|Squirrel in Montana, public domain|
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.