Dan Rattiner's Stories

Me & Him: My Squirrel Has Learned the Secret of Living Forever

Dan's immortal squirrel has lived at his home for 41 years.

A squirrel lives in my yard. He’s lived here for as long as I have. I bought this house in 1977 because it sits on the side of a hill across the street from the boats in Three Mile Harbor that dock there, and because the sun sets across the far shore every evening. The squirrel’s been here the whole time.

This squirrel has no special markings. But I know that it’s him. Occasionally, he’ll stop on my front deck and look through the window at me. Yup, he says. Quite a place we have here.

They say that the life span of a squirrel is three years. And they say that the life span of a person is seven score and 10. But I’m here to tell you that this squirrel has discovered the secret of longevity. I write this in 2018. He’s been here for 41 years. At least that. He might have been a full-grown adult when I bought the place.

My friends come here to watch a game or play cards or have a meal and they notice the squirrel. “That guy still here?” they ask me. He is.

He sits up on his hind legs, looking at us. He flicks his tail. Then he’s off again. Sometimes I see him scampering along the telephone wires that run from pole to pole down the road in front of the house. He’ll stop halfway and enjoy the scene. Then he’s off again in that jerky way that squirrels have. He runs across the railing of the front deck, ignoring the dog barking at him from the living room. He’s used to this. I’ve had five dogs since I’ve lived here. The bark is different with each. The squirrel knows its easy come/easy go with the dogs. And they don’t do anything but bark.

He gets lots of exercise. I see him out there quite often. He leaps from branch to branch in the trees. He’ll scamper up onto the roof of the garage. I play basketball out there—there’s a backboard on the garage—and he’ll come close. Sometimes, in the fall, I watch him gathering acorns on the driveway. Winter is coming. I tell the guy with the leaf blower to not blow them all away. Leave some.

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The squirrel is neither fat nor thin. No anorexia. No obesity. You never see him barely able to waddle along as sometimes happens with other squirrels. He apparently eats well. Everything in moderation. I don’t think he’s been sick a day in his life.

He is also a bachelor. You don’t see him with a mate running alongside him, as mates are wont to do. He’ll have a lady friend over occasionally, there’s no denying that, but they don’t stay. Maybe he’s difficult to get along with, or they think he’s too old for them. Maybe he just likes to love ’em and leave ’em. I don’t know. Happy guy, he.

As I mentioned earlier, he gets lots and lots of exercise. On occasion, particularly on rainy days, you see him scampering around and around the swimming pool. He does it exactly a half-hour, neither more or less. He does this once a week, every Sunday. You can set a watch by him. It seems to be something spiritual. Or maybe it’s some sort of religious ceremony. We just don’t know.

My wife loves the squirrel, too. On cold days in winter, she’ll leave some food out for him. It’s a kind gesture, and I know he appreciates it, but it really is not necessary.

The birds come and go. The deer come and go. One time there were four enormous turkeys in our upper yard. I went up there to scare them, but they got the message even before I got there and, with great hefty effort, flew off. This is our place—me and the squirrel and my wife. Our kids have flown. They have their own places now.

We do have a red-crested cardinal who lives in one of the maple trees. But he’s only been here about 10 years. And I don’t know his story.

Someday, I expect I will pass on. The squirrel might be sad about that. If you see him at the wake my friends will hold here at the house, leave him a little something out on the front deck. Let him know you care.

Life goes on.

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