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Man Who Uncovers A Helpless Squirrel Family Is Forced To Make A Tough Decision

Some animal species just don’t make good pets. Yeah, dogs and cats are always up for a belly rub and cuddle session, but some of nature’s more un-tamed beasts have earned reputations as generally bad roommates. But does that mean these animals can never fit in at home?
When a young, motherless critter found its way into the care of two wildlife rescuers, the human duo did their best to give the wild (and non-domesticated) animal a chance to live. They didn’t realize, however, they were about to embark on a heartwarming journey that thousands would follow online…
If you found a mother squirrel leaving her two newborns on your bed before disappearing into the night, what would you do? A New York man recently faced this very dilemma when he found a family of baby squirrels making a nest inside his house.
A bit shocked to say the least, he had no idea what to do. These little ones were so small they couldn’t even open their eyes yet! Luckily, their mom was around…for a little bit, at least.
Mother squirrel visited them frequently at first, feeding her babies and building a nest outside; but at some point, she stopped returning. Here the man was, with two baby squirrels on his bed. He felt responsible for them.
Not knowing how to take care of baby squirrels, the man called wildlife rescue, who arrived quickly to assess the state of the babies. Fully aware they would not survive without the mother, the rescuers decided to intervene.
Since there’s only one official rehabilitation center in the city, the majority of wildlife rescue is done on a volunteer basis. Local rehabber Arina Hinzen says she rescues about 75 squirrels per year, and during busy breeding periods in the summer and spring, juggles up to 40 animals at a time.
“We’re really seeing the impact of climate change with the seasons going way longer,” Hinzen said. “The first year it happened we thought it was just an odd thing, but it turns out it’s not. We still get small babies in October, when the season should be over at the beginning of September.”
Wildlife rescuer Christina Reyes and her husband Michael took it upon themselves to take care of the squirrels. One of the babies was already weakened and didn’t make it very much longer. Would the remaining squirrel meet the same fate?
All baby squirrels are born deaf and blind, normally opening their eyes at around five weeks old — but this baby squirrel, even after six weeks, wasn’t opening her eyes.
But against the odds, the baby lived through her first few months in this world. The couple had talked about wanting babies themselves and completely fell in love with the squirrel while nursing her back to health. She was unfit to go back out in the real world, so they adopted her.
“There are people who think if the animal can’t survive outside it should be put down, and we decided that wasn’t going to be an option,” said Michael, the squirrel’s new dad. “There’s nothing physically or mentally wrong with her, she’s just different.”
They named their new best friend Thumbelina, after a fairytale by the famous Danish children’s book author Hans Christian Anderson. It’s about a girl no bigger than a thumb who must find her way through the woods.
Thumbelina isn’t the first squirrel to become a household pet; in the 1700s, pet squirrels were all the rage. When Mungo, the pet squirrel of Benjamin Franklin’s good friend, got loose and was killed by a dog, Franklin wrote: “I lament with you most sincerely the unfortunate End of poor Mungo: Few squirrels were better accomplish’d.”
Usually, squirrels tend to run around, jump from tree to tree, and have high amounts of energy that could become problematic in a household. However, Thumbelina had never met another squirrel that she could remember. Her only influences were Christina and Michael, so she walked slowly and stayed seated most of the time.
Noticing her lack of squirrel-ness, Thumbelina’s human parents tried to introduce her to others of her kind; she was not a fan of it at all and didn’t see herself in her fellow squirrels. “I don’t know what she thinks she is,” her parents said, “but it’s definitely not a squirrel.”
Despite not having any other squirrel friends, Thumbelina – a now two-year-old Eastern grey squirrel as of 2018 – is having the time of her life living with Christina and Michael. In fact, one could say that she is living her BEST life.
Thumbelina has practically turned into a stay-at-home-human-being. She watches TV, cuddles up in blankets, and even dresses up in costumes that her mom hand-makes for her.
When the weather is nice enough for Thumbelina’s taste, she will sometimes go out with her mom in either a bag or on a leash. She won’t even do any dirty business in the bag because she is fully potty-trained and listens to her parents. Well, most of the time.
Despite Christina and Michael loving her with all their hearts, raising Thumbelina is neither easy nor cheap. According to Christina, the couple has spent over $10,000 towards Thumb’s care over the past two years. There must have been a few vet bills, but where is the rest of all that money going?
