1,800 miles: The Chipmunk Daze

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I write this as my dad is spending day five in the hospital for some pretty serious stuff.  Seeing people  (or animals) I love hurting and suffering is not something I cope with or handle well, so I thought perhaps reminiscing on my Chipmunk Daze would be a welcome distraction. (Above: Dwight+Poppy pondering life, blueberries, and cashews; below: having a fairly serious discussion with my two buds; Dwight ends his dump truck shift for the day)

I was recently graced with the presence of the cutest baby chipmunks in all the land.  I am so happy that momma must have intuitively known my car was a safe haven for any and all animals.  “Hey hey! This looks like a grand place to pop out not 1,2,3,4 but FIVE little chipmunkies! ” Animals know, and I wish I had that instinct. Could have probably made some things a lot easier for me in the past.  Rule of thumb: Listen to the animals. They’ll give you the best truth and the most realistic outcome. (Below: D+P taking the snuggle factor to the highest; Poppy testing the cute limits in a toilet paper roll)

It took me a minute or a month to put it all together, but 5 baby chipmunks were born and lived in my car for about 5 weeks.  Dare I saw that they even thrived in my car for that time. They traveled with me for about 1,800 miles (!!!!) EIGHTEEN HUNDRED MILES, and through three states, monsoons and extreme heat. I of course, at the time, was unaware that they had claimed my air filter and engine as their home. 1800 miles! What the what! (Below: Dwight in his most-adorable early morning yawn. This made me tear up every day. A little stretch, a little yawn;  D+P practicing for some gymnastics thing) 

It’s a bit of a miracle that they all were healthy and no one was hurt, also a bit of a miracle they did not seem to eat any wires. Thanks, little babes! I assume mom must have been in and out nursing them, because none of them were underweight or unhealthy. I’m not sure what the situation was because I camp for a week at a time for work,  and then I go home for a week, and work is about 100 miles from my house, so I am back and forth pretty often and I’m pretty sure mom was not along for the ride(s). There is some confusion. Were baby chipmunk bottles left behind? A milk mother? Did Mom Munk know and overfeed them? There are questions.  But luckily, all were past the age of nursing when they made themselves known.  (Below: Poppy making me almost throw up from cuteness;  Dwight + Pops asking for more blueberries. Mmmm, antioxidants) … On a chilly and dreary (but welcome) monsoon-y afternoon, I noticed an adult run out from underneath my car. I didn’t think much of it because of the weather. 10 days or so later, I drove to Salt Lake City from northern New Mexico.  I had to bring my car into a mechanic while I was up there (for reasons unrelated to chipmunks), and learned that my filter had been annihilated – so much that the kid who worked there was appalled and made me look at it and told me he wanted to charge me extra.   (Below: Poppy figured it was time to learn to drive the dump truck; Dwight assesses Life On a Human Shoulder)

I still didn’t think a whole lot of it because eh, I park my car at a campsite half the month and mice and rodents and all that jazz…it happens. But then at some point I would hear some very audible little scuttling sounds that were short lived. I just mostly ignored it because I also sleep in my car half the time for work, and am possibly the lightest sleeper in the world, and no little chip chip noises were waking me up in the middle of the night….Then a couple weeks go by and I hear a little squeak at 7pm.  Hello to another couple squeaks and I open my glove box and HELLO to an itty bitty chipper. (Below: Chipmunk Number One making his debut in my glove box;  welcoming Chipper Number Two to the Great Wide Open World)

I got the little friend out with the gentle coaxing of a spoon and my pillow case and put him a perfect chipmunk spot.  I came back to my car relieved I finally figured out what was going on but wrongly assuming there was only one.  Figured I should check just in case and when I opened my glove box again there were THREE more munkies back by the filter. Over two hours I managed to get two more out and put them near their sibling. At that point it was going to get dark soon and I didn’t want to put the last one out in the night time, so I went back to my campsite. I was headed home the next morning though and wasn’t able to get him out then either.  So I drove the 1.5 hours home and at 7 pm (their most active time), I went to my car to assess the situation. (Below: Chipper Number 3 demonstrating cuteness. Be like Chipper Number 3)When I opened my glovebox I heard that adorable squeak, but it wasn’t coming from my car. I turned around and little dude (Dwight) was sitting by my front door staring at me!!  He then ran into my backpack that I keep on my porch.  !!!! More exclamation marks!!!  He just sat there squeaking and let me pick him up, so I set him up with some blankets, toys, food, and water in a box.  I wasn’t going back to work /where the chipmunks were from, for a week, so I planned on watching him until then. Dwight was pretty excited about the heap of nuts I gave him. (Below: Dwight overlooking his domain and dreaming the good dreams)The next day, I was unloading my car and when I opened the front passenger door, there was THE FIFTH chipmunk on my floor mat. She (Poppy) was drinking from my leaking nalgene bottle and her little head was all wet.  I had no idea there was a fifth munky baby. I picked her up and put her in with Dwight, who promptly started bathing and snuggling her. I did not die of cuteness, but I almost died of cuteness.  (Below: Dwight + Poppy asking for more cashews and thinking it’s hilarious to put blueberries in the water bowl; The sweetest snuggles)

Dwight and Poppy had a happy little vacation at my house for about 12 days. Their release was delayed because of some monsoons – I wasn’t about to put them out in floods on their first day in the Great Wide Open. They loved chewing on the antler I gave them, playing on the dinosaur toys, snuggling with the turtle stuffed animals.  Pumpkin seeds, cashews, and blueberries were their favorites.  I didn’t handle them unless I was cleaning their blankets or box – this took every ounce of willpower, but I did need a few photos with my little buddies. (Below:  Poppy sleeping the sweetest of sleeps;  Me and Poppy- she loved the copper ring)

Dwight and Poppy had completely different personalities. Dwight was a bit more animated and personable, and vocal, and would always come out when I came into the bathroom. Poppy was a bit more hesitant and shy, and so incredibly sweet. Humans disregard animals often, especially rodents, I think, as a nuisance or problem. We do not value them as the sentient beings that they are.  This is a disgusting and inhumane and inhuman mentality.  Really, we are all one and we are no better than them, and we don’t deserve anything more than these baby chipmunks: respect, love, and kindness. It’s simple yet we make it so damn difficult.  (Below: Poppy’s sweet face; Saying ” This is not goodbye, but see you later” to Dwight)

I’m a bad biologist because I was not concerned about what species they are. Either Least or Colorado chipmunks I believe. My goal was just to fatten them up, give them love, and keep them safe until I could release them.  I’m still blown away they traveled almost 2,000 miles with me without harm. I released Dwight and Poppy at sunrise on a perfect and idealistic New Mexico morning. They are close to where their siblings are and a place I can go back and say hello. I scattered a few pounds of blueberries and nuts in the general area in case they needed a little easy caching right away.  (Below: Dwight and Poppy’s new home; Pumpkin Seed Snarf-fest 2021)  

Of course I didn’t bawl my eyes out. That is definitely not a thing I’d ever do.  Animals, wildlife or domestic, have always been a healing source for me.  I become attached within moments. I remember this from single-digit age when rescuing baby turtles in the road was my life’s mission.  I am confident that animals know who will take care of them and who they are able to trust.  This Chipmunk Daze I’ll never forget, and their presence in my life, especially at that particular time, was needed and welcome, and I thank them for helping me and being there for me.  (Below: A Sunday morning buffet; Dwight watching Poppy through my phone! He loved the phone. Very strange!)

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