Had an oddly moving experience with a wild critter over the last 24 hours. Last night around 7, I found a wide-eyed baby squirrel between some bedding plants (hostas, very cheap actually) outside a corner store near Rachel's dance class on Parliament Street. I started talking to it and put my hand out, and it jumped into my arms and snuggled in, so I couldn't put it down.
According to the proprietor of the store, the squirrel's mother had drowned on Sunday (I have no idea how; in retrospect I should have asked) and the baby had just stayed there, frightened, for the past four days. They'd given it some peanuts but clearly it was too little to eat them. So I offered to take care of it, and they were happy to see it go.
First I went to a pet store across the street to see if they had formula for baby mammals, and maybe an eyedropper to dispense it with, but they were closed. So I bought some milk, and asked the singing waiter at Jet Fuel to heat it up. He foamed some in the cappuccino machine and I fed the squirrel from my finger. She (I thought it was a boy but it turned out to be a girl) was absolutely ravenous. I kept putting foamy milk on my palm where she was sitting, and she was very happy sucking and licking it off for the whole hour Rachel was at the Canadian Children's Dance Theatre.
A lot of little girls waiting for their class enjoyed the squirrel as well, and made helpful suggestions about names. "Jamie" was popular, as being adaptable to either a boy or a girl. But when Rachel came out of her class, we decided to call the squirrel "Misha" - after Barishnikov - since we thought it was a boy and found it outside a dance studio.
We rummaged through the back of the car, where a couple of bags of old clothes were stowed en route to Goodwill, and made a nice little nest for baby in a purse stuffed with teeshirts. She immediately curled up with her tail over her face and went to sleep. Then we drove to the Village Gate veterinarian at the corner of Bathurst and Nina, knowing he always works late; sure enough, he was still around, and gave us the number of the Toronto Wildlife Centre, but they had already closed. So we made a little cage for the squirrel full of towels and put her in a dark quiet place for the night.
Before I went to bed I checked on her, and offered her a little water in a tiny plastic cup. She reached out with her hands and held tight to the cup, lapping the water up with enthusiasm. In the morning she was quite perky and happy to see me. I gave her some more water and put in another call to the Wildlife Centre. They told me I shouldn't have been handling her or giving her water, but it was clear to me that the squirrel had really needed the comfort of touch and something to drink. She loved being petted just as much as my guinea pigs always do. And I felt confident that I hadn't overfed her.
With her still snuggled in the purse, I drove to the Wildlife Centre, made a hefty donation, and relinquished her care to others with more experience of rehabilitating wild animals. They agreed with my estimate of her age as about 6 weeks old, and her condition as very good. She will be boarded with other baby squirrels and released back to her original area of Toronto in about 8 weeks.
I cried all the way home.