Scratches the Gypsy

on Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Enchantress by Andrew Artoshenko

It has been awhile since I wrote about the world of squirrels that I encountered in Paradise. To recap, there was the original rapscallion, the everyman squirrel "Spikey", then I spoke of his nemesis, the big muscular bully "Speedy" and then I introduced Spikey's love interest and in fact mate, "Loonie".

The next squirrel I met was a young female. It was late autumn and I was walking through my small garden when I heard a squirrel barking off an alarm from the small tree at the corner by the sidewalk. I looked to see if it was Spikey but it was not. Instead, I saw a scrawny squirrel on the trunk of the tree with its head facing ground-wards. Just a few feet below and pacing excitedly was the landlady's Persian cat. The two of them were staring each other down.

I am sure it comes as no surprise that I responded immediately by shoo-ing the cat away. Being an aristocratic Persian, it did not run away but kind of sauntered away casually as if to imply "I was getting bored anyway."

Both the squirrel and I watched the cat disappear round the corner and into the house. When that happened, suddenly the squirrel came down the tree until we were at the same level, "face to face" as it were. She lifted her head towards mine, our noses just inches apart and she scrutinised me. I, in turn had a good look at her.

She was much smaller than Spikey, scrawny even. Her fur was not even and in some parts appeared mangy and bare. It gave the impression that she scratched herself until the fur fell out. However, these patches did look old and new fur were already growing round the edges. Nevertheless, I dubbed her "Scratches".

Scratches had a very distinct personality. My relationship with her seemed quite established from that first meeting. Whenever, there was a cat around, she would climb a tree, call out her alarm and wait for me to answer her call and come out to rescue her from her feline taunter. She soon figured out that I was at her beck and call.

Her relationship with Spikey was also interesting. I don't think they were related but Spikey being the gentleman probably tolerated her presence. She did not cramp his style. He would shamelessly go into his dance and begging routine to get peanuts from me even when she was around. Interestingly, although Scratches would also take peanuts from me, she demurred to Spikey when he was around and kept her distance.

However, what she did do was to follow Spikey around once he got the peanut. Spikey would often hop around the garden with his peanut, sniffing the air before deciding where to bury the peanut. Scratches would follow him at a respectable distance of a few hops. Spikey would then bury the nut and return to me for another. Scratches would then dig up Spikey's nut and eat it.

She reminded me a bit of a alluring gypsy girl. Wild, spirited - a blatant thief and yet you feel good that she stole from you.

She also expected me to give her undivided attention at times. Sometimes when we were in the garden together but I was not paying attention to her as when I was birdwatching, reading or quite likely sleeping, she would put her teeth round the back of my exposed ankles and bite gently but with increasing pressure until I responded to her.

In a way, she was closer to me than even Spikey. One cold winter morning, I came out of my hobbit-like apartment and into a winter wonderland of freshly fallen snow. I was off to the bus stop to catch my ride to work. However, Scratches was up and about too that early morning. When she saw me, she barked a greeting. I said "Hi" and proceeded to trundle my way down the road.

Scratches came down the tree and ran after me, caught up and gave notice of her presence by trying to get her teeth round my ankles. I paused turn round and told her to go back and then started off again to the bus stop. Scratches ran after me again. Again I stopped and told her to go back. Anyway, I kept walking and to my surprise Scratches walked along with me. She was following me to work!

I had to stop make a U-turn and lead Scratches back to the apartment. I went in. Got her some peanuts and then said goodbye and went off again to the bus stop. This time she did not follow but with peanut in hands, she climbed a tree and watched me go off.

I felt great and I had a super day after that. I felt like I had come under the spell of the gypsy squirrel - the Enchantress.


Dave said...

Poor cat! LOL

Hey, cats and I cannot exist in harmony on the same planet let alone same turf! Good for you!

I hope I haven't offended any cat lovers... I am really not cruel to them. :-)

daysgoby said...

I love this story! You are such a charmer, Calvin!

leslie said...

Enjoyed your previous post along with this one. I can just visualize you both walking down the street towards the bus stop. lol

Janice Thomson said...

What a delightful story Lgs - you could make a good children's story out of that. Love it.

HeiressChild said...

i just learned that squirrels fur grows back (i guess i thought if they lost fur, then that's it) and that they give off an alarm--a certain sound. i agree that this would make a good children's story.

squirrelmama said...

You are a real hero in my eyes, cats are the sworn enemy of squirrels (and squirrel lovers). You did a good thing, people should keep those pets of theirs indoors anyway.

Keep up the good work!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Everytime I post about squirrels, I run the risk of offending cat lovers. It's just a fact of life! :)

Thanks. Haven't been called that before.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

It was magical. Isn't it every kids dream to go to mum and say, "It followed me home....can I keep it?" However since I worked in a medical laboratory at that time, it would not have been wise for Scratches to follow me to work.

Children's story? How? Would you like to try?

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

you should just spend some time in the park and look at the squirrels. You should see some of this behavior like the alarm bark. Of course, you ought to wait to Spring to do this. A bit cold this time of the year!

Hey thanks for coming by and leaving a comment. Keep up the good work yourself. I salute rehabbers (is that how you spell it?).

leslie said...

LGS - I posted a little Christmas quiz today so pop over and give it a try.

Molly said...

Our cat often has staring contests with squirrels out back, but he is definitely the more cowardly one. they are caucy and cheeky and irreverent. your scratches sounds like the only thing she didn't do was talk to you! Quite a story...

Claire said...

Scratches would enchant me as well. I am a cat lover but don't let mine outside. The squirrels around here fuss at me if I go out and(unintentionally)scare them from my birdfeeders. They do have a funny little bark! They are so cute, I don't even mind them stealing from the birds. I make sure there is always enough food.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I went, I saw and I ran away whimpering. Sorry. I fail your quiz.

I have watched a lot of cat squirrel interactions and despite some heart stopping moments, the squirrels somehow get out of harm's way. Still i am sure there must be the occasional squirrel that is not so fortunate.

scratches and i thank you.

Marja said...

Oh the hero of squirrels. I love them They used to come close to our holiday house in Belgie when I was young.

MedStudentWife said...

I love the picture!!! :)

my backyard said...

Scratches sounds like quite a character. I'd like her.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I auditioned for the TV series Heroes but they were not impressed with hero of squirrels! Their loss!

Me too.

my backyard,
I am sure you have observed many characters amongst your squirrels. Perhaps you might share them one day?

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