I’ve always been a huge animal lover. Growing up, we not only had the usual pets such as dogs and cats, but we also had rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils and birds. Not so unconventional, right? But we also had mice, rats, chameleons, quails, and doves. Not all at the same time, of course, but still, enough that we had a pretty interesting menagerie in the house at all times.
My parents’ love of animals was passed on to us kids. My brother, sister, and I have rescued many animals over the years, including dogs and cats of various breeds and ages. And when we couldn’t take them ourselves, there were very few relatives who escaped our pleadings of “please give this poor kitty or doggie a home, please!” Living in a busy city, there were sadly more than a few homeless animals wandering around.
When I was almost 11, we moved to the suburbs, and I thought my days of rescuing needy animals had come to an end. Oh, how wrong I was. We lived right next to a mountain reservation, so let’s just say I had a host of new animals to care for. There were the deer who craved apples, squirrels looking for nuts to bury for the winter, and birds who chirped for their seed.
I now live in a different suburban town, and my backyard borders the woods. Besides still feeding the deer, squirrels and birds, I also have a “pet” chipmunk that comes right up to my back sliding glass door looking for his breakfast, lunch and dinner. He will even eat peanuts right out of my hand. Every once in a while, a fox will end up on our patio to check out what’s on the menu, and we’ve even had a young wild turkey hanging around for a time. My patio also seems to have become a haven for lost animals. There was the turtle who wandered away from the pond down the hill, and a neighbor’s cat that actually lived with us for a while until we found its owner.
This soft spot in my heart for animals has only grown bigger, especially for those in need. One day, walking home from the train station, I saw a bunch of baby squirrels lying on the ground. They were in very bad shape, and for one it was already too late. I wasn’t quite sure what to do, so I put them in my backpack and carried them home. By the time I got there, another one was already gone. Right away I called a wildlife rehabber, and she walked me through the process of caring for them. Within 24 hours, they went from barely being able to move to trying to escape out of their box. They were so young that their eyes weren’t even open yet. Even though caring for them was time consuming (they had to be fed every 3 to 4 hours), I so enjoyed it. After dropping them off at the wildlife rehab center a few days later, I felt like crying the entire way home. I knew I did the right thing by leaving them with people who had the expertise to care for them until they were ready to be released into the wild, but it was still hard. I did go visit them though.
As I’m sitting here writing this, a big bird party is taking place right outside my window. A large red-headed woodpecker is enjoying the suet, and the blue jays, cardinals, and nuthatches are busy cleaning up the seed falling from the bird feeder. Some squirrels should be by soon to clean up the rest, and we’ll see what else shows up. You never know around here!
Written for The Country Register published across the US and Canada