The baby squirrel

January 30, 2013 — 218 Comments

It happened on my way home from work one summer night.  I was around the corner from my building.  There were about eight people crowded around a spot on the sidewalk.  I went to investigate.  They were all staring at this little creature, no more than 2 inches long, barely moving.  I couldn’t tell what it was.  A baby rat?  A baby mouse?  Then I heard someone say it was a baby squirrel who had fallen from his nest.  Apparently the squirrel’s nest was on a fire escape several floors above us.

Everyone was just standing there.  Nobody was doing anything to help this poor little thing.  Some evil bastard suggested that someone should stomp on it to put it out of its misery.  I didn’t know what to do but I was furious at how everyone just stood there, staring.  I wanted to scream at all of them:  “What the fuck is wrong with all of you??  This is a living creature who needs help!!”  I don’t remember what I actually said, but I yelled something as I shoved people out of my way to get to the squirrel.  I had some tissues with me and I gently picked him up and wrapped him up in the tissues to keep him warm.  He was so light.  His eyes weren’t open but he moved every so often.

So there I was with this injured baby squirrel.  Now what?  I frantically searched for a working pay phone (this was 1999, pre-cell phone days).  When I found one, I called the ASPCA.  I spoke with a very nice woman who apologetically explained that they didn’t accept squirrels.  I asked if she could suggest somewhere else, but she didn’t know of a place that might be able to help.  By this time I was almost hysterical and I was crying.  I didn’t want this baby squirrel to die.

Then I saw a woman who lived in my building.  She said, “Oh, you know who helps squirrels?  Bernie Goetz.”  Bernie Goetz???  The Subway Vigilante??  The guy who shot some would-be muggers on the subway back in 1984?  My neighbor said Goetz lived nearby and that he was known for rescuing squirrels.  Who knew?  I needed to get his phone number.  Back to the phone booth.

While I was on the line with the operator, I noticed that the baby squirrel had stopped moving.  I looked more closely at him and realized that he was gone.  I thanked the operator and hung up.

I suppose I wasn’t really surprised that the little guy died.  I don’t know how far he fell, but it was far enough that his injuries would have been severe.  I had hoped to get help to him in time, but I couldn’t.  At least he wasn’t alone at the end.  Even if it was a giant creature holding him in a tissue in her hand, he wasn’t alone.

I walked over to Washington Square Park and found a nice tree.  I dug a small hole and buried him.  I’m so sorry, little squirrel.  I wanted so badly to save you.  I’m so sorry you fell from your nest.  I hope you didn’t suffer too much.  I tried, I really did.

I said a little prayer over the tiny grave and cried all the way home.

218 responses to The baby squirrel


    Oh my Lord! I remember now that Goetz was a squirrel fanatic! What a memory! Over this past weekend I stayed in a boutique hotel right across the street from the Brooklyn House of Detention on Atlantic Avenue where Goetz served his time.

    I would have had the exact same reaction but if it had been a baby rat I would have walked right by. Why is that? They’re essentially the same animal. Especially at that age. We strange humans.


    Now I had to go and feel emotions this morning. Poor little squirrel.


    It’s people like you that make this world suck less.


    Phone booths! I remember them, they never seemed to be working when you really needed them, after you searched around you bag looking for some change to use to make your call. A sad story to start my morning, but I know how you felt.


      Right? I was just relieved that I found one that worked as quickly as I did. And those were the days when there were no other options. Although a few fancy folk and tech heads had cell phones then. Now, you hardly ever see phone booths at all, let one working ones.


    This genuinely made me cry, what a beautiful story. Sweet little guy. At least he wasn’t alone…


    What else would a thinking, caring person like you do? Sorry it didn’t work.


    You’re a good woman. I already knew that, but your heart is so big and beautiful and I’m sure that baby squirrel felt it.


    Awww, bye bye little squirrel. At least he died knowing that someone cared enough to wrap him in a tissue to keep him warm, and hold him, and look after him.


    That happened to me once too, finding a tiny baby squirrel dying, it’s quite something, very poignant – such helpless little things. The Bernie Goetz part is weird though.


      Isn’t it? I had no idea until my neighbor told me. But not long ago I read an article about him, he really does take in injured squirrels. I guess he’s like me, he likes animals more than people.


