St-Eugène, Ontario, resident Alison Logee had a very special relationship with a red squirrel. The dental hygienist found the two-week-old baby while sitting by the firepit on an August evening in 2013. Since nursing the young squirrel she named Chelsea back to health, Alison received regular visits from her friend and has observed her raise numerous families over the years. On August 14, Chelsea turned eight years old – an exceptional age for a wild squirrel, and spent the entire day with Alison. Chelsea later passed away that night in her sleep. The Review asked Logee to tell their story in a special series in our print editions.
Heading into the depths of winter 2020, Chelsea was an old squirrel at the age of seven years, so she and I set up yet another routine for the winter. Every early morning, we’d meet at the back door. I’d leave her a handful of seeds and nuts on the top step, with a warm dish of water.
I’d plug in the kettle, turn on the coffee machine, go to the washroom, return to the kitchen, and pour the boiled water into the water bottle. I’d open the sliding door and place the bin with her hot water bottle in it, next to her. Within seconds, she would hop up into the bin and take a seat on the comfy, cozy warmth.
We continued this routine throughout the winter until the end of April 2021. By this time, Chelsea’s spot was being taken over by another bully squirrel. He would not leave her alone. I spent a lot of time standing guard just so she could eat in peace.
Chelsea finally moved from the rear of the house, back to the front porch. By this time, I had noticed a change in her manual dexterity and she seemed to sit a little lopsided. She was clearly aging and was now up against other squirrels who were much stronger.
Chelsea made her home in the barbecue once again. No matter where she went, the others always took notice and never let her eat in peace. So I set myself up on the front porch, and while guarding the fort, I began writing my second book ‘Chelsea’s Oaktree Crush’.
The other squirrels became increasingly aggressive with Chelsea, so on June 1 she left barbecue living behind and found a new home under the flower box, on the dental hygiene side of the house. After moving, Chelsea was often present at the entrance to the office and would greet clients as they came and went. She would quietly sit on the railing, where I could see her while I worked.
I worked my schedule around Chelsea so she could eat peacefully. Sometimes I’d have to excuse myself in the middle of a dental cleaning, just to go outside on the deck and save her from being attacked by the bully squirrel. Not the most professional move perhaps, but my clients were very understanding.
We tweaked our routine and figured out a way to keep things peaceful. After Chelsea had her morning snacks, she would disappear for most of the day and return at sunset, when all the other squirrels were in bed. We had many evenings of quiet time together.
Chelsea was exhibiting low energy, and her loss of balance had increased. Although this concerned me, she seemed to manage herself well.
Chelsea had a way of showing me that she wanted to go for a walk, but was obviously hesitant, as she now moved much slower and would be easy prey for any predator. I finally realized she was asking me to accompany her on a walk through the front garden to the other side of the house where the oak tree was and soon this became another part of our evening routine. When Chelsea was satisfied, I would accompany her back to her flower box den, where she would retire for the night.
At the onset of August, Chelsea now established what would become her final den – on the oak tree side of the house, in the firepit area, by the pond, amongst the rocks. This was perfect, as this is where we spent most of our time. So it was easy to keep a close watch on Chelsea.
The following days really highlighted Chelsea’s diminishing health. Her balance increasingly got worse, so we placed her food on a little rock ‘table’, which also provided support for her.
By August 12, I noticed Chelsea was eating less and seemed to have digestive issues. I had to keep in mind that she certainly had surpassed her expected lifespan of 4 to 5 years for a red squirrel living in the wilderness.
On August 14 – Chelsea’s eight birthday – I picked her up and placed her in a blanket on my lap. I wasn’t sure she would like this, so I gave her the option to leave… but she didn’t. I sat with her that entire day as she dozed on and off. I hand fed her bits of mango that offered some natural sugars and hydration.
I knew Chelsea would soon leave us. It was coming to the end of the day and I was torn between placing her in a cage or letting her go back into her den for the night, alone. I truly believe in nature taking its course, but with her being so fragile, I was concerned she could be attacked, and I didn’t want her to leave this world traumatised and in physical pain.
So I placed the bottom part of the cage, filled with dried lily leaves and a cozy blanket for bedding, and left it on the chair by her den. I had gone into the house and when I returned; she had climbed up into the base and was snuggled under the bedding.
I couldn’t believe she had done this. My prayers were answered. This is how I envisioned it to happen. This is how I hoped it would happen. I picked up the base, and carried it to the front porch, secured the top of the cage onto the base and brought Chelsea into the house for the night.
Here we were, on August 14, 2021, Chelsea’s eighth birthday, as well as my father’s 100th! And there she was, back in the very room where I raised her, eight years earlier. I said good night to Chelsea and went upstairs to bed.
When I got up and went downstairs to check on Chelsea the next morning, she was gone. She had passed away overnight in her sleep.
Although my heart is broken, Chelsea’s decision, allowing me to take her into the house to spend her final moments with me was exactly what I had prayed for. It offered her security, and it offered me closure.
I am grateful for this little squirrel’s presence in my life. I always wanted to write stories for children but never knew where to start and she was my inspiration.
Chelsea has highlighted the importance, and the sacredness of being connected with nature. For us and our children, nature, by the creation of God, is a place where we can reflect and find peace.