Wild, wild, wildlife

It seems ridiculous to claim we’re out communing with nature when, in reality, our camper has a microwave and the campground has free wifi. I know. But we’re parked in a forest where emerging takes you right to the ocean’s shore, and more to the point, this is The Land Of A Million Squirrels.

When you sign in at the campground, they give you all sorts of information materials (maps and such), and everything carries prominent warnings that you should not feed the squirrels. This baffles me. First of all, these squirrels swagger around like the damn rodent mafia, which to me is SO CREEPY that I cannot imagine anyone thinking, “Wow, this giant rat with a fluffy tail just walked up and drank out of the dog’s water dish while she was sitting right there, I think I’ll offer him a Cheeto in the hopes that he takes out a tiny switchblade and carves up my face for good measure.” Second… well, there really isn’t a second. I just pretty much hate squirrels.

Licorice, however, is having the time of her life. Because no sooner does the squirrel she’s chasing scamper up a tree than another emerges nearby to taunt her and take its place.

This is delightful for the dog, but exhausting for me and Otto, because we are constantly either having our shoulders dislocated from the dog yanking at a leash we’re holding OR we have her on the lead tied to the camper and she manages to run after something and get herself wrapped around a picnic table or stuck underneath, wrapped around the tires, etc.

Here allow me to pause and note that the people parked at the site directly across from us have the world’s tiniest adorable little camper, probably big enough just for a bed and some storage, and so they spend every moment sitting outside with their dogs. Ignoring the fact that it’s been 95 degrees during the day with about 210% humidity (yes, I’m typing this while sitting inside, in the air conditioning, the way a loving God intended), I strongly suspect them of drugging their pets. Every single time I walk past their site to walk Licorice over to her preferred clump of vegetation to pee on, the two dogs over there are 1) lying down and 2) completely silent, even when Licorice barks her fool head off at them. I have never seen them so much as blink at the squirrels. Or any of the other dogs here.

One last note on the squirrels. I cannot tell a lie, I… may have committed some squirrel violence. I didn’t mean to. I mean, it wasn’t premeditated, or anything. I was sitting here at the kitchen table, working, and listening to a squirrel run around on the roof of the camper. Suddenly there was a mighty scrabbling up above and then… the squirrel landed on the canvas tent-top of our bed. From where I was sitting it was just above my left shoulder, and I could SEE its little feet, the heavy shadow from its body, the fuzzier line out behind it from its tail. I looked at it, I looked across the table at Otto, I looked back again, and then… it just HAPPENED, I swear. All of its own accord, my hand shot upward, punching up against the shadow on the canvas, launching the squirrel straight into the stratosphere.

Otto and I only had a moment to exchange startled glances over what I’d done before there came a soft thud of the squirrel landing EXACTLY BACK ON ITS ORIGINAL SPOT before it scrambled down off the camper. I think that if I’d punted it and it disappeared, I would’ve felt badly, but as it was, we couldn’t stop laughing. “He’s going and telling all his little squirrels friends right now,” gasped Otto, between chuckles, “‘WHAT THE HELL, THAT THING IS LIKE A POSSESSED TRAMPOLINE!'”

Anyway. Yesterday we thought we’d take a break from the squirrels and head over to the beach so that we could enjoy some creature-free time with the dog. Also the breeze on the beach is delightful, making the heat tolerable and significantly lowering the probability of my attacking a helpless creature. Ahem.

Being the kind and loving dog-mama that I am, nothing delights me more than forcing the dog to run up and down the beach with me and darting in and out of the waves until she looks like a half-drowned sand rat.

(Licorice says this photo was not taken from her good side.)

We got good and wet and then started walking further down the beach until we found an area where giant hunks of driftwood were positively teeming with life. And I don’t mean that in a good way; I mean there were swarms of… I don’t know… sea cockroaches? Googling has totally failed me; the creatures were about the shape and size of palmetto bugs (yecch), but with more legs. Which maybe means they’re actually some sort of crustacean? These bugs were FASCINATING to Licorice, in much the same way that the squirrels were. She started bobbing and weaving, darting in, pulling back, going forward again, backing up. It was hilarious.

But THEN. The grand finale: Licorice spotted a crab.

And the crab saw Licorice.

And then they began to dance.

I had the leash, and at first I just let her go, but after a few back-and-forths between them I began to picture that crab dangling off of my poor puppy’s nose while she howled in pain, so I pulled her back. Eventually the crab disappeared into the surf. But not before Otto made the pair pose for a picture.

