It was on a sun-kissed morning that Coco the squirrel found himself clinging for life against the base of an old pine tree.
Looming above Coco was a beast 100 times his size, growling and pawing at him, knocking him from the sappy pine to the ground below.
Coco squealed and Rosie the cartoon dog yipped and circled, tail wagging, not knowing what to make of this newfound toy.
Rosie, for years, has been chasing squirrels and not getting very far.
I was on the porch as this was happening and when I heard the yips and squeals, I turned and saw that Rosie was pawing at the ground and circling something. I did not see Coco.
Rosie has done the same with bugs, butterflies, bees and hornets, anything that moves. Once, she did it with a possum and another awful time, with a skunk.
That didn’t work out very well.
“What are you doing?” I said aloud as I trotted down the porch steps.
I saw the poor squirrel immediately, cowering on the ground as Rosie continued to yip.
“ROSIE! GO!” I yelled and she backed off. I scooped the squirrel into my hands. It was trembling.
I set it back down, took Rosie inside and grabbed a cardboard box and a towel.
The squirrel was clinging to the tree again, barely able to climb and still wide-eyed with fear.
I glanced around, trying to find any sign of its mother.
So into the house we went and to the computer I went.
After a bit of research, I filled a sock with rice, heated it in the microwave and placed it under the towel.
The squirrel, who would later be named Coco, fell soundly asleep.
I did more research and decided to take Coco to the edge of my yard near the woods where, in one of the poplar trees, was a nest.
I cut the end from the box, set it against a tree and went back inside.
Coco stayed outside most of the day and momma never came to the rescue.
It was looking more and more like I was going to be the proud father of a baby squirrel.
I called my neighbor, Mrs. Miller, who rehabilitated the aforementioned possum. She, in turn, contacted a licensed rehabilitator for advice: Warmth, puppy replacement milk, broccoli, apples and sweet potatoes.
But first, I had to make the squirrel comfortable for the night.
Coco slept soundly and the next morning was, uh, hee-hee, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
He drank water mixed with sugar and salt, climbed along my arm and curled up in my pocket. It was then that I noticed it had a broken front paw.
My daughter, Jenna, being aware that I now had a baby squirrel, texted me, “I’ve literally never been so excited to meet an animal. AHHHHH I CANT WAIT.”
I put Coco in a tote and he curled up under the towel and fell asleep. I drove to the store for supplies.
Jenna arrived with her mom that afternoon and it was love at first sight.
She spent the rest of the day with Coco, in her room away from Rosie and Nonny, the fat, old Husky-mix who would inhale a squirrel in a heartbeat.
About 8:30 Thursday night, with Coco sound asleep in Jenna’s room, I went outside to the porch, threw a chunk of wood for Rosie to fetch and watched her as she inexplicably ran to the small roadside ditch in front of the house.
Rosie NEVER takes her mind from a thrown stick or piece of wood and that piece of wood was in the opposite direction of the ditch.
I called Rosie and she trotted toward me and then stopped, suddenly interested in something on the ground under the pines.
She didn’t growl or bark or paw at the earth. Just stood there, tail wagging and looking in the grass.
Down the steps I went and in the fading light I saw it: Another baby squirrel, this one smaller and soaking wet.
I deduced that a hawk or owl had it by the ditch, that Rosie scared the bird away and it dropped its prey under the pines.
I could not believe this was happening as I again scooped a squirrel into my hands.
Jenna burst into tears when she saw it, a ragged little mass that was barely moving and appeared to be breathing its last breaths.
Jenna cried for 20 minutes as Pam and I tried to console her and at the same time, help this poor little guy.
He was covered in fleas, cold and wet and barely alive.
I bathed it, flea-dipped it, bathed it and flea-dipped it again and placed it in the box with a warm sock full of rice and a heating pad.
Peanut, as Jenna named it, survived the night, with Coco curling up tight against his new brother.
I warned Jenna that wild animals often don’t survive captivity, though both appear to be thriving. I also warned her that we would, in all likelihood, have to return them to the wild once they are strong enough.
For now though, we are the Squirrel Whisperers and I, stuck at home for the past six weeks, now have purpose in life.
Scott DeSmit is a general assignment reporter for The Daily News. He can be reached at email@example.com