Backyard Buddies: Mr. Kelly and His Squirrel

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Many of us have a special relationship with an animal. For most of us, it’s our dog or cat perhaps, but John Kelly has a one-of-a-kind bond with a rather unconventional animal: a squirrel. This squirrel is special. Unlike your average squirrel, she is docile, calm, and isn’t afraid of people. Because of her attitude, their relationship has bloomed.

Mr. Kelly first met this squirrel more than five years ago while mowing his yard. She was sitting in a tree and wasn’t bothered by the mower or Mr. Kelly. As months went by, he continued to see her. He decided to leave out dog biscuits for her, which she eventually started eating. Then, he left peanuts and sunflower seeds out for her. Apparently, she can be very particular about her food, preferring sunflower seeds in the shell and pecans out of the shell. When given sunflower seeds, she will eat the ones in the shell before the ones out of the shell. Sometimes, Mr.Kelly spoils her with marshmallows. Though squirrels appear rather unidentifiable, he can always recognize her because her behavior and the fact that she is missing a part of one of her ears. 

Despite his special bond with “his” squirrel, Mr. Kelly generally does not like squirrels. One of his reasons for adopting her was to ward off other squirrels. Squirrels are very territorial, and she will often chase off other squirrels who get too close. However, Mr. Kelley can’t prevent her from producing more squirrels. She will usually have 2 sets of babies a year–one in the fall and one in the spring. She will let her babies stay for a bit, but when the time comes, she will chase them away, too.

Mr. Kelly likes to watch her while he’s outside, building her nests and burying nuts. We rarely truly watch animals in their natural habitat, and Mr. Kelly says that being able to watch her while being so close is like “having a safari in [his] backyard.” When he is outside, she will often sleep on a branch close to him. However, she is still a wild animal and acts like one. She has never come into his house and doesn’t seem very interested in doing so. Unlike domesticated animals, if Mr. Kelly doesn’t have food, she doesn’t really care about staying near him. Because of her wildness, he has refrained from naming her. He feels if he names her, he will forget that she isn’t domesticated.

Despite the fact that Mr. Kelly only sees her for a couple minutes each day, he has never had a relationship with a wild animal before, and he recognizes how extraordinary it is. These moments make him stop and appreciate something as simple as a squirrel. Every time he sees her, he tries to appreciate that she’s still there. Most squirrels die within a year and she’s over 5. When she goes away, he doubts another one will take her place, but he hopes one does so he may find a new backyard buddy.