Saturday, August 18, 2012

Squirrel laundry

Squirrel in Montana, public domain
Wildlife centers do huge amounts of laundry daily in industrial-sizes machines. Towels, sheets, and pillowcases are used as bedding for baby animals and the bedding is changed just like diapers on human babies. Because the bedding is full of crumbs and crud, you don't just stuff it in the washer the way you might at home. You have to shake out each piece, whether it's a washcloth or a large bed sheet, before putting it in the machine. And if you're the only substitute volunteer there on a Friday afternoon and there's a pile of laundry as high as yourself, you work fast but thoroughly--bend down, pick up two pieces, shake 'em over the trash barrel, throw in the washer, bend again and what the [blank] is that?

A long-tailed brownish-grey thing curled up, sleeping comfortably, among the towels. I woke him when I picked him up carefully in both hands where he lay, incurious and sleepy. Not a very squirrely squirrel, he was either a super laid-back personality or had just finished lunch. He seemed almost as long as a grown squirrel but was all legs, head and tail. Still short of fur, the tail had a long way to go before becoming the fluffy duster of an adult.

I took him upstairs to the squirrel room where one employee thanked me and whispered, "This is very bad." Another said it happens occasionally because of the way little animals like to huddle up in piles of their bedding. People caring for them are supposed to count the number of animals in each box before and after feeding as well as after changing bedding. The squirrel and I were the only ones not upset. It was a very warm day and he hadn't gotten wet or chilled.

The incident may or may not find its way into the volunteer education program as an example of why it's important to follow every step of a procedure and not cut corners, however irksome those many steps might feel. It's not easy following all rules to the letter at all times; but if you live with a dog, you may have trained yourself to do so. Feed the dog from the dinner table? He'll remember forever. For dogs, there is no "just this once," especially when it's to their advantage, like a treat from your plate or a nap on your bed. When you resist the natural human tendency to get lax about the rules, you never know when that ability will come in handy.


  1. Oh, how true! That's why I sit in front of Grandpa when he eats, but not in front of Ma ~ I know nothin' is comin' from her plate!
    Good thing for their procedures, huh? Little guy could have gotten the wrong kind of 'fluff'. Have a good weekend!



  2. It's a good thing that you saved him from the wash was his lucky day!


    About our banana tree...yes, it is outside. We have had it for about 5 years and we pile fall leaves around the trunks to keep it from freezing to the ground each winter. It was just a little shoot and now it is about 15' tall and 15' wide!

  3. We're sure glad you saved that little one, Sherry. Was he okay?

  4. Awwwwe...good thing you saw him! We are glad he is okay!