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Neighbor to Neighbor: Children learn lesson from demise of squirrel

As promised, spring has arrived in all its glory. It is accompanied by the showers that will splash the faces of buds and make them get up and dress in their brightest and best. We are grateful!

The winter just past was exceptionally strange - almost spring one week, more like the Arctic the next. We will have to see how that will affect on things that had already begun to grow.

There are still areas where intended growing things have not yet begun to poke through the earth. Tree pits in particular seem to be endangered because people park next to the curb and seeing a few sticks and not much more, walk at their convenience and sometimes leave debris from their vehicles.

My "few sticks" had been the beginning of chrysanthemums, coreoposis, bleeding heart and lilies of-the-valley, some of which appear to have been set back, if not something worse, by feet.

The birds are busy building nests and we will soon see new members of the squirrel families. But one squirrel won't be there.

One Friday evening I was on my way to the store. As I made my way along the next block, I saw a group of children gathered around the base of a street tree. Some were leaning over, some were squatting and all were looking intently at something on the ground.

One little girl stood back away from the subject of interest. As I approached I heard, "EEOW!"

I called to them (I consider them my little friends) and asked, "What do you have there?" I thought it might be some kind of mysterious bug; these children had found an earwig last year.

"It's a dead squirrel," one of them called back to me.

"Do not touch that!" I warned them.

I noticed a man sitting on a nearby porch. He, too, was watching the activity.

One little boy raised his foot over the squirrel and said he was going to squash it.

"Leave it alone!" I told him. "Don't bother dead things! Someone will have to take it away. I'll bring back some plastic bags and remove it if some other adult doesn't do it."

They promised to leave it alone and I went on my way - not too happy.

When I returned, I could see the children waiting for me. "Did you really bring back bags to take it away?" I was asked.

"Yes," I responded.

I told them sometimes animals die from diseases that could make them sick, although there was a large, white stone next to the squirrel, which may or may not have been involved in this little animal's death.

They stood back and watched as I put one bag inside the other and then put my hands inside the bags so that I could pull the small, furry body inside without touching it.

It was a lesson I did not enjoy teaching, but because others sometimes would rather ignore such situations I felt it necessary.

Then I was faced with worrying about the repercussions if it had been diseased. The Health Department is closed on weekends so I had two days of unsolved concern.

Monday morning, I found out that the Health Department is not concerned about squirrels right now because none in our area has been found to be diseased. Raccoons, skunks and possums that are found dead should, however, be reported to the Health Department's Animal Affairs Office by calling 1-217-676-2116 or 2117.

I hope every adult will be alert and willing to take whatever action is necessary to protect youngsters who may he vulnerable. Parents, in particular, should be watchful and interested in investigating things that are curious to little ones.

They should also always be checked when they are quiet. When my sister and I were young and quiet, our mother would call and say, "What are you doing, girls?" We would answer, "Nothing."

And she would respond, "Well, stop it then!"

Mothers usually know what's really going on.

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