After the crab disappeared, Licorice continued to approach every stone, every ripple in the sand, every puff of air as if it might try to pinch her nose off. We finally dragged her back to the campground, where she had to endure the indignity of the dog-washing station. She refused to make eye contact with us as we hosed her off, and continued to shun me even after I discovered she had picked up some sort of weird burr (or maybe a tiny sea urchin?) in her fur and had to eventually resort to tweezers to get it off her. (I can’t figure out what that was, either. It was a tiny, spiny yellow ball that STUNG, though. Ouch. Nature is dangerous!)

Eventually we retired back to our site, sweltering outdoors until Licorice was mostly dry, then heading inside for dinner.

It was all pretty exciting, so today Licorice has mostly laid around napping. And I swear I haven’t punched any squirrels today. Yet.


  1. Liza

    Totally adorable. Poor Licorice — her brain must till be overloaded from the crab, the stingy-thing, and the squirrelssquirrelssquirrelssquirrels!

  2. Sally

    I had a similar experience with a pigeon in Poland, where they are actually beloved birds, not rats-with-wings. It waddled over to eat something that had fallen off a plate at an outdoor cafe table and, before I even knew what was happening, I had kicked it. I have no defense for my behavior, because I feel it is what any reasonable person would have done.

  3. Lisa

    Glad yall are having fun! Those little cockroach/palmetto bug type creatures were probably water bugs. They have more legs and are shaped pretty much the same. Did you take a picture? LOL
    The squirrels are according to Carrie in Sex In The City “Rats with better accessories!” LOL
    Have fun and try not to melt!

  4. Diahn Ott

    I just snorted diet coke out of my nose, reading about the punched squirrel. Awesome.

  5. Midj

    Phew, for a second I thought the title meant we were going to talk crosswords, again… ;-) Glad you have AC in your camper. The weather/heat index… Yikes. Those other dogs are probably too heat exhausted to move! Enjoy your vaca, actually sounds like fun! A day at the beach!

  6. Ann Garniss

    Can’t stop laughing at the squirrel, flying up, up, up… and landing right back where it was. This is bad, since my co-workers think I’m nuts.

  7. Lucinda

    I really must remember NOT to eat my breakfast while reading. First because of the laughter, then because of the queasiness as you described the mystery bug (I really hate bugs). But I will picture the flying squirrel all day long!

  8. Sheryl

    That picture of Licorice and the crab is awesome.

  9. mamalang

    I laughed so hard about the squirrel that people gave me funny looks here at work. I am dying here.

  10. diane

    Oh dear, I’m choking here trying to hold back the laughter (and tearing up as a result); my coworkers already think I’m nuts. Truth to tell, I would have done the exact same thing to the rodent. But to have it land in the same spot – !

    You and I have the same view of nature – it’s great, as long as there is air conditioning and free wifi.

  11. mamalang

    Uhm, I mean, poor squirrel.

  12. Michelle B.

    I have tears from the laughing… quite possible because I H.A.T.E. squirrels but most definitely because the retelling was so hilarious! Thank you for that.

  13. Megan

    I thought the squirrels in the campground at Denali in Alaska were irritating (little rat-thing stole an entire ziploc of spaghetti – REALLY! must have been the Schwarzenegger of tree rodents or something), but they were nothing to the vermin in Virginia. I have never in my life seen so many really, really stupid creatures. They would dash out into the street, freeze, and then when you went to swerve around them they would dart over to make sure they were directly under your tire! WTF squirrels?? I really don’t wanna kill you. Stop with the suicide-by-car act, mkay?

    So I’m very, very happy that you launched that squirrel. It’s like a whole lifetime of squirrel irritation all beautifully resolved vicariously with the image of that terribly surprised and suddenly airborne little animal!

  14. Tracy B

    I’m with you…I don’t like squirrels. They are giant rats, in my opinion. Now, the crab…by looking at the picture, she had the leash pretty tight around her neck…I’m glad you held her back…it coulda got nasty! Enjoy your time with Mother Nature!

  15. KarenP

    I have always thought of squirrels as rats with bushy tails. Not fond of them at all. My mother-in-law had an air gun to shot at them. One year we were in Glacier National Park and Greg threw a rock at a pesky squirrel that just wouldn’t go away. Which hit the squirrel in the head. Then the kids all thought the squirrel was dancing….until it went into the bushes and apparently died. The other squirrels seemed rather upset.

  16. Kathy

    Well done with the squirrel gymnastics! If they start crawling into your car engine, put a box of fabric softener sheets under the engine. They hate the smell. They also hate moth balls, but so do humans, so the fabric softener works MUCH better!

