I found a dying squirrel today.
The rain fell in a blustery torrent last night; all this morning, there’s been a cold, grey, steady shower. Not enough for people to bother with the inconvenience of an umbrella, but enough to leave them sodden and chilly if they don’t. What isn’t wet is damp, even the spaces under the trees that the leaves shield – they’ve been soaked clean through.
It was lying in the middle of the sidewalk, trembling, so wet that its fur was no protection any more and its bare skin was exposed. I didn’t have any way to tell how long it had been there. Several hours at the very least, or maybe since last night. Probably not so long, or it would have been stepped on by a pedestrian or run over by a bicycle before I came across it. It was so chilled that it couldn’t even shiver anymore. There was no blood, no mess of intestines, no limbs dangling at wrong angles or a broken back. It just couldn’t move, even to get out of the rain.
Maybe there had been a collision with a car, but I’ve seen the shattered remnants of squirrels hit by vehicles. Maybe it lost its grip on the rain-slickened branches of the tree nearby, and fell. It could move its limbs, it could feel, but not move its body. It was going to die – from its injuries, from a careless biker, from the cats I know the neighbors permit to run wild.
None of the plans, none of the branching contingencies I’d constructed this morning included dying rodents lying helplessly in the rain. There’s no way to get it to a vet, and nothing they could do for it besides killing it themselves – but it would at least be quick and painless.
I wasn’t brave enough to snap its neck.
I levered it into an empty shoebox, brought it inside, and placed it in my bathroom’s shower stall. I filled a jar lid with water and put it in the box. Then I closed the door and sealed it in.
I know what’s going to happen. I know what I’m going to find when I go back there. But at least, when it dies, it will be somewhere warm and dry. Not on a wet, cold sidewalk, with rain falling into its eyes.
It’s all I could do. It’s pathetic that it’s all I could do.