Homeless in Vancouver: The squirrel and I were both surprised

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      Given your squirrel’s finely-tuned senses, overly cautious nature and hair-trigger reflexes, I didn’t think that a person could sneak up on one.

      Yet on Thursday morning (August 31) I was able to get well within touching distance of a squirrel before it even noticed me.

      What’s more amazing—I managed to do this even before I had my morning coffee!

      “Be vewy vewy quiet I’m twacking sqwewels”

      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      07:38:20 a.m. I spy my first squirrel of the day in the alley between West 11th and West 12th Avenue, on the west side of Oak Street. The brown squirrel is sitting on a cedar fence facing me just a few metres away. I can zoom in closer using my camera but I know that if I approach the squirrel physically it will just run away.

      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      07:40:06 a.m. What I try to do instead is to walk away from the squirrel—to get out of its direct line of vision and stealthily approach it from the other side of the fence. It doesn’t so much as twitch an ear as I get closer and closer.

      Stanley Q. Woodvine

       07:40:42 am. When I an mere centimetres away—near enough to reach up and pet it if I want—the squirrel finally bestirs itself to notice me.

      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      07:40:48 a.m. With its ears pricked up and it tail bristling, the squirrel spins around to face me and its expression is “Huh? What the…?” And —in true squirrel fashion—it freezes like that for a few seconds.

      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      07:41:34 a.m. Then, following some ancient, hard-wired instruction in its walnut-sized brain, the squirrel turns away from me, as if in a huff—holding that pose for about six seconds. Then it turns back to look at me again—in hopes, perhaps, that I’ve gone away. I haven’t but I’m standing very still. Again the squirrel turns away, stops and turns back to look at me. The only thing that I’m moving is an index finger on my camera’s shutter release. And it’s almost as if I have gone away—fading into the background as far as the squirrel is concerned.

      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      07:41:48 a.m. The squirrel now turns away for the last time and without the slightest urgency in its movements—having apparently dismissed me altogether—begins making its way along the top of the fence, hippity-hopping over the raised fence posts in its way.

      Squirrels. Short attention span. Big entertainment value. Endlessly fascinating. 

      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer. Follow Stanley on Twitter at @sqwabb.