just out of the nest

One fall I had the bright idea to empty the squirrel hut because it was completely stuffed full and the stellar jays were robbing it. I thought Porky might make other arrangements if her stash was full and I didn’t want her to move on.  So Chris humored me and climbed up there on a ladder and emptied it.  WRONG!!  My poor little squirrel was traumatized when she realized what we had done and she didn’t show up for days after that.  I felt awful.   I spent an obscene amount of time throughout those years worrying about her but she always showed up eventually.

One of my favorite things to feed her was peanut butter.  She’d lick it off my fingers and her tongue would get stuck on the thick, unrelenting goo.  It was funny to watch and she loved it.  I never did actually pick her up although I’m sure I could have.  I didn’t want to cross any boundaries with her.  After all, she was a wild squirrel and she had her dignity!
Porky would let anyone feed her.  We had houseguests and friends and even neighborhood kids who I would lift up to her perch to feed. She never bit anyone.  After a couple years of being around full time she would disappear all winter only to reappear in the spring.  She never missed a beat with me and sometimes she would recognize me before I recognized her.
In the wild squirrels usually have a life span of 7-8 years.  Porky was around for six.  One spring she just didn’t show up.  I still miss my special little friend. 


  1. Oh, so cute Kathy! I am fascinated by squirrels! We have big fat ones here and they clean us out of bird food on a regular basis. I love your story!

  2. Your writing is should be writing for magazines...or maybe a book. You have an inspiring voice..a voice that actually makes me have a little empathy for that little beast!