It’s getting cooler, and the squirrels in my park are working double-time, trying to pack away as much food as they can before winter. Watching them drag entire hot dog buns across a patch of grass and high up into a tree, or stalk a group of teenagers eating lunch in hopes that they’ll forget to finish a bag of chips, makes for a delightful way to pass some time in the park. Even Gracie likes to watch the squirrels, well, squirrel away their winter stockpile. (And by watch, I mean attempt to chase.) Squirrels were the original hoarders, and they do an impressive job acquiring sustenance for the cold months.
But here’s the thing: they do an impressive job of acquiring sustenance on their own. As long as there are people in the park, there will always be forgotten foodstuffs for the squirrels to scrounge.
But some people in my neighborhood don’t seem to understand the natural order of things. They seem to think that it’s their responsibility to make sure that the squirrels (and, to a lesser extent, pigeons) are well-prepared for the winter. And they take it upon themselves to bring food to the park and sprinkle it under trees, near trashcans, even under the playground equipment. Which is all well and good for the squirrels (and pigeons), but if you’ve got a dog (especially a dog with a faulty G.I. system), the entire area turns into an obstacle course. Though not especially food-motivated (she’d rather play with a toy than accept a treat), Gracie’s still a dog, and a shelter dog at that, so the idea of free food, on the ground, for the taking, is an attractive one indeed. But the reality is that every piece of food lying on the ground is a potential biohazard. Some of what I’ve had to steer Gracie away from, of late:
- Trail mix: Have you ever encountered store-bought trail mix without chocolate in it? Neither have I. While it takes a lot of chocolate to cause serious problems, or even death, to a medium-sized dog, just two ounces of chocolate chips is enough to cause vomiting and diarrhea in a dog Gracie’s size, it would only take an individual chip or two to cause the same reaction in a Yorkie or daschund. And you probably don’t want to risk walking through that in the park, now do you?
- Bread—so much bread: Did you ever do that science experiment in second grade where you’d put one wet piece of bread and one dry piece of bread into petri dishes, to see which one grew mold first? If you did, then you know that the wet piece of bread always grows the mold. It’s rainy season throughout much of the country—are you really going to leave the squirrels a science experiment? (Yes, I know their stomachs can probably handle it—but most dogs’ stomachs can’t.)
- Hot peppers: I’m not entirely sure who the sadistic asshole who left a few old jalapeño peppers under a tree in the park was, but not cool. Even the squirrels and their iron insides can’t handle that, so imagine what it does to the countless pets of the neighborhood.
- Candy: Folks, Halloween is coming up quickly. We all know that nobody eats the shitty candy, but if you don’t want it, throw it away. In your own trash. The squirrels have no use for all that sugar—you know how hyper they are already—and your leftover diet chewing gum can be extremely harmful to any pooch that comes across it.
If you absolutely can’t resist the squirrels of your neighborhood in all their bushy-tailed and puffy-cheeked glory, and you must, must feed them, then keep a few tiny morsels in your pockets while you’re out for a stroll and provide them to the squirrels you see. Don’t leave anything out to be found, and don’t give in excess. But don’t blame me if the rodent version of this happens to you.
And above all, please don’t endanger my dog, or the many other dogs in the park.
Kennel Confidential is a regular column documenting the adoption of a shelter dog by two KeyPulp editors. Leave your dog-rearing stories and tips in the comments section below!
Image by author, remixed with Instagram.