    Is it your mission in life to make me cry at every possible opportunity? ‘Cause, so far, it’s a successful mission.


    mighta been the fall. mighta been exposure too. still sad.


    Awww, poor little thing! At least you did what you could for him. And now I can’t help but laugh to find out I have something in common with Bernie Goetz….


    Madame Weebles, you made the last moments of the baby squirrel’s life bearable. At least he was warm and could feel your love instead of the cold and hateful voices of those dolts that had surrounded them. You did everything right and gave him a decent burial. I cried when I read your story. You are truly a good person to care for one of God’s little creatures.


    Madame Weebles,
    You did a wonderful thing trying to help the little squirrel. It’s something we all should try to do at some point.


    Awwww, Weebes. We have a garden full of squirrels and I’m sure they all want to give you a hug right now. Well, at least the ones that have subscribed to your blog (you’d be surprised how 21st century some of those guys are). Just in case they can’t get their paws to operate their iPhones, let me say thank you on their behalf.

    Just for you I’ll post an cat story with a happier ending this week :)



      Thanks, Nige! Please say hello to all the squirrels in your yard, including the ones who aren’t online. I mean, I’m sure some of them aren’t as tech savvy. Can’t wait for the cat story!


    Nice story – I can totally relate. A LONG time ago I was living by myself in a one bedroom apartment and one day my girlfriend comes over and brings in a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest. I was all “don’t bring that stinking thing in here” and she did anyway and I ended up nursing it to adulthood using mashed up plums and an eye dropper. I named him Steve and eventually he started flying around the very small place I lived and pooping everywhere so I had to take him outside and let him go.

    I was very sad : (


    As you well know, I am a fan and defender of squirrels; I am so very impressed and touched by what you did.

    My opinion of Bernie Goetz has also gone up a few notches.


    That’s sweet. While I wouldn’t stomp on it to ‘put it out of its misery,’ I’d be lying if I pretending I’d not just walk away, thereby letting someone else stomp on it—which is morally no different. So I guess I’m an evil bastard too—just too lazy to do any real damage myself.


    Oh my word, this is so sad. Thank you for at least trying, where everyone else was just standing around. At least the little baby had some comfort and care before passing. You did a wonderful thing.


    Gulp! I’ve got tattoees and I am welling up over here! Hopefully its remains nourished the tree for other generations of squirrels to live in and hopefully not fall from.


    Thanks for sharing your kind heart, Weebs.


    I’m scared that I have something in common with Bernie Goetz.


    That little baby squirrel’s mama would have appreciated you for doing what you did. Bless his little heart. And yours. You’re such good people, Weebs.


    Poor thing, and very good of you. It would have been supper had it been in my garden and my cat found it. On holiday in Portugal some birds lived in the gazebo tiling, one night a baby one had rolled out, I couldn’t get it back up as it was on a slant and it was terrified so wouldn’t move itself. I put it in the nook of a tree next to it and hoped it may call for it’s mum, put some water next to it aswell but by morning it was dead and ants were stripping it clean. At such a young age they can’t survive without the care of their mother or someone very expert in these things.


    As a testament to my twisted mind: I am stuck on Bernie. Many killers (specifically serial killers, but let’s look at Goetz here) abuse animals. Maybe the little squirrel didn’t want to end up in Bernie’s hands. I would stop, as you did, but it’s amazing that you remember it all so clearly all these years later! Strange what stays with us.


      I don’t think it’s twisted, My Lady. I don’t consider Bernie Goetz a serial killer, either. He was fed up with subway crime (NYC was kind of a pit back then) and chose to do something about it. Obvious his actions were more drastic than others’ might have been but I’ll tell you, he was a cult hero around here for a while after it happened. And yep, that incident with the baby squirrel is as clear to me today as if it had happened yesterday.


        I agree with your view of Bernie Goetz MW.


        No, I wasn’t clear… I know Bernie wasn’t a serial killer, which is why I put that in parenthesis… but interesting that he became a reactively violent person, but cared for little animals. As a psych person, I find it compelling. Lots of compelling details in this story… for me.


