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The Hate Issue

Life with Squirrels

I had a pet guinea pig and a pet chinchilla and they both died within a year of each other.
Κείμενο Bernard Goetz

Todd Forrest says: "Wow, this is Bernard Goetz." Photo by Pamela Rice

I had a pet guinea pig and a pet chinchilla and they both died within a year of each other. I wanted a new pet, and someone in a pet store told me that he'd heard about two baby squirrels up in the Bronx. Apparently some boys found them or got them one way or another, and one of them was given to a cat to nurse. The cat wouldn't nurse it and they both wound up with me. They were brother and sister and I kept them together. Once I had them about a week, they were fighting a lot. I kept only the smaller one, the one that was being picked on—the girl. That was my first squirrel. She was a remarkable little animal. She could actually say the word "stop." She couldn't say the "p" part, but many little rodents can hiss. Who knows, that may be the beginning of language. Anyway, I had her only about a year and I used to take her to Union Square Park. She would just ride on my shoulder. One day, I stupidly went to the farmers' market with her, and she ran away. That was the last I saw of her. I never did name her. I just used to call her "my little squirrel." I would like to have a squirrel again, only this time long-term, but I haven't really come across the right one. I recently found a squirrel in Washington Square Park, and it couldn't move. I brought her home and after just a week, she wouldn't bite me anymore. Most squirrels will bite. But this one liked being petted and held. I had to go to Texas on a business trip and they wouldn't let me take her on the plane. I couldn't find anyone to take her, so I brought her back to the park and she ran up the tree where I originally found her. I've only been back for a day now but I would certainly consider taking her back. I've taken in a number of wild squirrels and certainly of the adults, more than nine out of ten will bite you. She did not. In New York City, there's an excess of injured and orphaned squirrels. In city parks, they live three years. In the wild, they live to be 4 or 5. If you keep them as a pet, they can live to be as old as 11. There are many mothers in city parks who die before their babies mature. Roughly one third of the squirrels in New York die from lack of body heat. They freeze. Over this winter, many squirrels will lose their mothers. BERNARD GOETZ