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Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Eight: Case File No. 05-369

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Where We Left Off:

The Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency bid farewell to Benny Squint, a member of the Chipmunk Mafia and a friend.

This is a heartbreaking case and if you need to skip it, I understand. While I try to keep everything fun and fictional here, there are some real animal deaths that are discussed like in this case.

Night of Mystery:

Revisiting this incident is breaking my heart all over again. It’s even worse than the previous case when I discovered the corpse of Benny Squint, one of my favorite chipmunk friends. On May 20, 2024, Gus and I were outside making our rounds to put out seeds, nuts, and fruit at the snack bars for the critters. For weeks, I had been placing a couple of peanuts in the haunted Old Well House at the hole in the door and the gap underneath the corrugated metal roof.

black cat Gus sitting on top of a cinder block at the front door of the Old Well House where there's a hole next to the door handle and latch. Taken on May 17th, three days before the death of the male red squirrel.

I glanced in that direction and noticed that the perpetual “junk” was still there: a wire brush; some kind of bottle of cleaning solution; a broken bird house; and, an orange extension cord. Something else was there and appeared only as a blob that was out of place. I assumed it was some debris from the trees since the high winds had been making a mess of branches and bark all over. A few steps closer and I thought I might have been seeing one of the red squirrels. It wasn’t unusual for it to be on the roof, but it was strange how it appeared to be lying in a posture that almost resembled a yoga pose. Could that be one of the squirrels, Squirla Moon or Henry Hudsonicus?

I stepped closer and confirmed that it definitely was. I tried talking to it. Usually, they’re quite jittery and not interested in getting close to me nor Gus. The closest they ever got was having their face descend strategically like a museum burglar to take the peanuts from the hole next to the door while Gus sat right there nearly eye-to-eye.

I kept talking to him in a way that I hoped was not terrifying. “Hey, little friend. Are you okay? What’s wrong? Why are you sitting like that?”

injured red squirrel, Henry Hudsonicus, slumped over on top of his home at the old well house; barely alive; eyes a little open; breathing

I watched as the tiny critter named Henry Hudsonicus made his best attempt to crawl. As soon as I saw confirmation that he was alive, I panicked and jumped into action. I put on my absolutely disgusting work gloves (they’ve handled many dead things and poison ivy). I couldn’t reach the middle of the well house roof so that sent me to Oliver’s patio where I grabbed a chair that I prayed would hold my weight.

There were bugs landing on this tiny beautiful squirrel and he was still breathing and fighting for his life. I swatted my hands through the air to shoo the bugs. I picked up Henry Hudsonicus and was happy to see him respond to touch. He could use his front claws to climb up my forearm. I repositioned him to be swaddled in my left hand and my shirt. Trying to do anything while not traumatizing him further was challenging.

from Bosch TV show: "Everybody counts or nobody counts."

I ran inside looking for a small box. I frantically told the elders what I discovered. The Grumpy Old Man had zero sympathy. The Cook was compassionate at least, but also sounded resigned that I was wasting my time, energy, and emotions.

“What are you going to do with it?” she asked. “Oh, it’s so cute. I can’t believe they’re that tiny. Are you sure it’s not a chipmunk?”

“No, it’s a red squirrel and they are very tiny, not much bigger than a chipmunk. He’s still breathing. I have to do something.” If you can imagine me spilling out all those words and more as one long sentence without taking a breath like an auctioneer, that’s how I felt I was speaking.

injured red squirrel. Henry Hudsonicus, in a small box next to a bowl of water; he's unable to sit up and is splayed flat but his front arms still worked and he was breathing.

I also grabbed a small plastic bowl, a couple of small towels, and the only thing I could find that might work as a feeding syringe (a device for giving cats pills). Because I follow several squirrel rehabbers on Instagram, I knew that they could be given yogurt. I also emptied out one of my many bottles of medication and used the bottle to carry some water. I continued to rummage through drawers and found a dropper. Later on, I read that it’s not good to feed them or give them water until they’re stable so it’s a good thing, this little guy didn’t want any.

I could not get nitrile gloves on my sweaty, bloated hands so I continued to use my stinky leather work gloves. It was goddamn difficult getting one back on after I had to use my teeth (ever-so vile tasting and filthy) to get the glove off in the first place.

I ended up on the balcony with the First Aid kit that was given to me on the day I adopted Gus (something local Girl Scouts put together for the animal shelter). The squirrel’s traumatic injury seemed to be one leg – possibly both. The skin was completely missing from his foot. I could see his muscles and a wide transverse tarsal ligament. I could not find the Neosporin anywhere! I know I needed it recently for The Cook’s head injury, but I don’t know where the tube went after that. I took a Q-tip, soaked it in hydrogen peroxide, and gently touched the open wound. I wanted to try and dress it properly but I couldn’t do everything by myself. I needed both hands.

Finding a Licensed Rehabilitator Who Takes Squirrels:

While texting (badly) with one hand to The Butler, I asked him to look up rescues in the area hoping that I wouldn’t have to drive as far as I did last time when I found naked pink babies that may have been mice but I thought were squirrels. He kept sending me information and time had ticked past 6pm. The closest rescue to us, Woodlands Wildlife, had just closed for the day and their outgoing message said they check messages every hour, but only until 6pm. I completely understand. Rescue and rehabilitation of any kind is hard.

