Thursday, January 10, 2008


High: 34°F
Low: 26°F
Conditions: Partly cloudy and gusty, changing to
wintery mix later tonight

The temperatures are dropping back down to reasonable levels, but Ari is still stewing. The cause of her consternation is our local red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). Ari loves red squirrels: they’re the highlight of her walks, and she watches them for hours with a look of joyful bemusement. This particular squirrel, however, has broken her moral code.

First, some background: we call Ari “The Hall Monitor.” She has a well-articulated sense of justice and has no qualms about scolding (or tattling) when that ethical system has been breached. This is particular evident with Mouse and Leila Tov, the two feral rescue cats we adopted. Ari reprimands the cats when they get too close to her food dish, when they chew on paper products, or any other time she disapproves of their behavior. When snapping at their noses or boxing their ears doesn’t work, she runs into the next room, takes either me or Greg by the hand, and leads us to whatever feline transgression is taking place.

In the past, this need to police others has always been a strictly indoor impulse in the pup; outside, she’s been all wide-eyed wonder. But that changed this week when the red squirrel started squatting in our shed. The larger (and more placid) gray squirrel (Sciurus arizonensis) builds elaborate leaf-lined nests in the crooks of large oak and maple trees (Quercus rubra and Acer saccharum, respectively):
Our red squirrel, however, took a page from the book of local mice and fashioned a tidy little nest in one of my flower pots overwintering in the shed:

To make matters worse, he’s spent his free time carving a tunnel system leading from said flower pot to our bird feeder station in the side yard. These snowy thoroughfares allow him to move, unseen, from the shed to the bird seed, where (undeterred by our feeble attempts at squirrel-proofing) he stuffs his cheeks with sunflower seeds and suet, then returns to his nest. The visual effect for Ari is a kind of virtual whack-a-mole.

She seethes at the window as the squirrel pops up first in one location, and then another:
Two resulting behaviors seem particularly relevant to our caninaturalist pursuit. First, although she doesn't like it when the squirrel forages on the ground, she really scolds the squirrel when he steals from the actual feeders. Does she think the feeders are the property of our local bird population? Has she created a caste system in which squirrels should content themselves with the dregs on the ground? Secondly, her view of red squirrels during our neighborhood walks has changed as well. They no longer receive play-bows and chortles but, instead, stern growls of warning. Is this a revised Pavlovian response? Is Ivy right—are squirrels really evil? Or has Ari created a kind of Old Testament moral system in which Tamiasciurus hudsonicus has fallen from grace? I don't know. But we’d love to hear what you make of this new development.


D'Azul Siberian said...

Yes squirrels are evil, we have a tormenter here we call Secret Squirrel. He laughs at us, then runs and hides. Evil Squirrels.

The D'Azul Siberians

Farmgirl_dk: said...

So I read your blog first thing this morning, but couldn't come close to matching your cleverness, so I left without leaving a comment. Now I return, still with nothing really clever to say, but wanting to state, nonetheless, that I think you are an awesome writer. Your style is engaging, your word choice unusual, and your topics interesting. Each of those items is challenging by itself, to achieve all three is impressive. Your stories of Ari always leave me smiling. Thanks!

Khyra The Siberian Husky said...

Have woo tried using a bonesikhle on it?

Wags and Wuv,


The Daily Echo said...

Clearly that squirrel is trying to drive you mad. Don't give in! Be strong! You're lucky that you have snow. We have spring here in PA. We suspect that next week we'll be able to bring our pool out. ::grumble::. I hope you don't mind that I've added you to my favorite Blogs! We love reading about Ari's adventures.

Keri said...

Wonderful blog! Ari is adorable!

Dmitri said...

Wow, judging by the look in those eyes, Ari's gonna be judge, jury and (I hope not) executioner on this case. Run squirrel run! I don't think you're evil, just too clever sometimes.

Katherine and Pippa, said...

We doon't get squirrels round here. Pippa has a very clear delineation for other animals - cats bad, farm animals good.

Bonnie said...

That lighting on the top photo is almost Vermeer... very nice... I'm serious about that calendar... Ari 2009!