It was a cloudless and carefree Sunday afternoon. The spring sun shone down with just enough glow to warm the breeze to a pleasant caress. My wife enjoyed her Mother's Day by slipping away to her peaceful bedroom for a delightful afternoon nap. I lounged in the living room with some relaxing reading. My drowsy reading was interrupted by the ear-splitting scream of my nine year old from the backyard. In seconds, I was streaking through the yard with adrenaline driving my legs toward his desperate cries. He was yelling and kicking at our friendly, family Labradoodle, who was stalking around the dogwood tree.
A pathetic ball of fur and blood clawed frantically for the safety of the tree. As the lame squirrel futilely drug itself towards the trunk with just it's front paws, Mark's moist little eyes bored into me with passion, and he pleaded fervently, "HELP IT, DADDY! HELP IT!!!" We were quickly met at the tree by my pre-teen daughter, who echoed Mark's request for me to help the dying rodent. After snatching away a few timid hands reaching out to "help" the wounded animal, I marched the whole curious band up to the house, to chain up the canine and talk to the children.
Knowing the poor squirrel needed to be put out of its misery, I tried to calmly explain the situation to my compassionate children, who were still clamoring for me to "DO SOMETHING! HELP IT!" I should have taken it as a compliment as their usual adolescent interpretation of my skills is somewhere between a bag of lawn clippings and a lab rat, and now they expect me to be able to mend a broken hip, deep lacerations, possibly a broken back, and a small case of indigestion…at least the poor thing looked like it had indigestion.
Their sympathetic cries turned to horror and disdain as I explained my plan that they stay in the house while I "snuffed out its candle". "TAKE IT TO THE VET, DADDY!" urged Mark. "The vet wouldn't fix a squirrel, buddy…I'm sorry; and I don't want to spend $500 on an animal that will die from his injuries or starvation." Since my sister is an animal rehabilitator, Jessica petitioned "CAN WE TAKE IT TO AUNT DJ's HOUSE?" "I'm sorry, Sweetie; she would just feed it to her owl." I replied. Crossed arms and laser eyes burned into my back, as I left the children in the game room to take on the grim task ahead of me.
After retrieving my shovel from the shed, I looked back to the house to make sure that the kids were still inside. Unfortunately, their view of the impending macabre task was completely unobstructed, so I marched resolutely back down to the dogwood tree only to find the crippled rodent had intrepidly climbed 12 feet up into the tree.
He was looking down on me, chittering painfully and shivering uncontrollably. Now, my fear was that he would climb out to the edge of the branch and die…only to fall into the brambles in my neighbor's yard and stink for a month where he could not be disposed of.
So, now the kids got to watch their big, strong daddy swing the shovel of death at the defenseless creature in an attempt to knock it from the tree of refuge down to the killing grounds. And what should enter my ears from the house, but the banging of four little protesting fists on the windows of the game room. Only three or four swings later, I hear, "MOMMY!!!! STOP DADDY!!!!!! HE"S KILLING AN INNOCENT ANIMAL!!!! STOP HIM! STOP HIM!!!"
Now down on the ground, the poor guy tried vainly to dislodge the makeshift guillotine with his front paws, and I'm feeling lower than the one-armed Luke, beaten and hopeless, when Darth Vader revealed his surprising parentage.
About six hours later, I'm retelling the sad tale to my friend, Troy, and he has his own story to tell. His startled daughter calls him from the driveway to report a 5 foot snake is between her and the house. So, the valiant hero, Troy, runs from the house with yard tools and heroically cuts down the wicked serpent to the wild cheers of his thankful family, who had all came outside to watch his heroism!
The gap between hero and villain is apparently the width of fur.