          (I deleted your extra comments here, btw, so all is well) That’s true, he obviously isn’t inherently a violent or evil person, he just snapped. And I can relate to how someone would especially care for little animals–they’re so vulnerable. He *is* an interesting psychological case study, isn’t he??


            No doubt! A name from the past, but so compelling for quite a while there. I’m not convinced he just “snapped,” but no doubt it built up to an interesting conclusion.

            Thanks for deleting the extras, Madame. I’ve had some glitches with Word Press recently… ever so vexing.

    whiteladyinthehood January 30, 2013 at 10:45 am

    I just can’t stand to see an animal suffer! I would have tried to help the baby squirrel, too….


    This story is the epitome of compassion. You are one in a crowd… Quite literally according to this story.


    I think I know how you feel, Madame Weeb. I am scared shitless of snakes, but when my next door neighbor had her teenage son go all hoe, hoe, hoe on a black racer in our shared driveways I freaked. All I could think as I watched the slaughter was, “That poor creature wants to live. All he wants to do is live. What right do we have to deprive it of that small, but very big thing?” It was such an intense, visceral experience…about 5 years ago. Can you tell it made an impression on me? This has got to be a metaphor for something????? Nikki


    Madame, you are a model citizen. Exemplary in every way!


    Yet another reason to love you. XO


    Sad story! I had a similar experience as a child, when my mom rescued a baby possum after its mom had been hit by a car. She actually fed the little thing with a bottle, but it died anyway unfortunately.


    Wow! Heartbreaking. And you buried him — aw man. So sweet.

    Bernhard Goetz — a blast from the past! Bernie Goetz, Savior of Squirrels. Life is something with these interesting twists — I love it!


    You are truly a wonderful person, Madam. As you saw for yourself, most people wouldn’t even try to help that poor animal. Bravo to you.


    I’m not comfortable with all these feelings…damn you.


    Ok, for some weird reason, the Word Press folks kept telling me that my response had failed, when it hadn’t… Surely I was clear this time! Given I “said” it three times!! Feh.


    Aw, poor little guy. And poor you – that’s so sad.

    I can’t walk by any lost or hurt critter, no matter whether it has feathers, fur, slime, or scales. I made myself unpopular with the teachers because I was always rescuing the salamanders the other schoolkids were tormenting. Then I’d have to find a jar to hold them until the end of school when I could take them home and free them beside our pond. Ditto frogs, birds, whatever. I even carry spiders outside instead of killing them.

    But I have to agree with you. Some days I like spiders better than humans.


      I know exactly how you feel, Diane. You’re such a kind person to rescue all the little critters. Anyone who’s kind to all animals should get preferred seating in heaven. As for me, I like spiders better than people on most days.

    Fish Out of Water January 30, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    I didn’t think I could love you more than I already do and you go and tell us the baby squirrel story. *cry cry cry*


    I had a very similar experience with a small bird in my back yard. It was already going I think, but all I could do was hold it in my hands and cry. I truly felt heartbroken over this precious little spirit. I then felt such appreciation that I’d been able to hold and comfort it in some small way during it’s transition. What a blessing we can be, in all sorts of situations. Thanks so much for sharing, Madame Weebles.
    Much Love,


    You are a hero to the squirrel world . . . and to me.


    How was that quote of Gandhi about animals…..
    “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”
    You are a great citizen.


    Ohhh, I thought this was going to be a happy story. You will definitely go to heaven, at least squirrel heaven.

    And I love this because I am a sick woman.


    Awwwwwwwwwwwwww, poor little baby squirrel. Gee, I never knew that about Bernie Goetz, either, but this would make a great Trivial Pursuit question, “Name the subway vigilante that was a friend of squirrels”. You know someone out there would be dumb enough to answer, “Rudy Giuliani.”


    The animals that we’ve saved that have made it through fill me with such joy, but it’s the ones that don’t that leave a scar, each and every one of them. It’s rough. After trying to save the surviving few of a litter of mice and none of them making it, I cannot look at cashews without imagining those little mice, they looked like cashews. It’s heartbreaking to be so helpless to save them.


    You will absolutely go to heaven because of your compassion and your incrediby kind heart.


    That incident says more about your character than words ever could. Actions really do speak louder than words. Good on you.