    Sounds like you are having a fun, relaxing time! Good for all of you!!


  17. Scottsdale Girl

    I think squirrels all over the US are either VERY brave or VERY stupid. The squirrels in the mountains of AZ (YES WE HAVE MOUNTAINS! AND PINE TREES! AND SNOW!, and currently all of them are on fire – *sad face*) are so brazen! They look kinda cute scampering among the trees at a distance but when they swagger up to the cooler? Sorry but they are gonna get kicked.

  18. Aimee

    I saw the crab, and all I could think was, “I pinch.”

  19. Dr. Liz

    I’m with you on the enjoying nature from the safety of one’s own air-conditioned, wifi accessible self-contained house on wheels. I did the sleeping in a tent with a thin pad between my back and every rock in the universe when I was younger, and well, I was younger. Now? I want a shower at the end of the day (sorry, but I’m done with communal showers, too…) and a real bed. Yes our 42-foot behemoth of a motorhome doesn’t go everywhere, but we’re mighty comfortable with where it does go! ;-) Besides, the dogs don’t sleep well when it’s hot and there is no air conditioning, and when the dogs don’t sleep well, no one sleeps well! Enjoy nature (even if Licorice is having to suffer the indignities of the Dog Wash…)!

    -Dr. Liz

  20. Leandra

    Somebody might have already said this, but I’m picturing that squirrel running to his buddies and going “Man, you gotta try this thing! What a rush!”

    Having had to remove a hermit crab’s pincher from Oliver’s finger last night while simultaneously not losing my hearing from the screams or my ever-loving you-know-what, I must tell you that you chose wisely when you chose to keep Licorice away from the crab.

  21. Jessica

    That picture is priceless and reminds me of the crabs in Finding Nemo. :D The squirrels where I went to college would beg for food on the trashcans and would also drop nuts on people’s heads as they walked to classes or to the cafeteria. I hated those squirrels.

    People, by the way, will feed any animal that comes up to them. I hate that about people. Where I live, we have seagull infestations. Yes, I do mean infestations. People think it’s cool to throw them food to see them catch it or to see if they will take food from the people’s hands. This leads to happenings such as those I have recently seen (in addition to the countless others I’ve seen since I’ve lived here):

    1. Poor little kid on an outing close to the water is eating his sandwich quite happily — until a seagull swoops down and takes it right from his hand and mouth as he’s taking a bite. The poor preschool kid didn’t know what had happened at first and had to watch his fellow preschoolers finish eating their packed lunches while the millions of seagulls fought over what had formerly been his sandwich.

    2. Two kids in the apartment building across from us in our apartment complex. We are several miles from shore and live in a fairly wooded area. The kids receive their tuna sandwiches outside on their balcony area to eat and the mom goes in to get hers. We go from one annoying seagull on the roof to about fifty swooping down, trying to get the kids’ food. These kids are probably 2-4 years old, so they get scared. One brazen gull comes down and waddles right up to them and starts to eat off their plates, chasing off the other gulls that try to horn in on the food. The kids are crying and screaming, because they have one gull not much smaller than they are eating off their plates and 49 others trying to swoop down and grab whatever they can. The mom finally comes back out and the brazen gull runs off, but the mom’s arrival does not stop the multitudes above them from still swooping here and there to get food. (We were amazed at how fast we went from practically no gulls to a sky full of them. Word travels fast when food is involved.)

    People, do not feed wild animals! They are not pets and become a nuisance for the people who actually have to live with them!

  22. Little Bird

    The squirrel thing is tooooooo funny!! I have a friend that did something similar. Only it was an actual tent, and instead of a squirrel, it was a monkey. That travels… a lot.

  23. Little Bird

    An ACTUAL monkey!!! Not a Monkey!!! Crap! I realized that immediately after hitting “submit comment”!

  24. dad

    When we camp, I spend some time fishing. L spends some time reading. We occasionally try to do crossword puzzles, But mostly, we just let the dog entertain us. That’s what they do. Everyone should experience the shear joy of camping with a canine.
    A couple of weeks ago we were camping on a mountain in Arizona and our dog was back home in New York. It felt like a picnic without smores. Something was missing.

    Here’s to wet fur (or hair), puppy dreams and cold noses.

  25. JennyA

    @Aimee: Maybe just little pinch?

  26. MaryP

    As we walked home from the dog park where our respective canines had gone totally banzai over the squirrelsquirrelsquirrels!!!!, my friend commented that the park this morning would be a preview of doggie heaven.

