I named him Dopey! Our association
began when he was an immature squirrel that seemed to enjoy teasing
my pack of eight Papillons. He had my schedule memorized and was always
sitting on the floor of the deck, flicking his bushy tail when I opened
the door to let the dogs out in their yard for an outing. He wasn’t
deaf. He proved that many times when he arrived at the bird feeder before
I could get there with seeds and treats.
He had to know the precursory sounds of the door being opened and the
happy barking from inside the house of a pack of excited little furballs.
But he’d wait until the first dog was through the door and almost
close enough to step on that bushy little tail before taking off down
the steps into the yard and racing for the nearest tree. Papillons are
descendants of dwarf continental spaniels and proud of their principle
duties as companions and couch potatoes, but they have not forgotten
their ancestral love of the chase.
Dopey would make it to the nearest dogwood tree and scramble up the
slender trunk just ahead of the pack of happily yipping toy terrors.
Somehow I could never avoid adding to the din by screaming at the dogs
to stop. Not that any of the four-footers ever paid the slightest attention
As eight excited dogs tumbled over one another around the trunk of the
dogwood, Dopey would scamper up the branches, leap to the larger tulip
poplar beside it, and cross to the other side. The alpha female of the
dog pack was usually the first one to note that Dopey had continued
his trail to the ground on the other side of the larger tree and was
headed for a small hole beneath the fence at the edge of the yard. He
would manage to wiggle under the fence just ahead of eight dogs running
at top speed after him. He would climb another tree just outside the
yard to stop and chatter – probably in squirrel laughter—as
the eight small bodies impacted with the chain length fence and each
other, their momentum causing an amusing but thankfully non-harmful
pileup at the fence.
Dopey could have chosen any number of trees after the tulip poplar as
a safe haven; he could have stayed in the tree-tops and been safely
out of reach of the small, five-to-seven pound dogs. But he seemed to
love the chase as much as the dogs.
I worried that as he grew the small hole beneath the fence would be
too small for his growing body and the dogs would smash into him before
he could get away. I worried what the dogs would do if they actually
caught the silly little squirrel. But as the days of summer turned into
weeks and then months, I came to realize that Dopey would have calculated
all of the aspects of his game too well to be caught.
I took to adding treats to the bird feeders for him. And then to placing
a larger container on the rail of the deck with treats that he seemed
to especially enjoy. Unshelled peanuts were his top favorite; sunflower
seeds his second.
Toward the end of summer, I noticed that the game had changed. Dopey
still led the dogs a merry chase across the yard, but now he sprinted
up a tree closer to the fence’s edge and stopped aiming for that
tiny hole under the fence. When I’d observe him sitting on the
edge of the deck waiting for the morning game, I marveled that the frail
little body had turned into a fat, happy and mature squirrel.
By the next season, he was too busy or old to play, and the dogs missed
him terribly. He still comes to his special feeder, enjoying his tributes
and scolding sharply if I’ve forgotten to include his unshelled
peanuts. The dogs and I hope that someday he’ll father another
little tease like himself. Meanwhile he has me busy insuring that his
favorite treats are available at all times. I guess you would have to
say he is anything but dopey!