In an attempt to earn some money back for more of Thumbelina’s needs, Christina has set up several social media accounts for Thumb, which have taken off like rockets. On these accounts, she promotes the sales of Thumbelina T-shirts, keychains, and other types of merchandise.
The cute photos on Thumbelina’s social media pages are highly enjoyable, but what’s most important is that she is both healthy and happy. Everyone seems glad that she was adopted and recovered, including Christina and Michael and all of Thumbelina’s fans.
For the most part, squirrels tackle their day-to-day lives without much human interaction. You can expect them to scurry up and down trees, bury some nuts, and make chattering noises. Then there are squirrels like this one that totally rewrites the book on squirreling.
Wounded by an owl at just four weeks old, this squirrel ended up in the care of Brantley Harrison. As a professional rehabilitator for wounded wild animals, the arrival of this female squirrel in 2009 was just another day on the job. The family even named her Bella.
Brantley raised Bella alongside three other squirrels—Larry, Moe, and Curly—and fed them fruits and veggies all throughout the long winter. In the spring of 2010, when the squirrels were healthy enough, Brantley released them back into the wild as usual.
More often than not, when Brantley sent her rehabilitated animals back into the forest—able to live on their own for the first time in their lives—she’d see them periodically over the next week or so. Then, they’d be gone forever. But Bella did something different…
At first, Bella returned looking for some treats. To the Harrisons, that was par for the course in animal rehabilitation. Of course, it would take time for Bella to get used to life on her own. Except, time after time, Bella kept coming back!
Now, eight years after she was rescued, Bella still returns to the Harrison household regularly. “Bella sits right at the front door waiting for someone to notice she has come by for a visit,” Brantley told WYFF 4 News. But why had this squirrel become so attached?
Bella’s behavior was a bit strange. After all, while she was in Brantley’s care, she hadn’t been particularly lovey. The family hadn’t done anything special, either; they treated her just like every other squirrel. Still, other squirrels didn’t keep returning like Bella!
Bella doesn’t like to be petted. She doesn’t ask for belly rubs or tail brushing; all she wants is a little bit of attention. In fact, the Harrisons make sure to have some walnuts on hand in case she becomes hungry. The squirrel has another pastime, too…
“She comes almost daily for a little loving, treats, and to torment our dog, Cid, through the glass door,” Brantley said. You can see just how badly Cid wants out! Besides her general propensity for being adorable, Bella has another trait that’s made her a sensation…
Bella likes wearing hats! So much, in fact, that she doesn’t mind wearing one while cameras are rolling. “I can’t believe she lets me do it,” Brantley said. “I could not love this squirrel any more than I already do!”
Brantley started chronicling the adventures of Bella the squirrel on an Instagram account called CidandBella. Many of the photographs consist of Bella sitting in laps, wearing hats, and chompin’ on nuts—truly the perfect life.
Recently, Bella’s relationship with the Harrisons even paid off for her in a big way when she injured her foot and she needed help—again. Luckily, she had somewhere to turn for some assistance.
Unfortunately, even injured, Bella was not easy to recapture. On one Instagram post, Brantley wrote, “My first few attempts at catching her have failed. She has lived in the wild for over eight years so she is a smart squirrel and it is not easy to trick her.”
Finally, the family managed to catch Bella and bring her back into their home for some rehab. They gave her antibiotics and a comfortable cage. Right before they released Bella back into the wild, though, she surprised the family again!
Inside the Harrison family home, Bella gave birth to three little baby squirrels! After raising and nursing Bella, the Harrisons got to see her raising and nursing children of her own. “It was truly amazing to watch the baby I raised raise her own babies,” Brantley said.
Bella was so special to the Harrison family that she actually changed people’s perceptions of squirrels. “She is a very special squirrel and has always had a large local following,” Brantley said. “She has changed the way many of my friends think of squirrels.”
Sometimes, it’s easy to think of squirrels as bushy-tailed rats, but if nothing else, Bella’s story shows that squirrels are capable of love and dedication on par with some of the most beloved house pets. They’re animals that should be showed love and compassion.
That’s a sentiment Brantley echoed: “If Bella can teach at least one person to have compassion for all living things, no matter how big or how small,” she said, “then we have done what we have set out to.”
So the next time you see a squirrel in your neighborhood, remember that these little creatures might surprise you. In fact, with enough love and care, they might reward you with a kiss on the cheek!
They might even give you a kiss on the lips! The Harrison family had no idea they were starting a decade-long friendship when they took in Bella back in 2009, but sometimes surprises come in bushy-tailed packages!

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