I’m a volunteer mounted horse ranger.
What this means is that I ride around a park on the ranger’s horses and check to make sure that hikers are doing alright. I carry a map so I can give directions. I carry an extra bottle of water so that I can provide hydration.
There is a chance I might get paid to do this at some point.
That would be pretty cool.
But for now I volunteer my time to make one of LA’s public parks a little bit safer.
Yesterday, while taking the oldest ranger horse out for a stroll, I saw what I thought was a dead squirrel. It was odd. I’ve seen a lot of dead squirrels, it is a hazard of growing up with highly skilled hunters labeled as “domestic” felines.
This dead squirrel was odd because it was in one piece, and only had a little bit of blood on it. So I investigated.
The baby squirrel wasn’t dead.
It was stunned with a bloodied ear.
I took it home.
Squirrels are not pets. They are wild animals, rodents, that are high in energy and driven to spend their lives climbing and shredding and galavanting about. To trap them in a house is to end up with a house full of shredded curtains and rodent shit everywhere. They are solitary creatures. They will maul your house guests, even if they won’t bite you.
But I took it home.
Baby squirrels are a pain in the ass to nurture. They require a heat source, adequate nutrition (they’ll starve on cows milk), and until they get old enough, mum has to stimulate their bowels to get them to defecate. Without the heat and social company of other squirrels, they’ll die. Without regular feeding every couple hours, they’ll die.
I stuffed some socks full of rice and nuked them in the microwave before putting them in his cage as surrogate heat source friends. I plopped down a used gym shirt for him to hide under and cuddle up with his “siblings”.
I picked up Esbilac puppy feed from the pet store, stopped by my local vet to ask for advice (they were completely unhelpful), and called my local wildlife waystation (they didn’t seem to want to deal with it).
When she was looking stronger I took her back to where I found her, encouraged her to call for mom, and waited.
Perhaps she had internal injuries. Perhaps I didn’t feed her enough. Perhaps the stress of moving her back and forth was too much. Perhaps when I fed her, the food went down the wrong tube. Perhaps I didn’t keep her warm enough.
I’m pretty sure I didn’t keep her warm enough.
Perhaps perhaps perhaps.
I cried when that stupid little squirrel died.
It wasn’t the first time an animal I accepted responsibility for died. If I did a terrible job taking care of her, then it wouldn’t be the first time for that either.
My horse, Pesar, the horse whom I broke, trained, and loved for almost eight years, died because of a series of mistakes on my part. Things happen. People are careless and inattentive. We are so involved with the intricate details of our own lives that we miss the ebb and flow of the lives around us.
Failure hurts, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
I won’t fight my nature. Next time I find a baby squirrel I’ll do my best to save it. If I fail I will be sad. If I succeed I’ll have the stress of trying to teach a wild animal how to survive when I release it into the fruit orchard that is my backyard.
This world won’t become a better place until each and every one of us does everything we can to make our immediate surroundings a better place. Nothing will change unless we change it.
So I’ll continue to ride around and offer water to hikers.
Because I can.