September 2014: A squirrel’s tale

So, economic sanctions against Russia over the whole Ukraine/Crimea thing seem to be working. A bonafide Russian minister, Sergei Belyakov, revealed their economy shows “signs of a crisis.” And, as usually happens in these situations, the people of Russia are feeling the pinch. How else to explain the news of a pet squirrel shortage? While not for me, pet squirrels are all the rage in Moscow and due to the lack of supply to meet the demand, some enterprising Muscovites are stealing them from city parks to sell as “friendly and gentle” pets.

Moscow police even instituted the SSP (special squirrel patrol) to curb thefts because, while pretty useless for meat, the cute-as-a-button Eurasian Red Squirrels fetch a pretty penny or, in this case, ruble. Like 5,000 rubles or $144, each. With their rusty-red feet and faces and the up-sweeping reddish ear tufts resembling boxing promoter Don King’s hairdo from the 1970s, these are very good-looking squirrels.

I don’t know if domesticated Russian squirrels are “friendly and gentle” pets, but I can tell you a thing or two about wild American squirrels as I was once attacked by an  airborne one.

I was riding my ATV (all terrain vehicle) home on a remote, isolated, hot, humid, bug-infested, and potentially disease-ridden island paradise. Going fast on dirt roads, I passed under an overhanging tree, and felt a thump on my shoulder. Having just read about tree-climbing alligators falling from the sky I was sort of, kind of . . . scared to death.

Whipping my head around I came face-to-face with a bug-eyed eastern grey squirrel. Furry tail flapping in the ATV-created breeze, he stared at me with black eyes the size of Susan B. Anthony coins. Tiny sharp claws dug into my shoulder, and a “what the heck happened?” grin crossed both our faces.

Truly though, this has gotten me thinking. Maybe there’s a market in the USA for mislabeled squirrels? I have a lot of squirrels living close by. It’d be like free money! I could trap ’em, pressure-wash ’em and finally Febreze ’em to eliminate that decomposing compost smell. Then I could advertise somewhere online, like eBay, “friendly and gentle” squirrel-pets for . . . say . . . $24.99, “no returns, no refunds.”

Wish I’d thought of it before that squirrel dove from the trees. But no! Last time I saw him, he’d jumped off the ATV and, poof, into the dust. Tuck and roll, little buddy, tuck and roll.