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I love almost all animals

My friend Sandy Gobbler and I were obsessed with caterpillars in grade one. Every day we would create a Caterpillar World in the sandbox, complete with tunnels and mountains and bridges and moats, and then we would go into the forest and collect dozens of tent caterpillars and relocate them to our World so they could play and have thrilling caterpillar adventures. It always dismayed us that they seemed more intent on crawling back to the forest than in playing in Caterpillar World. Undaunted, we would dream up even more elaborate and enticing activities and structures for Caterpillar World, and try again the next day.

I’m the person that co-workers ask to “get rid of” unwanted spiders and bugs. I don’t kill them: I capture them and set them free outdoors. I’ve also been known to move earthworms off busy sidewalks on rainy days so they don’t get squished by pedestrians. On brutally hot, dry days I put out a pan of water for the parched birds around my downtown office tower. I rescued an injured pigeon once and kept him in a box in the basement of the Waffle headquarters for several days, until he mysteriously disappeared. As a little kid I took forever to walk to kindergarten because I was so careful not to step on ants.

The point is, I’m nice to animals.

But now I have no choice but to hate squirrels.

I’ve had run-ins with squirrels in the past. I used to live in a gorgeous post-and-beam house up in Quebec, near Wakefield. I took an interest in birds. “I took an interest” is a euphemism for “I became obsessed.” I bought and read dozens of books about birds. Software too: there’s bird-watching software. I acquired a number of bird feeders, and never let them get empty. I noted which of the various kinds of birdseed appealed most to various birds (niger and black sunflower are both considered a delicacy by birds). Birdseed would have been a line item on my budget if I’d had a budget. I spent a fortune on birdseed.

Of course the greedy squirrels soon descended on my bird feeders with their ravenous appetites and thieving ways. For a time I did battle with them, trying to outsmart them, trying to keep them from the feeders through various mechanisms and tricks. I put vaseline on the wire that held the feeders, I moved the feeders away from the trees, I put slippery umbrellas above and below the feeders, I taught my dog to chase squirrels. All to no avail. The squirrels were smart and persistent and they had all day to accomplish what they wanted: and what they wanted was to eat birdseed. Eventually I capitulated. I accepted the fact that I was engaged in an unwinnable battle. I did what needed to be done: I fed the squirrels. I placed barrels of peanuts and sunflower seeds at the base of the trees, and filled them up as dutifully as I filled the feeders. Problem solved. (Expensively.)

Now I am locked into another battle with squirrels. I have a garden. A balcony garden. The neighbourhood squirrels visit it every day while I am at work and wreak havoc on it. They dig things up. They eat things. I was especially happy with the two rose bushes I planted in May, in giant containers. One of them soon developed 18 rose buds. The squirrels ate 16 of them. The other rose bush keeps trying to just grow leaves, but the squirrels keep eating them.

Nevertheless, I finally have a rose:

white rose

I love this rose.

I still hate squirrels though. Last week one of them got into the transformer on the hydro pole in my front yard and blew out the power to the neighbourhood. His corpse lay on the sidewalk with its eyes bugged out. A neighbour in a wheelchair passed below my balcony and said “Awww, poor little thing,” and I coldly retorted “One down, 500 to go.”

But way deep down I felt a miniscule twinge of grief when I saw that he was just a baby.

P.S. If I didn’t hate squirrels, I would probably knit this:

squirrel in a sweater

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