Thursday, April 19, 2007

Ardilla

Pronounced ar-DEE-ya. Spanish for 'squirrel' (See March blog "Mr. Spock" and February blog "Mascotas"). I'm surprised to be writing this, actually. If someone would have told me a few months ago that I would have had a pet squirrel, I would have asked them what they were smoking. But this little guy has really captured our hearts, and the hearts of many members of the community.

Spock is an adolescent now. We're waiting for his testicles to drop and for him to join the wild community of his kin. As I type, he is free to leave any time he wants. He's up in his favorite papaturo tree next to the house taking a siesta in the shade of the tangled tree canopy, escaping the heat. Normally, he'll spend the afternoon in a tree next to my in-law's house at the beach where my wife goes to escape the heat in the afternoons. Its quite amazing, but he never ventures far from either our house or my in-laws'.

Spock slept in the house rolled up in a washcloth in a plastic ice cream container up until a few weeks ago. I still let him in sometimes to sleep in the crease on our bed between the headboard and mattress. It's amazing to watch his sleeping positions change - very human: stretched out in a line on his side, flat on his back with his feet in the air, flat out on his stomach in the "splat" position (pictured above on a bar rail), or bunched up with his feet tucked below him and his tail along his back.

But I figured I'd better get him used to sleeping outside in his natural environment. So I bought a steel bird nesting box for him to sleep in. He likes it. He also likes to sleep in an abandoned bird nest in the papaturo tree next to the house. The nesting box makes a great travel case too. Spock usually crashes at dusk. If we're on the road or at the beach, I just place him in the box in the car with the windows cracked and put the box on the balcony with him in it when we get home. He also likes to curl up in the map pocket on the back of the passenger seat in my pickup. Or in my lap rolled up in the hem of my T-shirt. Or in my wife's purse (pictured above).

Spock's day begins at sunrise when he descends from his tree or the box on the balcony to molest the dogs. He usually starts at the dog bowl, munching nuggets with Garcia and Madona. We leave mangos, banana, jocotes, mariñon, fresas, naranjas, uvas or piña on the armrest for the leglift on my universal gym also. He eats alot. He rarely eats the same fruit two days in a row, however, self-rotating his dietetic intake. He also loves yogurt and cream cheese!! After breakfast he'll make his way up to our bedroom balcony to climb the sliding screen doors until we let him in to molest us in bed. If we're eating breakfast on the porch below, he'll boing between us for awhile. He also plays this game where he grabs your wrist with his whole body then flips underneathe your hand and kicks and bites your fingers on his back - like a cat would do when you tickle its belly. Eventually he gets tired and comes to rest on my thigh or spreads out on the edge of the table.

As the day heats up, he'll siesta in a tree, on the balcony, on the universal gym or on my (if I'm at the house), or my wife's shoulder. The dude loves riding in the pickup. He plays with the flexible Costa Rican flag I have suction-cupped to the windshield, boinging it up and down with his forepaws as he stands on the dashboard, garnering many puzzled, "no, it couldn't be" looks from oncoming vehicles. Or he'll ride on my knuckles on the steering wheel, digging the carnival ride round and round when I make a turn. Or he'll stretch out on my shoulder or on a headrest. But his favorite spot is on my thigh, stretched out in the cool stream of the A/C, looking like some kind of rodent superhero flying through a slipstream.

Mr. Spock is extremely portable. I can walk around town, go into stores (we take him grocery shopping on occasion - big hit!), or hang at a watering hole or restaurant and he always remains close by, though he likes to shoulder hop sometimes, which freaks gringos out - "What is that thing, a skunk?". I bite my tongue so the words, "Did ya pick up a book before ya got on the plane!!?" don't erupt from my pie hole. After the bleeding stops, I give them a very scientific and biological reply: "No it is not a skunk, though we have them here too. This is a variegated squirrel. He's about 3 months old. Variegated squirrels range in color from brown with a black stripe to white with a black stripe. They eat fruit, not nuts and are found throughout Costa Rica and much of Central America." They usually follow up with, "Does he bite?". And I reply with the lie, "Yes. ATTACK, MR. SPOCK!!" (There's a big difference between a traveler and a tourist. I can't stand tourists and enjoy torturing them as often as I can.)

I was at the barber in Liberia the other day for a haircut and left him in a tree on the street outside the barbershop door. After about 10 minutes of play, he came hopping through the barbershop door and, to the amazement of some of the customers, climbed up my leg to my shoulder, then hopped onto the shoulder of the non-flinching barber where he remained during the rest of my haircut, occasionally molesting the earlobes of the barber, throwing him into giddy schoolgirl laughter. The kids in the shop were beside themselves. It was hilarious!

I suppose once he finds a girlfriend he'll return to the forest. I hope he visits once in awhile. I will surely miss him if/when he goes.

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