Brain-damaged squirrel inspires woman to open her own animal hospital
It takes a village to raise a child, and one Texas woman to nurture a brain-damaged squirrel.
Caitlin McConnell never knew she was destined to be a ‘squirrel mom’ until 2016, when her friend brought her an injured squirrel that she’d found on the pavement.
Three years later, she runs a squirrel hospital for the bushy-tailed babies out of her home.
‘I never expected to care so much about squirrels at all, but now it’s a real passion,’ said Caitlin. ‘They’re such funny, goofy little things.’
The 32-year-old has nursed 40 squirrels and released them back into the wild.
‘It was 110 Fahrenheit [43°C] and she looked really poorly so we decided to try and help. At first we had no idea what we were doing but we quickly learned,’ she said.
‘We’d feed her every few hours, keep her warm with a heat pad and help stimulate her to go to the bathroom. I’d even take her with me in my makeup bag when I went out to make sure she kept warm.’
The baby red fox squirrel was soon named Jinx.
As Caitlin nursed her back to health, she learned that Jinx had suffered a brain injury.
‘She was really behind,’ says Caitlin. ‘She couldn’t sit up or walk properly. We did a lot of research into it and discovered physical therapy would help her to walk properly. I’d teach her to walk to me using food.
‘I brought her to live in the house and she made friends with our cat Chelsea. They would cuddle together and she even started behaving like a cat.
‘It was very weird, she didn’t realise she was a squirrel, so wasn’t aggressive like the others can be.’
Caitlin daily adventures with the squirrel – who she refers to as a ‘diva’ – proved so fascinating that she documented it on Instagram.
As @jinxthesquirrel’s followers climbed to 44,000, so did Jinx’s repertoire of tricks.
‘She even started responding to commands,’ says Caitlin. ‘I taught her how to twirl by using treats. She also made friends with a miniature pig I had and they would both respond to commands.’
The squirrel even scored a lead role in a television commercial for dog food.
Sadly, Jinx died at age three after suffering an aneurysm.
‘[The commercial] came out about two weeks after she died and it was a big surprise for them,’ says Caitlin. ‘Having it come out then was a very sweet tribute to her.’
The death of Jinx inspired McConnell to continuing caring for baby squirrels with her mother Tanya Griffin.
Caitlin said: ‘At one point we had eight at a time, which was really hard work. Often we had to keep them separate, because if they didn’t know each other they would fight.
‘They can be little demons.’
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