    CRAP!! 86 comments already, um, er… *sudden burst of strikingly original insight*… … … … nope. Damn.
    We had similar with a wee bird – had to stamp on it – for shame! Funny how the media-news of atrocities bounces off, but animal suffering like that awakens all your sense of the fragility and preciousness of life…


      Please tell me you didn’t actually stamp on the bird. Please? I see what you’re saying, Panda, but to me, the difference is that animals are usually at our mercy and don’t have much to defend themselves with in a world dominated by humans. That’s not to say that I don’t feel sad when I hear stories about people suffering, especially when they’re defenseless as well. But animals play no part in war, or evil, and yet they suffer because of the foibles/evils of humanity, and that pains me tremendously. And baby squirrels fall out of nests for no reason, and with no humans at fault, but it’s still a helpless little thing. To not help a suffering creature is inexcusable in my book.


    Virtue lies in intent, even if frustrated by circumstance. You’re that much closer to nirvana (the state of being, not the music group).

    writerwendyreid January 30, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    I feel your pain Weebly. We had 4 baby black squirrels fall from a REALLY tall tree in our front yard. The girl next door took 2 and I took the other 2. We did what we could to nurse them back to help but within 3 days they were all dead. I woke up in the middle of the night to feed them (kitten formula from a syringe), I had to stimulate their genitals to make them pee and I held them to keep them warm. I cried like a baby when they died.


      Oh, Mistress, that’s so incredibly sad. I would have been bawling right along with you. You’re such a beautiful soul to do all that for them. I’m so sorry they didn’t make it, but you are truly amazing to help like that.


    Aw. You are a good woman. Poor little thing. It’s good that the tiny, unspoken ones have a friend in you. It sucks to be helpless and stinks that vets dont accept wild animals- I too have learned this on several different occasions.
    What is wild to me is the place that you buried your little guy is the place where I first saw a baby squirrel injured on the ground that had fallen from the nest above. Full circle. Small world,


      That IS a small world, Pigeon. And you’re right, it does suck to be helpless and have nowhere to turn. I had no idea that vets didn’t accept wild animals, but I suppose it makes sense, they don’t necessarily have the training for them, and also, it’s possible that since they can carry all kinds of diseases, vets don’t want to risk introducing them in an environment where they care for pets.


    Oh, I would have cried too! Even though I had a full grown one camped out in my garage in our last house & he was such a pest chewing on wires, etc. I still can’t stand to see an animal suffer in any way. Thanks for trying.


      I know how you feel, benzeknees. I had a full-grown squirrel ruin my flower box after I took ages to get it planted all nice. I was so mad. But I could never wish any harm on an animal.


    You never know, Weebs, you may just see that baby squirrel again — in another form and another life. Bet you’ll be one of his/her favorite people. ;)


    Even though squirrels are the bane of my existence, I admire your compassion.


    You did good, dear Madame. You did good! xoxoM



    Like Brigitte, I’d like to think that sweet little baby came back again to you in some fashion. If it was really lucky, it came back as a squirrel in my yard. Those dang squirrels eat better than I do!

    You’re a sweetheart…


    What a beautiful thing for you to do, I’ve rescued a few animals on the farm. Some survive the trauma, but most don’t unfortunately. At least the little fella knew that someone cared about him in the end :(


    Oh, Madame! You did your very best! I’m sure there was nothing more that could have been done if the little guy had severe injuries. It seems like the “wild” animals don’t always get the attention they deserve. You did a good deed by being with him until the end.


    You have such a good heart. The squirrel was going to die anyway, but you were with it in its last few moments. That’s compassion.

    A couple of years ago there was a baby mouse in the office. Nobody else wanted to try and catch it, it was just running around scared as all get out. I got on the ground, and managed to secure it underneath a tupperware dish. I turned my head for a second to get a towel so I could pick it up, but when I did, the office dog tipped the dish over with it’s nose, and attacked it. No blood and guts, but the mouse died. I took it outside and dug a little hole and buried it. I felt so guilty.


      You tried, Jen. It’s not your fault. Poor little thing. At least he had a nice funeral. I’m also jealous that you worked in a place with an office dog. I’ve never worked anywhere with an office pet.


