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Funny Animal Lessons

Posted on Friday, January 5, 2024
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by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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20 Comments
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Winter animals: red squirrel, grey winter coat, eating on a tree branch

Funny, the lessons we learn from animals. Recently, facing a captivating combination of snow, rain, wind, and flooding, local animals were put to the test, along with local humans. The winner was self-reliance.

While humans turned to generators, chainsaws, four-wheel drive, canned goods, and common cause, local animals showed their own version of resourcefulness – can-do-because-must-do – in other ways.

As the snow, rain, wind, and water did their thing beyond my windows, the two dogs watched, somehow crediting me with this rare display – and imagining I would, just as I fill their food and water bowls, turn it off for their walk.

When that did not happen, they seemed at first to blame me, since holding the government accountable for not changing weather is in vogue – apparently – across all species. But soon enough, they toughened up, saw the adventure, and reveled in it.

Walking in this wild weather, I was put in mind of Henry David Thoreau, who wrote a whole essay on “Walking,” spent time in these same Maine woods, no doubt experienced similar weather, and seemed to like it as much as my dogs.

Thoreau, a student of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who penned those lovely “Essays on Self-Reliance,” spent two years living on “Walden Pond” and dismissed the world.

He did not have a dog but later walked a neighbor’s dog, and he loved cats. Wrote Thoreau, “I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit.”

Well, “spirit” would have hit him at our door in this recent weather, quickly putting him in mind of his tutor’s essays, since “self-reliance” was the order of the day.

With a lake at the door, my dogs decided this was a watering bowl, so drank often. Now and again they bounced about like fawns, taken with the wildness. Wrote Thoreau, “Life consists with wildness… the most alive is the wildest.”

More fitting: “‎I love even to see the domestic animals reassert their native rights — any evidence that they have not wholly lost their original wild habits and vigor.” He would like my dogs. They would like him. Some days, he could have them.

So, “alive” we were and self-reliant, not to mention wet outside, quick to shake inside, and glad for warmth. What the dogs – domesticated as they are – taught me was that there is some wildness, a jumping fawn, and a love of adventure in us all.

Outside, the local animals were more surprising. Why? In the high winds and flying water, all birds hunkered down, even the eagles. No birds for three days.

During the flooding, which saw water exceed the shore by several hundred feet, one saw the real meaning of self-reliance – and how it, too, crosses species.

My favorite scene was an intrepid squirrel, not undone by any of it. Like Bullwinkle’s “Rocky,” he was self-reliant in the extreme and did not resent Noah for leaving him behind.

As the water rose, his tree was quickly surrounded. What was more, his leafless tree was disconnected from others close to the house, which were themselves soon inaccessible by ground and too far to leap trunk to trunk.

For a day or so, he was content to hold his tree, observe the storm from that lofty perch, and keep his nest dry. But after a while, all the flooding got boring. He obviously wanted to get on with life and go to a local acorn mound, or higher ground.

He would come down the tree trunk, clinging to it, head down and tail twitching, then back up his tree, look around for another trunk, and finding none, back to his nest.

Finally, at about Day Five, he got fed up with all this weather, irked that his acorn stashes were underwater, not clear how the ground got rolled up while he slept, and he resolved to do something about it.

As my eyes watched, he descended the tree he called home, to the water line. He now started to pace the trunk, vertically, as if considering something important.

Then, in a mad dash, teaching me something I did not know – he leaped into the water and began to swim. Squirrels can swim. He swam to the next tree, paused, and did it again until he was finally on mounded ground.

I was in shock. If necessity is the mother of invention, self-reliance born of need, even a squirrel will dare the unthinkable for some seed.

Who says we do not all have more imagination than we give ourselves credit for, especially when a good flood forces our hand, and makes us long for dry land?

A final Thoreau gem: “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor,” so “go confidently in the direction of your dreams … live the life you have imagined.”

If a squirrel can, we can too!

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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SAW
SAW
6 months ago

Thank you Robert! I enjoy all your articles regardless of the subject matter!
Happy New Year!

Kim
Kim
6 months ago

Poor, poor squirrel. No bailouts from the government, no Go Fund Me accounts, no expectation of FEMA’s hasty arrival, and no cult groups screaming “Down with Climate Change!” from the comfort of dry land.
If humans behaved more like animals–relying on instinct (self-reliance) rather than on others–we’d have far fewer problems in our lives. And I believe we’d also be a smarter species as a result.

Lloyd Grisham
Lloyd Grisham
6 months ago

Robert B. Charles is always a fantastic read no matter the subject. The subject today was inspiring. It is sad to see that we have too many people in this country that do not have the will to do what the squirrel did.

Paul Filipowicz
Paul Filipowicz
6 months ago

Mr. Charles, your stories are so fun and enlightening at the same time. Thank you!

Rebecca
Rebecca
6 months ago

Ahhhhhh. There’s a great and powerful lesson in your article. Thank you for sharing.

Donna
Donna
6 months ago

Those squirrels are quite entertaining. They seem to think they own the property here in NW Ill, yet I haven’t had any offer from them to help with the taxes. They are quite at home with the abundance of acorns from the oak and nuts from the shag bark hickory tree in the yard. As long as they keep their distance from my attic we will continue to live peaceably as we share the property.

Debbie Boggs
Debbie Boggs
6 months ago

I enjoyed this story! Good writing with a dash of humor thrown in. It’s a nice break from all the negativity and bad news that surrounds us these days. And a reminder that we all have resilience and fortitude…we just have to call upon it 🙂

Max
Max
6 months ago

RBC, wonderful story. Have a great weekend.

Pat R
Pat R
6 months ago

That was a good story. I had no idea squirrels could swim either. But desperation brings out imaginative creativity.

Robin W Boyd
Robin W Boyd
6 months ago

We can, and should, learn more from nature. Rather than claim we can control nature, we should be learning better how to be more a part of nature, as must be intended if we are indeed indigenous to planet Earth.

Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
6 months ago

Very enjoyable story Robert, and lessons attached ,very worthwhile to think about. So much to learn from critters , just watching ,and listening to the ways of communicating – opens up new ways to understand some things often. In 1990′ s before I sold house where I grew up in Philadelphia, had several visits from a member of Squirrel family that called one of the three large trees in front of the house their home. I just opened door one day on my way going out and Squirrel was just about two feet from front door – in about ten seconds it was right at the doorway entrance.I got the sense it was very curious , about the place where Dog and Cat lived. Dog was in back yard at the time – Cat came from kitchen and stood about 10 feet away from Squirrel – they just looked at each other for about five minutes – it was really a sort of humorous situation in a way but I figured that it may be better to not take any chances with moods of either animal changing so I tossed some Squirrel food onto porch and Squirrel ended visit indoors on it’s own. Great story you wrote, with respect.
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Mark Laws
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