Pip was given his name by the people who found him. He was very young, 4-5 weeks old, eyes still closed. He fell from a tree and appeared paralyzed. The finders tried many rescue places, but they were all full, and the situation was getting quite desperate. We were not really in a position to help, being insanely busy ourselves, but when I heard about his condition, I had to offer him a place, because I knew that many other centres, even if they are in principle squirrel-friendly, would euthanise an animal with such injuries.
Pip’s a grey squirrel, which is why it was so difficult for the finders to obtain a placement for him. He was/is a little fighter, and was determined to live. But this is typical of all grey squirrel casualties.
It became obvious on examination that Pip has a spinal deformity, possibly from birth. He was not in pain and could use his bladder, but his legs and tail were hanging completely limp. With time, he started using his legs and moving his tail, but they are still very weak, and he is now what is known in the trade as a “slider”. But he is extremely fast, can climb well (but we have to watch out for him rubbing his knees sore) and even jump – I really do not know how!
Pip’s personality is completely extraordinary. We have several disabled squirrels, and I love them all and treat them all the same. But Pip is the only one that adopted me as his “pet”. He is extremely tame, though I never made any effort to “tame” him.
When I open the cage for the other disabled squirrels, they either hide, or rush out to play, but Pip immediately climbs up on my shoulder, and uses it as a kind of base. I am his tree, for all intents and purposes. If he does come off my shoulder and a noise scares him, he is back there like a shot – in spite of his weak legs.
Pip and I have started a YouTube channel called Animal Ethics in Action, basically looking at current affairs from the point of view of non-human animals. He moves from one of my shoulders to the other throughout the recording, and actually spends a lot of time looking at the telephone that is recording us!
Please read this story of a squirrel’s surprising dedication to (& adoption of) his human mum…
A few weeks ago I tried to find another home for Pip, somewhere where he could get more individual attention than I can give him. On the first day in his new home he acted normal, exploring the new setting, etc. On the second day he stopped eating, and the carer had to feed him by hand. On the third day he stopped eating and drinking altogether and would not budge from his bed. Both the new carer and I were so worried! I ended up sending a taxi for him late on Sunday night. As soon as he arrived back here, he rushed onto my shoulder, purred for a few minutes, then rushed to his old cage and had a huge drink and started eating.
There was literally nothing physically wrong with him, but he clearly thought a life away from home was not worth living, and as soon as he realized that the new place was meant to be permanent, he became severely depressed.
I am so happy to have him back. He clearly thinks that even a little bit of attention from me is better than a whole lot of attention from someone else. So he has chosen me, and it is a great privilege. I have never had that relationship with an animal, when they chose me.
Natalia (Urban Squirrels)