By Nick BeJeaux
Many of us have pets – dogs, cats, snakes, parakeets – all of which rely on us for food, shelter, and happiness. But not many of us can claim to have a deep friendship with a wild animal that, without you, could more or less get along just fine.
Denham Springs mother of three Lauren Sadler has just such a connection with a squirrel she, her family, and neighbors lovingly call Pinkie. The Sadlers met Pinkie when she was a baby—possibly even a newborn. When they found her in their yard, likely fallen from a tree, her mother was nowhere to be found and she likely wouldn’t survive on her own.
“She was too little to know how to climb a tree,” said Sadler. “She wouldn’t latch on or anything. So we brought her inside and called a friend of mine who has squirrels of her own, and everything just went from there. She started eating from a syringe, sleeping with me, and playing around the house just like a regular pet would.”
As Pinkie got older, Sadler, having had no intention of keeping her in a cage, let her out of the house and into the trees. To her surprise, Pinkie returned to her door.
“She would always come back and want to be let back in the house,” said Sadler. “She’s always out doing her own thing—she just comes back every so often for nuts or whatever.”
Capturing wild animals as pets is actually illegal under Louisiana law, as her neighbor who works with Wildlife and Fisheries pointed out. But Sadler said that when he saw the dynamic between her family and Pinkie, he was stunned.
“He just couldn’t believe it, or stop laughing,” she said.
Pinkie built her own nest outside in the tree by the Sadlers’ house and started to come to the house for pecans and peanuts. Sadler has dressed Pinkie up in costumes on Halloween and even procured tiny furniture for her to enjoy, some of it shared from her daughters’ toy furniture for their dolls. Over time, Sadler and Pinkie formed a special bond, one Sadler says is almost like a mother-daughter relationship.
“Lately she’d only take food from me,” she said. “My husband walked outside with a bowl of nuts for her, he shook it and she came running, but she looked at him like, ‘Who are you?’ And she ran away. When I tried it, she literally jumped on my shoulder.”
Personality-wise, Sadler compared Pinkie to a free-spirited twenty-something—one who’s had somewhere around 15 kids.
“After she had her first babies, she stopped hanging around the house as much as she did,” she said. “I assume she wanted to be with them and take care of them; and that’s great. I’m happy that she’s able to live like she would outside, but I’m also happy she keeps coming back every once in a while.”
Sadler’s neighbors all know about her and Pinkie, affectionately referring to her as the Crazy Squirrel Lady. But one day, not too long ago, Pinkie showed everyone that there is a genuine connection between her and Lauren.
“One day, I was looking for her and she found me in the driveway; she ran to the end, looked at me, then ran back again,” said Sadler. “She wanted me to follow her—and by now nearly the whole neighborhood was there watching this happen. She led me to a tree that I didn’t know she was living in, and I got the sense she wanted me to climb with her. She just wouldn’t let it go, so my husband brought out a ladder, and lo and behold she had had more babies. She wanted me to see them.”
After having her latest brood, Sadler and her family see less of Pinkie than usual.
“It’s almost like empty nest syndrome,” she said. “I think about her every day and I miss her, but I know she’s out there living her life.”