Meet Squeaky the squirrel
Published: Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 26, 2009 at 10:24 p.m.
Carrie Saites bottle-fed her for the first 8 months of her life and has prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner every day since she could eat solid foods.
Saites, a Gainesville resident and University of Florida employee, is with Squeaky, now 8 1/2 years old, whenever she is not working. The two share daily relaxation time on the couch every evening.
"She knows me as safety," Saites said. "Squeaky is my baby girl."
Squeaky is a female eastern gray squirrel - and she and Saites share an unusual bond, a bond similar to that of a mother and daughter.
According to Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation in Gainesville, squirrels like Squeaky - and most other wild animals - are not meant to be household pets. Beth Preiss, a spokeswoman for the Humane Society of the United States, said wild animals can "cause injury, spread disease, and often people cannot provide the proper care they need."
The best home for a rehabilitated baby squirrel, Priess said, in order to live a long and healthy life, is in the wild.
Squeaky and Saites are a one-of-a-kind case, but even then, Saites warns, "This should not be attempted at home."
The bond was initiated back in June 2000 when Kacey, Saites' Labrador retriever, found 4-week-old Squeaky and carried her over to Saites.
Saites researched online the proper care of squirrels, took Squeaky to the vet and the rest is history.
"Not keeping her never even crossed my mind," Saites said.
Squeaky maintains much of the character of a wild eastern gray squirrel.
She hides nuts throughout Saites' apartment and "chatters" when she feels threatened. She climbs and jumps from furniture and cracks open nuts with her front teeth.
But her docile personality and the natural ease that Saites has with animals has allowed Squeaky to live the good life - a life of three meals a day, a warm bed and unconditional love.
Saites is able to take Squeaky to public places without a cage or a leash, unlike most cats and dogs.
"She goes with me to Panera and the bank all the time," Saites said.
Saites says Squeaky has never tried to run away from her in public.
"It is a safety thing," she said. "Like a child holding onto their mother's hand."
What is the reaction from others in public? "They are awe-stricken," Saites says.
Squeaky rides comfortably in the car on Saites' shoulder. A man once took a picture of Squeaky and Saites at a red light, but it was just an ordinary day for the two.
When you walk into Saites and Squeaky's home, it is any critter's heaven. Playgrounds are set up for Squeaky across the apartment, and stuffed Disney animals are her playmates.
At least five types of foods are prepared in small dishes in at least two spots in the apartment. Macaroni and cheese, sunflower seeds and bread dough are soft enough for the aging squirrel to eat when Saites is at work.
Riptide Rush Gatorade is Squeaky's favorite drink, Saites says.
"UF has made a lot of money off of us over the years," she adds.
A typical day in Squeaky's life is very similar to that of a child's, Saites says. She wakes up and wants breakfast, plays for three or four hours, takes a nap and wakes up and wants lunch. At about 8 p.m., when Saites is ready to wind down her day in front of the TV or over a magazine, Squeaky runs over and lays on Saites' chest.
"She just wants to be rubbed," she said.
Squeaky even lifts her arm so Saites can reach just the right spot.
Any animal requires constant time and devotion, but Squeaky even more so.
Not only does Saites prepare several foods every morning, she also must clean and keep the apartment squirrel-proof at all times.
Squirrels are notorious for chewing through just about anything, including pencils, wires and boxes.
It takes patience and care just as it would with a child, Saites said. In fact, in Saites' heart, Squeaky is her child.
"She can do no wrong in my eyes."
Last summer, Squeaky had a close call - a weak lung condition similar to asthma - and her lungs are not as strong as they once were.
Molly Pearson at the Micanopy Animal Hospital has been Squeaky's veterinarian since the start. If it wasn't for Pearson, Squeaky wouldn't be here, Saites said.
Squeaky sees Pearson every three months for her dental work.
"I've realized that as she ages, she needs me more than ever," Saites said.
Saites says she needs Squeaky as well.
"She soothes me," she said. "It's a bond just like in the movie 'Marley and Me,' but in this case it happens to be a squirrel."
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