Friday, November 16, 2007

Letter to the Squirrel-Editor

Still think red squirrels are cute? (PHOTO BY Gerry Balding/FLICKR)

Today’s Letter to the Squirrel-Editor comes from Pete in Gettysburg, PA. Pete writes:
I recently trapped four adult red squirrels, and am currently keeping them in a cage. I’ve heard they’re aggressive, and would love to know how I can train them to keep my neighbor’s dog out of my yard. Any advice would be much appreciated.
Well, Pete, you heard right: red squirrels are aggressive. And guess what? They’ve been known to go after dogs. So you, my friend, are in luck. As for any advice I can give, I should probably warn you first: Be prepared to work. My late mentor, H. C. Blithe (blessings and peace be upon Him), spent 15 fruitless years trying to tame a single red squirrel. His vain efforts proved too much, and he died of a heart attack at the age of 70 (two years ago tomorrow).

But if it’s any consolation, taming a red squirrel is much harder than training one to harness its aggressiveness. So here are four bits of advice (anything more, and I’d have to charge you): (1) feed them sparingly the first few weeks; if you feed them too much, they’ll expect too much; this is critical, because red squirrels are takers, not givers; (2) be sure to keep their cage at least two feet below eye-level; since they’re extremely aggressive by nature, red squirrels love being in a dominant position; this also applies once you get them out of their cage to interact with you and others; anytime they want to get on your shoulder or climb about the mantel in your living room, grab a net and put them right back in their cage; in theory, they should eventually get the picture; (3) once you’ve created some trust and gotten the squirrels to take on their role as subordinates, it’s important to keep this in mind: red squirrels play mind-games; they love to trick you into thinking they love you; so, whatever you do, resist the urge to love them; stay firm, and the rest, in theory, should fall into place; and (4) never feed them after midnight . . . just kidding . . . No, my last piece of advice is this: as you begin to show them who’s the boss, they’ll begin to respect you a little; in fact, as dominant creatures, they’ll admire your uncompromising approach; they may even leave fruits and nuts by your pillow as a sign of respect; but you must keep this in mind: it’s all a ploy; the more you resist the urge to show love, the more willing they’ll be to go to war for you; if you stay strong, before you know it, you’ll have four pintsized junkyard dogs at your disposal — willing to do whatever it takes to earn your favor; the last step will involve showing them the object(s) of your hate: if you want them to attack your neighbor’s dog, show that you hate your neighbor’s dog (the same applies to ex-wives and mothers-in-law).

Once again, training a red squirrel isn’t as hard as taming one. But perhaps that’s the best thing, give your situation; perhaps taming a red squirrel (if that’s even possible) would involve stripping it of its essence, which would do you no good.

To boost your morale, I’ll leave you with a passage from Satan is a Red Squirrel, my late mentor’s unfinished memoirs:
The red squirrel is a demon, albeit a cute one. But don’t let his fiery charms beguile you. He knows the patterns of your mind and the design of your soul. To take him in will earn you nothing but eternal misery.
Hope I could help, Pete.

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