I much prefer chipmunks over squirrels. Growing up with Disney and his personable Chip and Dale, I’ve found chipmunks more appealing than a squirrel with a smart mouth and a moose for a best friend. But the thing is, the chipmunks don't visit and the squirrels do, so I'm leaning toward squirrels of late.
My living room window looks out over a grassy area on the south side of my apartment building. There is a garden area along the foundation and trees run thick along the lot line some twenty feet away. There are no outside doors from the apartments so I think the squirrels feel they have squatter's rights to this outdoor area. No one goes there except to weed or water the gardens, or to fill the bird feeders. I say bird feeders but it's apparent the squirrels have also taken ownership of the feeders and reluctantly share them with the birds.
The first winter I lived here I put peanuts on the window sill and watched as the squirrels would stuff their mouths with as many peanuts as possible and scurry off to hide them. It became the thing to do, especially when the grandkids were here to visit.
When I ran out of peanuts I went to crackers, bread and even cookies. They seemed to like my homemade oatmeal cookies the best. One day I put out crackers with peanut butter. I thought a peanut's a peanut, so what the heck. I watched my visitor eat the cracker and suddenly...choking, my squirrel's choking. You could see him gag...ack, ack, ack...most likely with peanut butter stuck on the roof of his mouth.
I guess a peanut is not just a peanut, so no more crackers and peanut butter, probably too high in sodium anyway.
My favourite chair and my computer desk are beside the window and I love to watch the antics of the squirrels and the birds at the feeders. One window feeder is accessible from the window sill and seems to be exclusive to the squirrels. They sit on the sill and stretch to the feeder. The other window feeder is hanging on a shepherd's hook and is the birds' domain.
The squirrels' feeder ran empty this week and they, greedy souls that they are, moved to the bird’s feeder. This requires that the squirrels shimmie up the pole, hang by their feet and balance with their front paws on the feeder. Not an easy thing, but they are persistent. At the very least their antics knock bird seed to the ground so they can ground feed.
The other day I was sitting in my chair, my cup of tea at hand, engrossed in my book when I heard a noise at the window. There was my friend; bushy tail and black beady eyes, front paws against the glass, looking in the window...looking right at me.
I found myself putting down the book and looking back at him saying “OK, OK, just give me a minute.” I live alone and I talk to squirrels. I can think of worse things, I could be talking to myself. I proceeded to go to the cupboard and gathered a snack for my friend and laid it out on the window sill for his dining pleasure.
When I sat back down the thought suddenly struck me. “Who's training who here?” I always thought I was training the squirrels, to come to my window in response to food. But now I'm thinking that the squirrels have trained me, when they come to the window I get them food.
It's like that chicken and the egg thing, which comes first. Did I train the squirrels to come? When they do, I feed them and that's their reward for coming, like some Pavlovian experiment. Or, are they sitting up in their tree thinking they've trained me, to feed them every time they come to the window?
That can't be true, squirrels don't have that kind of thinking, do they? No it's simple, I put the food out and they come, simple action and reaction with a predictable result. I'm still in control; I'm a superior being with the ability for rational thought. But the squirrel is wild; a wild, urban creature, and, there are a number of them out there in the trees.
So I am going to err on the side of caution and continue to feed them. I will continue to think it's all my idea, as I'm the one with a measurable intellect and I will continue to keep my lower windows shut, just in case.