For a time in the early 90’s, there was a trend running rampant through the animal kingdom in our area.
What trend was that, you ask? Why, rabies, of course.
It seemed like every other day, there was another story in the news about a rabid squirrel being trapped in a neighborhood around town. Public safety notices were being spread around warning dummies not to befriend any raccoons that seem to be exhibiting odd behavior, such as foaming at the mouth or roaming the streets during the day. I was completely derailed one day when I found a mangled tennis ball in the backyard, convinced it had been viciously attacked by some rabid beast, and refused to be calmed by my dad’s insistence that he had run it over with the lawnmower.
Nice try, dad, but you can’t pull the wool over my eyes that easily. I knew the truth, and the truth was rabies.
One day while cheering my sister on at her softball game, my family and I were relaxing under some trees with the other fans, taking shelter from the gentle rain that had started to fall. Another spectator pointed out that there was a squirrel trying to climb a fence behind us. We all watched for a minute as he tried to get the hang of the chain link. Silly squirrel couldn’t even make it to the top. We chuckled and got back to watching the game.
Over the course of the next few hours, we noticed that the squirrel’s actions were getting more and more bizarre. He would try to climb a tree, only to get halfway up and fall off, landing flat on his back. Obviously stunned, he would lie there for a minute and then get up and drunkenly run off into the woods. Then he would emerge again and give the fence another go, with similar results. My friend and I were sitting on a blanket and looked back to see what the squirrel was up to, only to realize that the squirrel was also sitting on our blanket staring at us. At one point, my dad was holding an umbrella and the squirrel fell out of the tree that he was standing under, bounced off of the umbrella, and landed at my dad’s feet.
Give the number of rabies alerts that we had been receiving recently, you would think that someone would have connected the dots earlier, but I guess we were too wrapped up in the softball game or something because it took longer than I’m willing to admit before it occurred to someone to call the police. A cop showed up to the field, took in the situation, and then revealed his plan: he would find a plastic bag, someone would hold the plastic bag open, and then he would pick up the squirrel and drop it in the bag. If anyone had gloves to donate to the cause, great, but if not then they would just go in bare-handed.
I’m guessing that it’s hard to ask a cop, point-blank, if he’s out of his flipping mind or if the squirrel had already gotten to him and if he, too, was rabid, because someone actually agreed to hold the bag. And much to everyone’s surprise, the plan worked. The cop got the squirrel, dropped it in the bag, and no one was bitten. We all cheered and made our way to the parking lot to go home.
I was thrilled to see that the cop had parked right next to our minivan and that the officer was in the process of depositing the bag o’ squirrel in his trunk. His plan seemed to unravel, though, when he dropped the bag. He jumped back and started dancing around as if he were barefoot on hot coals, and then grabbed the baton from his belt and started swingin’. We stared at the scene, mouths agape, until my parents grabbed us and heaved us into the van like sacks of flour and sped off.
I’m sure the cop was fine. The same can not be said for the squirrel.