    Awww :( I like peoples who like animals and I like ’em even more when they try and save their life. You’re very kind Madam Weebs.


    That’s… that’s… sad, Madame!
    I almost feel bad for thinking about the episode of Seinfeld where George runs over a squirrel. Only the squirrel lived. Because the tiny instruments arrived just in time (so that makes mentioning it okay-er, right?)!


    You’re a good woman, Madame.


    hi Mdm W. yes, your piece rang a few bells with me, (and clearly not only me, judging by all the responses above) Had an awful dilemma a few years ago when I found a group of beautiful small blue-green eggs abandoned, or seemingly abandoned, on the public, unrestricted part of the beach on north bull island, here in Dublin (Bay). I didn’t think they’d last more than a few hours so I seriously considered taking them home and trying to incubate them to chick-hood. But what were the odds? Also found and attempted to save abandoned baby mouse, many years previously, tried, and failed… not a nice feeling. But at least we try, tried, try.


      Hello there, Mr. Henderson! You’re right, at least we’ve tried. That’s all we can do, isn’t it. You’re a kind soul even to think of taking the abandoned eggs home to incubate them. I’m sorry about the baby mouse, it’s a helpless feeling not to be able to help. But I like to think that just making the effort somehow makes a difference in the global scheme of things.


        Yes, true, well, I don’t know if its true, but agreed at least, as that’s sort of what I think too. Looking back on the mouse incident, which was when i was still quite young, I think I may have even been responsible for his demise, as i put him in a large jar, with the no lid , left open of course, but also with quite a substantial piece of cheese. (You know the way every kid thinks cheese is the favourite food of mice…) Well, years later, somebody said the FUMES from the cheese may have killed him ! As you can immagine, that suggestion made me feel much better about the whole thing, not. Come to think of it, I have also killed another mouse, also entirely my accident, without even realizing in fact at the time. Simply by tossing a thermos flask into a cupboard. Oh dear….


    You made an effort when others stood by and did nothing. Good karma points racked up for you that day.


    Bernie Goetz, phone booths, and a woman who isn’t afraid to push through and help a creature in need.
    You evoke a world that sadly seems to be only in the past, Weebs…
    (I miss phone booths.)


    Man this brings me back. I really loved this post of yours, it might be one of my favorites. It speaks a lot to your character :-)


    While I was in Greece, there was a kitten outside our house one night. Greece has no ASPCA, so like you, we had no one to help. It’s so devastating to want so badly to help, but to not be able to do anything.


      When I was in Athens, I was stunned at how many stray cats and dogs there were. My friend told me that there was no ASPCA-type thing, so you see animals all over the place. Heartbreaking.


        If they did have an ASPCA/RSPCA type organisation, there would probably be far fewer strays as well. The RSPCA here in the UK will neuter feral cats (and dogs) for free, because it prevents there being greater numbers of feral animals. The only problem with this is catching them in the first place!


    That was very kind of you. We have a couple of local squirrels often seen wandering along the power lines, sometimes across our fence, and often trying to eat from our bird feeder. The next door neighbours cat kept trying to catch it or chase it off. He never has thus far.


    Yours is a beautiful, merciful soul, young lady.


    I would have done and felt the same. People just stand around doing nothing too much.


    This broke my heart, but I’m so happy to hear you were holding him when he passed. EVERY animal should be treated like this. When I was a kid, my mom and I found three baby squirrels shivering in the cold on the sidewalk, on our walk to the local supermarket. We scooped them up in our gloves and turned right around, and brought them home. We fed them warm milk and kept them in a cage until they were a little older, then we let them go. They were the cutest little things.


      Aww, it’s so nice to hear a story about baby squirrels who lived! You and your mom did a wpnderful thing. I agree, all animals should be well treated. I wish I could have done more for my little guy, but at least he had a friend with him.


    We used to have birds hit our windows at work all the time. The ones that cracked their necks you knew were done for. But there would be ones that were just seriously stunned. I saw a guy once go over to a bird and pump its chest – like chest compressions – and the bird stirred, gasped, and flew off. I’ve never done it, but if I hadn’t seen it, I would doubt it was possible.
    You did your best for that squirrel given the pay phone circumstances and all. The memories feel sad even today.


