Advice from Space: The Hand That Feeds the Squirrel
Dear Advice from Space,
In my backyard I have trained the squirrels, or else the squirrels have trained me, to give them peanuts out of my hand. They still jump and scare easily, thinking I will crush or capture them at a moment’s notice, despite my peace-nuts offering. My question: is this bad for them? Am I teaching them to be unafraid of humans, so that they will then trust the wrong human? Should I have children?
Asking for a Friend
Dear Asking for a Friend,
This week I dumped out my remaining packets of citrus-flavored nutritional goo-packs. I was so tired of them, and so tired of waiting for strawberry and grape. I wanted to make life happen, rather than waiting for life to happen to me.
Like most aspects of my mission, it wasn’t well-planned. My spacecraft’s gravity was turned off at the time, and the goo floated where it could. After a few diverting hours of Capture the Goo, I put the collected goo in my spacecraft’s airlock and shot into Space.
I’ll be honest—this sequence of events turned out to be a bad idea for a few reasons. One, after the glorious catharsis, an unfortunate amount of nutritional goo immediately applied itself to the outside of my spacecraft, obscuring several portholes and antennae, and causing my spacecraft to veer from its trajectory for a good 30 minutes until I was able to adjust my flight settings to compensate for the added matter. Two, I am now short two and a half months of nutritional goo. It won’t be missed, but it will make for an interesting challenge.
I am starting to conclude that doing anything in excess can be harmful. For example, had I been more moderate in my nutritional goo-consumption by, say, letting myself have a taste of the good flavors on occasion, I might have felt less deprived, nauseated, and devil-may-care. I might have chosen differently. But here I am.
And there, Asking for a Friend, are you. Your communion with the local squirrels is just one example of the unexpected friendships that can develop between species. It’s a demonstration of emotional receptivity on your part, and underestimated intellect on the part of the squirrels, that you’ve been able to create this little peanut economy. Together, you form an important system of interspecies give and take.
Wildlife biologists will certainly disagree with me, but as a professional Space Astronaut, the occasional peanut seems okay to me. It’s a little joy you and the squirrels get to share! And little joys are the peanut chunks in the great jar of chunky peanut butter that is life.
But I urge you to be cautious. More peanuts do not translate into more little joys. For one thing, squirrels are notorious gossips. You think this is a sweet moment between you and a few select squirrels, but one day your yard will be filled with an army of salivating rodents, not all of whom appreciate the tender friendship you’ve cultivated. A Situation will develop. It will be a shrill and fearsome affair.
If you have a pit-of-gut feeling that you may have already crossed the Line of Too Far, it’s still fixable. It’s never too late to moderate! I advise you to cut down on your peanut-sharing. A slow taper is kinder in the winter months, but you should immediately cease hand feeding. Will the squirrels manipulate your emotions? Will they stare at you through your windows day and night in hope that you might give in? Will it be supremely uncomfortable and difficult to explain to your house guests? Of course. Most right-things-to-do are. But it’s, ahem, the right thing to do.
Advice from Space
P.S. On a side note, Friend, if you enjoy interspecies communion as much as it seems you do, remember in this time of cold and dark and seclusion that shelter cats and dogs the world over are waiting for their forever friends, and one or two of them might like to be hand fed. On occasion, though. Just on occasion.
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