Unfortunately, Antler Ridge had to close down when the woman who ran it for many years died. That expanded the radius even more and sure enough, my choices were far away into South Jersey or far away into North Jersey (near NY). 

Following these incredible people who dedicate all their resources to rescuing animals has educated me a lot. Ambassador Peanut is probably the one I’ve learned from the most. I learned that squirrel teeth can grow too long when they aren’t in the wild; this requires surgeries sometimes to remove teeth if they have penetrated around into the skin and jaw. Peanut has been on long trips to Cornell U’s wildlife hospital for treatments. The humans who saved Peanut’s life actually had to move to another state because Vermont was threatening to euthanize Peanut. They fought hard but ended up packing up everything and moving to New Hampshire where their officials were fantastic about permits and codes to have their new home set up properly and get licensed.

Can you imagine going through that because you wanted to save a blind squirrel’s life?

New Jersey doesn’t make it easy either which is why I was desperate late at night trying to find a licensed caretaker. What made this case even more difficult is that the small list of licensed organizations in New Jersey often specialize. I give to Goats of Anarchy’s Patreon every month. They specialize in special needs goats, but will occasionally take on a different animal if there’s no other option. They’ve recently adopted a blind Pug that was going to be euthanized; his name is Bumblebee and he’s a happy energetic little dog living around goats.

Other rehabbers only take birds or bats. It’s easy to understand why. Once you become an expert on something, your whole life gets poured into it. It’s no different from stray/feral kitten rescuers. Some are great at fostering, but not everyone is capable of bottle feeding every 2 hours the way Moby Kit Rescue can in Massachusetts.

The Butler was at work through all of this and had enough on his plate with his actual job. He went through the list on NJAWR of licensed rescues. The last link he gave me was for The Last Resort which is out in Ramapo (the mountains near New York City). I recognized it as the place that guided me before. Thankfully, they returned my call and said there were two locations besides theirs that do work for them. One was Franklin Lakes Animal Hospital. Yep, that is where I had been before but it had been during the day and The Cook went with me to hold the small box of mice. This time it was dark and I was traveling alone. Nancy from Last Resort put me in touch with Donna at Franklin Lakes. Fortunately for me, red squirrels are Donna’s favorite animals.

I don’t remember how long the drive was (around an hour and fifteen minutes), but it felt never-ending. I wanted to race as fast as possible, but there were tractor trailers everywhere and I was scared out of my mind driving in the dark with them! Periodically, I could hear scratch scratch scratch scratch from inside the box.

Graphic Photos

“That’s it,” I said, “Keep your strength. Keep letting me know that you’re alive in there.” I perpetually debated pulling off at each exit to check on the Henry’s status.

I thought the hardest part of this case would be keeping Gus away from the squirrel. It wasn’t. He knew something was wrong and although he followed me around the house in my frantic state, he never tried to get near the patient. I couldn’t bring Gus on that long car ride to keep me company either. He vomits usually around one mile of driving.

As I got off the exit, I had one road to drive up and at the end I could see the large and lit up (thankfully) letters spelling out Franklin Lakes Animal Hospital. I pulled in and texted Donna that I was out front. Before I even got out of the car, I checked on the squirrel and it appeared that I hadn’t driven fast enough. He was gone.

injured red squirrel curled up on a green towel

I carried him over to the front door and waited. Donna came through the dimly lit reception area which was all windows making this diminutive woman look like she was in a fish bowl. For anyone to be shorter than I am it’s always a surprise to me. She took him in her hands and stroked his fur gently as she broke the news that he was already gone to the spirit world. I showed her the video how how he could crawl. Her educated response was that by the time they’re in that condition where they’re struggling like he was, it means they’ll die soon.

Meeting her felt like being wrapped in a warm blanket on a cold night which it was on May 20th. I couldn’t speak clearly. My mouth was excessively dry. I was trembling. I could not regulate my nervous system and it’s part of my actual job to teach other people how to do that. I was kind of mad at myself that I wasn’t able to be in control of my body and that my vision isn’t better on the highways at night and that I didn’t get in the car sooner while waiting for phone calls. Just get in the damn car and drive and head to Interstate 287 because whichever rescue called me back first I would be heading either north or south!

Donna and I talked for a long time. I told her all about Gus and Oliver and the detective agency. I felt some redemption that there was this stranger meeting me in the darkest hours of the night because she loved saving animals especially red squirrels. She said she would take care of giving him a respectful send off. I hesitated but considered asking her for the body back. I wanted him to be taken home—his home back at the well house and leave him out for the cycle to continue.

Case Findings:

Discovering Henry Hudsonicus on top of his home at the well house made for a perplexing case. I conferred with Gus, Oliver, and The Cook about how he could have gotten to that roof.

  • Was he taken by a bird and dropped there coincidentally?
  • Was he taken and dropped somewhere else but had just enough strength to climb his way home hoping to get inside to safety?
  • Were any of the stray cats responsible for this fatal injury?

We never got any answers, but the case ended the worst way. Henry died and it didn’t really matter who did it because knowing wouldn’t bring him back.

Case Status: Closed


Beryl the squirrel

Peanut the Blind Squirrel Ambassador with Gem the Blind Chipmunk and others


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