It was a dark and stormy night. My daughter Katherine called and said she had been bitten by a squirrel.
It all started when her son Cameron, age 6 at the time, came into the house and said, “There’s a big black rat in the back yard!”
When Katherine went out back, she saw that it was actually a squirrel covered in mud.
Because of what we call the “Disney effect,” she decided to help it out by washing it off and sending it happily on its way, but when she reached down to pick the squirrel up, its teeth latched onto the tip of her left forefinger and would not let go. She pried it off and screamed for Brandon, her husband.
Brandon came out and saw that the squirrel was not running away, as any normal animal would, so he assumed it had fallen out of a tree and had broken some bones in the process. He killed the poor creature to put it out of its misery. A quick, merciful end was better than a slow, painful death for the little critter. It could have been days before it starved to death.
Katherine called me, and I told her I would meet her at the hospital. Brandon could stay with the children so they would not be traumatized.
“Take the squirrel with you for a rabies test,” I said.
When I got to the emergency room at McKenna in New Braunfels, Katherine was already there. She had checked in and was waiting for the doctor. Beside her on the floor was a small trash can. In it was a plastic bag with the dead squirrel inside.
A short time later a young man in scrubs came out and (very reluctantly) opened the sack to swab the squirrel’s mouth for a rabies test. He either drew the short straw or was the low man on the totem pole, poor thing.
The rest of the people in the ER, who had heard the whole story when she checked in, either grinned or grimaced.
In the treatment room, the doctor said that he knew how much it hurt because his rabbits would often bite him. Then he asked her when her last tetanus shot was. She said, “I don’t know,” so he said, “Then it’s today.”
He also told us that he had checked with the city and state agencies, and since there had never been a report of a rabid squirrel, he would not need to give her the series of rabies shots. She was fine with that.
“We don’t stitch up animal bites,” he said, “so I’m going to put a bandage on it and give you a prescription for antibiotics. Come back if the wound becomes inflamed. And don’t forget to take the squirrel with you.”
We felt sorry for the young man who had swabbed the squirrel’s mouth since they were not going to test it after all.
After taking the squirrel with us, we laid it to rest.
I think from now on, Katherine will think “South Park” squirrel rather than “Disney” squirrel.
P.S. I was recently told by a zookeeper friend that (a) there have been three rabid squirrels in Oklahoma and (b) the cheek swab would have been useless for rabies testing. They would need to send the brain somewhere. Be safe, my friends.
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