Squirrels Gone Wild!

I haven’t been able to do much of my usual blogging this week because I’m spending basically all my energy on my friend Heather’s auction. In fact, I wrote this post a few days ago, and am only not publishing it. Ack!

I posted about why it means so much to me and what’s up for grabs at my other blog a few of days ago. It ends tomorrow (Sunday) night, and then After Gadget will resume its regularly scheduled dogness.

However, I want to take a moment to offer huge thank yous and kisses from Barnum and me to those who have bid or donated! (I know of four of you, for sure.) I have additional clicks and lures set up now! Please read this post, “How Biddable Are You?” at aftergadget.com! Reinforcers await you, people who have already or intend to bid!

Anynoodle, I thought I’d try to do some short, fun little posts, trying to squeeze them in when I can until the auction comes down this Sunday night. So, here is a silly blog, for your entertainment (I hope!).

The other day, my PCA was outside, putting out the trash, when she heard a strange sound coming from the room next to mine. She went to investigate, and what she was hearing was a gray squirrel trapped in the window, totally freaking out! The noises were it scrabbling around (presumably trying to get out).

Apparently, it was caught between the screen and the glass — I’m really glad the inside window was shut! — and it was completely frantic.

This raised a number of interesting questions:

  1. How the hell did the squirrel get in there?
  2. Why the hell did the squirrel get in there? (I looked, later, and there were no nuts or seeds inside the window, and it was trying to get into my office, which is just filled with books and papers, nothing edible.)
  3. Why hadn’t Barnum started jumping around and barking and whining from the sound or smell of a nearby squirrel trapped in a nearby window?
  4. How was I going to get it out?

Question four turned out to be a non-issue: when I went into the room to attempt to deal with the situation the squirrel was already gone. As was part of the screen. Just in time for black-fly season!

An open window, showing the screen, with a large hole teared open at the top and a smaller one at the bottom. In the background, what is visible out the window, a stone bird bath, and an ornamental tree, just starting to bud tender little pale green leaves and a few small pale, pink flowers.

Holes at top and bottom of the screen.

That doesn’t look like much of a hole, right? That’s because I’m not a very good photographer — because my hands shake.

I wasn’t aware of the jiggling hand issue until I recently was taking a lot of pictures (to be featured in forthcoming posts!), and discovered that unless I braced both arms against something very firmly, all my pictures come out blurry. (I have had tremors on and off for years, and most severely when my Lyme disease was at its worst, but I thought they’d gone away except for occasional episodes. Now I realize I’ve just gotten used to accommodating them.)

Anynoodle, the photo above is not blurry, but to get that steadiness I had to find a good place to stabilize my arms that also allowed me to shoot the whole screen, which I was not able to do, so the full extent of both holes on either end is not visible.

Nonetheless, here are a closeup of one part of my freshly super-ventilated screen:

A close-up of a large agged tear in a screen, mostly horizontal , about 3 to 4 inches across and about as tall in various places.

A pronounced squirrel-hole in the screen. I pronounced it, "Oh, shit!"

Back to my questions, which included, why wasn’t Barnum on the job, preventing squirrel mayhem? Ever since he was able to see them, Barnum has been fascinated by birds and moths and leaves blowing in the wind, and shoelaces, and anything else that moves.

As a result, I have been pretty careful not to introduce him to squirrels because, well, you can just imagine. But lately, with my bird feeders up, and the squirrels raiding them (because that’s what they were put on this earth to do), it’s been kind of sad for me, for the first time in my life, not to have a dog who knows the word, “Squirrel.”

In fact, I’m so used to dogs knowing the word “squirrel” better than they know, for example, “car,” or “walk,” or “sit/down/stay,” etc., that when I first said “squirrel” within Barnum’s hearing, and he reacted not at all, I was shocked. I unconsciously believed, apparently, that all dogs just emerge from the womb knowing the word, “Squirrel”!

In fact, it has been the job of all my previous dogs to periodically chase the squirrels away from my bird feeders — a job they all relished!

So, I decided, what the heck, let’s consider this a training opportunity. I will let him watch squirrels, but he’ll have to control himself and not bark, lunge, jump on the window sills, pace, etc. And this week, while I am glued to my computer trying to get folks over to the auction (it’s only up till Sunday! Thank goodness!), he really does need Dog TV.

Back of Barnums head and back, with his ears perked forward, looking out a large window. Lush greenery and a silver SUV in the background. On the window above and to his left is a plexiglas feeder with a tufted titmouse in it, and on a small ornamental tree is a suet/seed feeder, with a gray squirrel showing just its butt and tail, finishing off the feeder contents.

Big-screen Dog TV, with split-screen: The Bird Channel showing, "Titmouse," and The Squirrel Channel showing, "Butt and Tail." Canine risque.

Starting yesterday, when there was a squirrel at the feeder, I’d say, “Squirrel!” and point excitedly out the window. At first, he didn’t get it. But, eventually, he started to catch on.

He has been watching The Bird Channel quite a lot since spring, but that’s just basic cable. The Squirrel Channel is a premium package, like HBO or Showtime. Hell, it’s probably the Playboy channel!

Back of Barnums head and shoulders, ears perked forward, as he stares out the window at a squirrel wrapped aroud the bttom of a wire feeder and a blue jay perched a foot above, on an ornamental tree.

"Squirrel or blue jay? Squirrel or blue jay? Definitely SQUIRREL!"

He doesn’t know the word yet, which surprises me. I thought a couple pairings of the word with the excitement of seeing a squirrel in action would be reinforcing enough that he’d learn the cue within one or two repetitions, but I’m sure it won’t be long.

Meanwhile, once he is watching Squirrel TV, he is really into it. He just stands there, with his nose pressed to the window, for hours, without making a sound. Isn’t TV a great babysitter? Isn’t it great that I’ve taught him such excellent self-control?

Close-up of the back of Barnums head, stairing at a squirrel hanging by its tail, white underbelly exposed, as it empties a wire seed and suet feeder.

"Waaaaant squirrel. So hot. Luscious, delicious squirrel...."

Any day now, I’ll say, “Squirrel!” and Barnum will leap up as if he’s been electrocuted and scrabble to the window, practically drooling with excitement, just like the old days.

That will be especially useful for when one comes into the house through the pre-shredded window screen, don’tcha think?

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget (Who said squirrel?!?!?), and Barnum, SDiT squirrel watcher

P.S. To all my blogging/tweeting friends, if you would please include a note about this excellent cause, or tweet it, with a link: http://heathersauction.blogspot.com/ in your next post (by tomorrow, because it closes Sunday night), I would be so grateful! Thank you!

Don’t forget: I’m offering a variety of lures (enticements) and clicks (reinforcers/rewards). Of course, I am setting certain criteria (rules). See my other post, aftergadget.com for more details. Thank you!


2 Responses to “Squirrels Gone Wild!”

  1. 1 MiMo May 22, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    hahaha. oh dear, the squirrels. We had one somehow manage to gnaw a hole through the kitchen window screen (right in the middle!), come in, nibble on some jelly cookies that had been near the window, and then run back out (tell tale bits of jelly on the edges of the hole in the screen). We were aghast when we found the evidence!
    We had just noticed one hanging out on the roof outside that window the day before, too. It was totally casing the joint!

  2. 2 Sharon Wachsler May 22, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    LOL! OMG. That’ll teach you not to put jelly cookies in front of a window, because of course, jelly cookies are the natural food of the squirrel. Acorns, seeds, nuts, and jelly cookies, right?

    I had a similar thing happen, but with a black bear. It was scary.

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