      That’s amazing. I can only hope that the ones who broke their necks went quickly and without suffering. I don’t want any animals to suffer. It’s awful. I’d rather see people suffer, to be honest. It doesn’t squeeze my heart the way animal suffering does.


    Tears! Thanks for your kindness. It’s nice to know that at the end, even a tiny squirrel had someone who cared.


    Poor little thing. It’s important to show compassion in this life and it’s sad that you were the only one to do so. If the world had a bit more compassion, sympathy and empathy, I’m sure we’d have a better place to live in.


    This was so sad. I had a chinchilla die on me years back and I had my mom bury it for me. She even used a little storage box we had as the casket. Why must animals die? There are enough shitty people that still need to.

    It should be more known what to do in these situations. Honestly I wouldn’t even know. Except of course for getting in touch with Bernie Goetz.


    I stopped in to say hello today, Madame Weebles, and I find this incredibly sad yet heartwarming story. You’re a good woman. I come from a family who tried to rescue birds, squirrels, raccoons, and even ducks. The critters we had in our house when we were kids was amazing. My parents were pretty cool to let us try to nourish them back to health in the basement. You did a good thing that day. Those small acts of kindness and love are what fill treasure boxes in heaven. ;-)


      Hi Maddie! You obviously are a good woman as well, from a good family, trying to rescue all kinds of animals. Bless your hearts! And what you said about the treasure boxes in heaven is so sweet, I love that line. Thanks, lady.


    It was a very sad thing, not being able to help that poor little squirrel.


    I’m so sad reading about this. But not surprised in the least that you have such a big heart.


    I always find coming face to face with death very final, even if it’s something tiny. I hate it when life goes off and leaves its receptacle.


    I hope someone like you is near me if I ever need help – and not the types that would take a picture, video or want to stomp on me. You have a beautiful heart


    I am glad the squirrel had you to hold it. Your warm hands and beating heart were undoubtedly better than hard pavement and the noise of strangers.


    Oh Madame :( I am so sad now :( but also think it extremely touching of you to have helped as much as you could have… kudos to you!


    Oh gosh, this made ME cry. I’m something of a bird rescuer. My husband makes fun of me. Every time I see an injured bird I flip out and go all Bird Savior Extraordinaire. I can’t help it. I feel like someone has to look out for the little creatures. I’m glad you do, too :)


      Ashley, you tell you husband I said to leave you alone! Like you said, SOMEONE has to look out for the little creatures. I guess it’s up to you, me, and a bunch of other animal lovers. Big props to you, lady.


    You did the best that you could, I have saved a dove that was attacked by a cat, a sparrow that was hit by a van and quite a few hedgehogs too, I guess I have a soft spot for wildlife as they already have it tough and anything that we can do to help is a big positive.

    I remember years ago stopping to help a cat that had bee hit by a car, and a guy pulled over and said that I should run over it and do a better job this time. I was so annoyed at his remark that I got out of my car but he just sped off, then I picked up the cat and took it to a vet in town.

    I have no idea if that cat survived or not but it was the least I could do for it. Some people just don’t care about anything, let alone a suffering creature in the road… Have a great Thursday Madame Weebles :)


    Jesus, Weebs. As if you couldn’t get any higher in my impossibly high estimation of you. I imagine no baby squirrel before or since has ever experienced such care.


    Living at the beach during my teen years, there were two instances when I came across seagulls who had been hit by cars. It is amazing how instantly you can develop a profound connection to an injured creature – the only thing in the world that matters is making it feel better, but it’s so hard to communicate that intent and love to something that’s hurt and scared to death of you even though you want to help. Anyway. Both my seagulls died too, but I’m really, really glad to read a story about someone else who feels this intensely about helping critters. Thanks for being with that little squirrel in his last moments. Whatever the name for your actions is, *that’s* the freaking stuff that makes the world go ’round!


      Hi Jennie! You, madam, are a kind soul, tending to injured seagulls. I would have done the same, and I would have felt so heartbroken when they died. I know exactly what you mean, about the intensity of the feeling. At that moment, all that mattered was helping this poor little squirrel and I was ready to do whatever I could. There should be more people like us. We’re awesome.


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