It’s one of those little moments.
With this magic keyboard at my fingertips, I spotted something in the corner of my eye, outside a streaky sunlit window, bobbing around. It was a squirrel – nothing unusual about that, but its movement was a tad off. Ah, no tail. Looking rather rabbitlike, it hopped around as maimed squirrels do, making do without its bushy tail. How did it happen, I wondered. Close encounter with a minivan? Prowling neighorhood cat? A more-powerful rival man-squirrel? An unfortunate smelting accident?
And I wondered a little more.
What are the social implications for a squirrel that has lost its tail? Will it suffer the slings and arrows of Hamlet’s lonely soliloquy? Will it die cold and lonely, homeless in a leafless tree? Or will it find a meaningful existence, gathering, storing and digging up walnuts and flower bulbs to the aggravation of gardeners everywhere?
And then I saw a telling moment. Hopping across a driveway apron across the street, the squirrel – let’s call him Henry – encountered a sparrow. And it was taunting him. I swear, it hopped around, just out of reach as Henry lunged at it to assert his squirrel authority, taunting him. (We should note that we have no evidence that Henry is a he — he could just as easily be Henrietta.) It didn’t even resort to flying. It just hopped. Who knew sparrows could be so cruel?
And I took to wondering some more.
Taunting sparrows aside, Henry seemed to be managing OK. He could hop. He could climb a tree. But I wondered if he missed his tail. For squirrels, and I am injecting some conjecture here, their tails seem to be an important part of their identity. That twitchy tail is a large part of what makes a squirrel, well, squirrelly. And so we arrive at this question: Is there something we can do to help?
I know, I know, in this crazy mixed-up world of collapsing securitized debt instruments and jobless circus clowns the trouble of one squirrel doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, but someday, maybe soon, we’ll regret this moment if we do nothing. But what?
I resort to conjecture again, but I’m guessing that squirrel prosthetic tail technology is not what it could be. We need to pursue other remedies. Perhaps some job training, or the motivational speaker circuit. All he needs is a helping, uh, hand, paw, whatever, to get started.