You’re resting from yard work and, out of nowhere, a wild baby squirrel crawls into your lap and falls asleep.
Sounds like a storybook, but that’s what Nancy Guinn of Mira Vista Drive said happened to her in late September.
“When he started to stir,” she said, “he could barely walk, he was so weak.”
She said she watched him chew on a blade of grass, then she lifted him up to a tree limb so his mother could find him. When her husband, Chuck, got home later that day, the little guy was still on the limb where she left him.
“My husband is Dr. Doolittle,” she said; the birds and squirrels come running when he gets home because he likes to feed them.
When Chuck approached, the baby squirrel jumped on him and clung to his shirt “for dear life,” she said.
At that moment, they both knew he would need their help to survive.
Nancy and Chuck sought guidance at , an exotic pet shop known for three in recent years.
The Guinns came home with a tiny baby bottle, synthetic puppy milk and feeding instructions. (“He immediately perked up, once he was hydrated and got a little nutrition,” said Nancy, a nurse for people, not squirrels.)
They named the little Eastern gray squirrel Wiley and raised him like one of their own until he was rehabilitated enough to release at a refuge, which was unexpectedly heartbreaking, she said.
“It’s like giving away one of your pets — your cat or a dog — with the prospect you’ll never see them again,” she said.
Lucy the family dachshund now looks around wondering what happened to her play pal. Nancy said Wiley would chide Lucy into chasing him in circles around the couch. Once, while being chased, to Nancy’s amusement, Wiley stopped, “tagged” Lucy and turned the chase around on her.
“He would play with your finger like a kitten or a cat with a ball of yarn,” she said. He also liked to nibble playfully on Chuck’s toes.
“They have a personality, and they’re extremely smart,” she said. “He knew routines.”
The Guinns nurtured Wiley from relative infancy, helped him overcome a debilitating case of squirrel pox (which caused scars from the tell-tale sores all over his tail) and took him outside every day to make sure he didn’t become unaccustomed to the outdoors.
According to Florida law, a permit is not required to keep a squirrel as a pet (§68A-6.0022); but eventually Wiley’s claws got too sharp, and the Guinns knew the outdoors was the best place for him.
Wiley was released on a preserve in Brooksville on Dec. 14.
“We miss him,” Nancy said. “Every day we ask ourselves, did we do the right thing?”
The last she heard, Wiley was merrily eating cauliflower from the lunch she packed him before leaving for his new home.
“He really brought a lot of joy to us,” she said.