I was sitting at the gallery the other day, in the studio actually, and I started hearing some rustling and chirping. It was a beautiful, warm day so the door was open and it sounded like it was coming from outside. I thought it was some kind of bird and kept getting up to look, but never saw anything.
As the morning progressed the chirping started to sound very distressed, and it was clear it was coming from inside. So I decided to have a good look around with the flashlight. There, under the propane heater, with his little head tucked tightly into the corner, was a tiny baby chipmunk.
He was obviously terrified, but he was also sending out a distress signal. His calls were going unanswered, however. This little guy was separated from his mama or, worse yet, motherless. Of course my heart squeezed at the thought of his desperate cries going unheeded. So I decided to feed him. First I called Anna, my partner in the gallery, to confess what I was about to do. She agreed immediately. He had to be fed.
So I made a little saucer of black beans from my burrito and one of some cut up pear. I also prepared a dish of water, putting it all under the heater where my little ward was still hopelessly chirping. Then I went back to my writing.
Lo and behold, within minutes the crying had stopped, to be replaced by the sounds of eating and drinking. I tip-toed over there and got a look at the little guy sitting in the saucer of beans, reaching over to the plate of pears, with another foot holding onto his water dish. Remarkable! I left him alone to dine in peace.
And then the most amazing thing happened. I was at my table writing to you all and I saw some movement from the corner of my eye. It was the chipmunk, and not just one, but two. My little friend was not alone. That made me feel better. They slowly made their circuitous way over to me, until they were less than a foot away. And then they stood up on their little hind feet, front paws curled in front of them, and just stared at me. It felt like I was in a Walt Disney animated film from my childhood. These little guys appeared to be thanking me!
They came closer and closer until I was afraid I might step on them. I decided to quit work for the day and settled into the worn and comfortable wicker chair we keep in the studio, to read. And that’s when I realized something even more amazing was going on: these two wild creatures seemed to be looking at me as their mama!
First, the more confident of the two, the bigger one, climbed right up on the chair next to me. He crawled through the wicker, extended a paw out to touch my jacket, and FELL ASLEEP! He was so comfortable there that I was able to reach into my pocket for my camera and take this picture:
Isn’t that the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?
I was stunned. When he woke from his nap he wanted to be closer still. HE GOT UP ON MY LAP!
But I jumped, which scared him, and he scooted to the back of the chair.
Then he reached out and walked across my shoulder!
By now his sibling had joined him.
The two played on the chair, with me in it, until they simply had to nap again (I guess a full tummy makes all of us a little sleepy) and they each took up places on the chair next to me and behind me. I was so touched I could hardly breathe.
So Anna and I had gallery chipmunks instead of a gallery cat. And they, apparently, believed they had a couple of mamas. They were as comfortable with Anna the next day when she came to work, after a short period of adjustment, as they’d been with me. One of them even got up, sat on her shoulder, and stayed there!
Anna worked the next three days and told me stories of how big and strong and rambunctious they’d become. Oh, and there ended up being four in all. Two very tiny little ones joined their siblings over the course of those days, and all four of them raced around the studio until they would collapse into little balls of fur, usually in the lace curtains at the window, to sleep it off.
My plan was to shoot some video of them, the next day that I worked, to share with you all. But you know what? In those three short days our little wards had become strong enough and big enough to leave “the nest.” They left home! Every single one of them. And, of course, that’s exactly what we’d hoped would happen. We just didn’t realize it would be so soon. It’s remarkable what a little good nutrition (kitty kibble) will do for wild animals that are generally used to making it on their own. Our little guys just needed a couple of mommies to see them through the rough patch.
We were more than delighted to be of some help and still hold out hope that, one of these days, they might pop back in for a visit.
Love to you all,