    “Only in doggie heaven,” I noted, “the squirrels would all be fat and slow, and the trees just three feet tall.”

  27. Daisy

    Oh, the squirrels! How crazy. That punched one is probably still wondering what happened. We have a black squirrel in our yard/ neighborhood. They’re not the norm, but they’re becoming more widespread in our city. They’re really pretty animals, although they’re as much pests as their light brown cousins.

  28. Jan in Norman, OK

    I was sitting on a bench at the Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, FL. Looked down to find a squirrel rooting around in my purse which I had placed on the bench next to me.

  29. Kelly

    Forget what the squirrel thought, can you imagine what your camping neighbors would have thought if they saw that squirrel go from standing still to launching into some sort of flip and sticking the landing? THAT would be hilarious!

  30. Stace

    I guess this is the wrong forum for me to talk about my experience raising two orphaned squirrel babies in my cleavage. :-P

    The thing Licorice picked up sounds like what my parents referred to as “sand spurs” when we lived in Florida….since we were originally from NH I have no idea if that is what they are REALLY called or not….I do know how much they suck to step on with bare feet though.

  31. Holly

    I think squirrels are cute!!

  32. Sharon

    They are cute- until they get in your walls where they chew up your wires, and wake you up chasing each other. Good going, Mir!

  33. mamaspeak

    LOVE this!
    Hate squirels myself; damn things pick all the fruit off our trees before it’s done growing, much less ripe. Take a bite to find it’s not good & throw it on the ground in search of another unripe piece. They may be the reason I allow my husband to get guns from his parents house & bring them here. (We’ve been married 10yrs & I still won’t let him, so that says something about how much I really hate those damn things.)

    Best part is the crab w/the dog. Very cute pix! Love it.

  34. Colleen

    Sounds like the campground at Jekyll, are you at Jekyll? If so, we love Jekyll. You can bike around the whole island! Perhaps you are some other obscure GA island, though. Anyway, enjoy your trip.

  35. Cathi

    OK so was the round prickly thing a sand spur? They are awful at the beach and hard to get out of dogs hair! Also the dogs that are too well behaved to bark at Licorice- Could it be that they are just too hot to move?

  36. Debra

    OMG. You made me LOL until I had tears!!!

    It’s a freaking hundred degrees with 210% humidity and those other dogs do not have a nice air conditioned camper….. Of course they are laying around doing nothing! I would be laying around doing nothing, too.

  37. Flea

    Hilarious! Squirrels truly are evil. Raccoons are worse! Nasty raccoons have hands and can unzip duffel bags at camp sites. Nasty creatures.

  38. addy

    Not a fan or squirrels, raccoons or tents thanks. But, you have fun there Mir. See if you can make it land on the neighbor’s place next time ;)

  39. Cele

    Don’t feed the squirrels? You don’t have to feed them, they feed theirselves thank you very much.

  40. Karen

    I’m thinking those dogs across the way need airconditioning too, hence the silence.

  41. elz

    I’m laughing so hard because I HATE squirrels. Why do people feed them and like them? They are just rats with bushy tails. Ick. In our neighborhood, we can’t use trash cans (stupid garbage contract), so the squirrels will tear into everyone’s garbage bags. Guess who is sitting out in the garage with his BB gun wiating for the squirrels to tear into our trash bags? Yeah-Ted Nugenty husband.

  42. Christine

    Before I even read what you did, I thought to myself, “I would SO launch that sucker”.

    Glad you’re having “fun”!

  43. Bethany

    We have a vacation cabin in the mountains here in CA and lately all the full-time residents can talk about is WHERE HAVE ALL THE SQUIRRELS GONE??? WE MISS THEM!!! And I just don’t get it. The squirrels have all left, en masse? YAY!

  44. Sassy Apple

    Camping with air conditioning and free wi-fi?? I may have to reconsider my ‘no camping’ stance.

  45. Laura

    your Indian name should be: She Who Punches Squirrels


  46. Carol

    How could you not love a face like this?

  47. Scottsdale Girl

    MIr’s Dad: So you were here RIGHT before entire right side of the state caught fire? *squinty eyes* I hope you enjoyed our piney areas, because uhm, they are mostly gone now. *Sad face again*

  48. Pancakegfc

    I just came across your blog for the first time and the thing about punching the squirrel made me laugh until tears came down my face (and I am sitting in my windowless office at work and my next door neighbor came to make sure that I was okay)

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