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Morry Wakefield grew up on a farm where he had several unusual pets, including pigs, goats and calves. “Harry” may be his strangest pet to date.
Harry is a squirrel Wakefield rescued after it fell from a tree during the winds Hurricane Ike brought to the area in mid-September. The squirrel had apparently dropped about 20 feet to the driveway.
“I was getting ready to leave, and I saw a baby squirrel on the driveway going around in circles,” Wakefield said. “It looked up at me like 'please help me.'”
The squirrel then crawled into Wakefield's hand. But he put it back on the tree and told it to go find its mom. But the squirrel had other ideas.
“He crawled back into my hand, I cupped it and it went to sleep,” Wakefield said. “I knew then it must be injured and would probably be killed by the dogs or cats around here if it stayed outside.”
So Wakefield took the squirrel in the house, fixed up a box for a cage and bought kitten milk to feed it from a bottle. Harry was on his way to becoming a dependent.
Now Harry is mostly grown up, and Wakefield has replaced the kitty milk with walnuts his friends provide. Harry comes out of his box when Wakefield gets home from his factory job, and scurries about the man's feet hunting for the nuts. When Harry gets one, he sits up on the rug, tail fold over his back in his teapot pose, and within seconds, reduces the hard shell to crumbs.
“Looks like I'll have to vacuum again,” Wakefield said.
Wakefield said Harry follows him around the house, lies on his lap, occasionally offers a kiss and drinks his water from a cup. He likes to have his belly scratched.
“He's spoiled rotten, really,” Wakefield said.
Because of Harry, Wakefield also has to keep an eye out on the furniture. Occasionally he squirrels away nuts behind the couch cushions, in anticipation of a hard winter, presumably.
Wakefield's immediate plans for Harry are to buy him a cage to replace his cardboard box. Come spring and warmer weather, Wakefield wants to try releasing Harry again to join other squirrels.
Local wildlife expert and former officer with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Joan Brown said technically keeping squirrels as pets is against the law because they are a protected species. But she said the law does allow citizens to nurse wildlife back to health and then release them into the wild again.
“If he has friends with more acreage that would be a good place to release him so that he finds other squirrels rather than Homo sapiens to be with,” Brown said.
Wakefield, meanwhile, said Harry has become a normal part of the household.
“It's amazing how fast you get attached to them,” he said.