Friday, September 25, 2015

FOSTER MOM? or not

After an abnormally hot, dry spring and summer, we on Puget Sound had a freaky, one day  wind and rain storm. It reminded me of another storm when I tried to be a foster mom.

Orphans of the Storm
Wind out of the south, whitecaps washing over the floating bridges, the ferry system shut down—a Pacific Northwest storm. And one post-storm spring morning while driving to work and listening to NPR, I heard that the previous night’s gully washer caused another problem:  squirrel’s nests knocked out of trees leaving a surfeit of orphaned babies.  An animal welfare organization who shall remain nameless put out a call for foster parents.
Wow!  That sounded like fun, I thought.  I could do that.  I loved squirrels. I wrote the organization’s phone number down.
At work, I found a place where a box of the family Sciuridae could sleep while I worked, and where I could retreat to give them little bottles of food and some TLC.  Then I called the rescue group.
“I heard about your need for squirrel baby foster parents,” I said, “and I’m really interested.”
“Well now, isn’t that nice, but before adoption can be considered, I have a few questions.”
“You understand that you have to be pre-approved.”
Uh oh. I hoped she wasn’t going to run a background check on me. The first time I went back east to meet my in-laws, one of my husband’s aunts was living in a pre-Civil War house near Holmes Hollow and cooking squirrel pot pie on a wood burning stove that came with the home I’d try and keep that on the down-low. After all, what happens in Holmes Hollow stays in Holmes Hollow.
 “Uh, okay.”
“What’s your name?”
“Karla Stover.”
“Where do you live?”
“In Parkland which is just south of Tacoma, Washington.”
“Oh, now, that’s a bit of a problem.”
“How so?”
“Well, the babies were orphaned in Seattle.”
“I can drive there to pick some up.”
“And there are their physicals.”
Say what?
“Well, who administers the physicals?”
“A vet.”
“We have lots of vets in Tacoma, and running water and everything.  My husband and I have gone to the same vet for years.”
Levity wasn’t her strong suit.
“Yes, but it has to be a wild animal vet.”
I sensed roadblocks—the result of animosity and distain Seattle feels for Tacoma.
“Well, I’ll ask our vet if he can give them their physicals,” I said.
“No can do, I’m afraid.  We already have an approved wildlife vet ready to take them on.”
“Maybe I can drive to your vet, then.  Where is he?”
Lynwood!  That’s a hundred miles away.
Still, I persevered.  “I could do that.”
“Every week?”
“Every week.  The orphaned babies have to be checked and weighed weekly.  We want to make sure they’re getting the best possible care.”
“Are they vaccinated for hanta virus and Lyme’s disease?” I asked.  “Do they need Frontline?”
Perhaps she sensed my sarcasm.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “but we have strict rules and regulations about who qualifies to adopt our orphans and how they are to be raised.”
“They’re rodents, for gosh sakes.”
“You see, that statement shows a flippant attitude.  I’m sorry but you don’t qualify.”
Jeez!  Take it down a notch, lady.
About a week later, someone knocked on my front door.  It was two little boys with three squirrel babies in a box.  “Here,” one boy said, “Mom said we should give them to you.”
I didn’t know who the kids were, who their mom was, or why she thought I should have the care and responsibility of three hostile-looking rodents.  Their unattractiveness knocked the romance of foster moming squirrels right out of the ring.  Nevertheless, I took the box and carried it to the garage. Then I tried to put dishes of water and sunflower seeds—shelled, I might add—in the box.  Nasty little buggers.  Their only interest was in trying to bite the hand that was attempting to feed them. 
After a few days, when it didn’t look as if they were eating, I decided to turn them loose among the apple, cherry, pear and filbert nut trees in our backyard.  They scampered for safety.
  And ever since, we’ve had squirrel families eating the filberts, biting holes into the fruit and, digging up my bulbs.
All without physicals or mailed reminders for booster shots.