Jeff Longo was wandering in the intense Florida heat when he saw a tiny ball of fluff on the sidewalk. What’s more, then and there, despite having no experience of rearing animals, he vowed to nurse the poor baby back to health.
This took place in 2013 on the sizzling streets of Tampa. Longo, a Florida native, thought that the little thing didn’t look good, and he knew that the unrelenting sunshine was taking its toll.
Indeed, Longo later recounted how the helpless baby was “half-dead” when they first met. And so, despite having no clue even as to what the animal was, he decided to take it back to his home in St. Petersburg.
Consequently, Longo christened the critter Biscuits and began to hand-rear her himself. Clearly, then, the first order of the day was to give the adorable and tiny creature, which was just over an inch in length, some major TLC.
However, without an inkling of even which species Biscuits belonged to, Longo didn’t have the first idea about how best to raise her. So, this being the 21st century and all, he began to research his new-found friend online.
First, Longo went to Reddit to ask the website’s online community for help. However, most of the responses were from people telling him, simply, that there was no way he’d manage to raise Biscuits on his own. Undeterred, though, Longo continued his research and eventually discovered the answer he was looking for.
It turned out that he was going to be looking after a southern flying squirrel. Naturally, this species of squirrel usually resides in forests and woods, using trees as their habitat. They furthermore survive on a diet of nuts, seeds, fruit and insects as well as eggs and birds.
The gliding rodents are nocturnal, and young squirrels tend to stay with their mothers until they are at least two months old. Since Biscuits had somehow become separated from her family, then, it was now down to Longo to fill her mother’s shoes.
So, for two months, Longo took Biscuits everywhere with him – even to work. He even bottle-fed her with a mix of puppy formula and heavy cream.
As each day passed, Biscuits grew bigger and stronger, until she eventually became a healthy adult squirrel. In addition to getting the gift of life, though, Biscuits had also, again thanks to her encounter with Longo, gained a new family.
Indeed, alongside her surrogate mother, Biscuits gained some four-legged family friends – in the shape of Longo’s dogs. That said, given their difference in stature, Longo admitted that he had to “watch them so they don’t accidentally squish her.”
Unfortunately, as she was hand-reared from such an early age, it is unlikely that Biscuits will ever be returned to the wild. However, she found plenty of things to jump from in her new home. “She runs around me like I’m a big tree… then jumps on things and then jumps back… gets excited… starts chirping… rinse and repeat,” Longo revealed.
Although things have run smoothly on the whole, Longo admitted that he once thought he’d lost little Biscuits. “When she first started becoming mobile, she escaped… I found her in the bathtub in the morning,” he revealed.
Despite her naughty nature, though, Longo is smitten with what he describes as his “little fluffball.” He explained, “She has a big cage and semi-free reign of the house when I’m available to supervise. She wouldn’t last five minutes in the wild now. She is super friendly to people and not afraid of animals.”
And it looks like Biscuits has certainly made herself at home. She can often be spotted hanging from her comfy hammock or chilling in her favorite spot – Longo’s top pocket. The pair can expect to have a long and happy life together, too; flying squirrels can live for up to a decade in captivity, after all.
Plus, after Biscuits was back to full health, Longo returned to Reddit to prove his doubters wrong. In fact, he posted a series of photographs charting Biscuit’s recovery and showing off his parenting skills.
In addition, Longo reminded Reddit users of the day he met Biscuits, writing, “I posted pictures on Reddit that day and had a bunch of know-it-alls tell me she would die, because I am not an animal rehabber.”
“Well, Biscuits is about three months old now and is super awesome… and healthy,” he continued. “Her favorite food is pecans and she enjoys jumping on everything and terrorizing the dogs.”
His triumphant post had many Reddit users eating their words and many others giving Longo a pat on the back for his amazing achievements. Most of all, though, people couldn’t help but get excited about Biscuit’s sheer cuteness.
“From now on it is my life’s ambition to have an adorable animal living in my shirt pocket,” one user wrote. Another suggested, “Everyone should have a pocket squirrel sidekick.” Who knows? It might catch on.
Sometimes, however, you don’t need to venture as far as Jeff Longo to find an animal that’s looking for some TLC. Indeed, when this anonymous good Samaritan arrived home at his apartment in New York, he found a sweet little creature had nested on his bed.
All sorts of critters get inside people’s homes to avoid outside disturbances, but this particular visit was special. There, on the bed, sat the most precious surprise hidden under a pillow: two animal babies nestled on the duvet. But what was their discoverer to do with them?
One of the babies is now known as Little Thumbelina, and she doesn’t just have a name right out of a fairy tale. In fact, she has an origin that sounds just like one too. But her story is true, and it begins on a chilly morning in March 2016 in New York City.
A construction crew working in the city that day actually destroyed a nest belonging to Thumbelina’s mother. This left the creature homeless as a result. However, the expecting mommy’s survival instincts led her to an alternate birthing spot.
To be more precise, the mom-to-be climbed inside a 10th-story apartment through an open window. And in the warmth and comfort of that room, she had two little pink daughters. Then she set about remaking her nest to keep the newborns safe.
The apartment’s resident was out when the mom visited, of course, but he saw her handiwork when he returned. Twigs, leaves and pine needles covered his bed, after all. Yet the biggest surprise was hiding under his pillow in the form of two baby eastern gray squirrels.
And although the anonymous man had no idea how to help the squirrels himself, he knows someone who does. So he subsequently called Christina and Michael Reyes, two animal rehabilitators working in NYC. You could say the wife-husband team have just a little past experience in squirrel care.
In fact, Christina has cared for orphan squirrels for ten years. Michael – a high school teacher by day – also assists his wife in her duties. So the pair went out to try and help the squirrel babies reunite with their mother.
But just two hours after their birth, the babies’ mother was already hesitant to reclaim them. It would seem that the rescuers’ presence – and their actions to save her offspring – frightened her. Christina explained as much to the Daily Mail on November 6, 2018.
“She kept bringing in nest building materials, but she wasn’t taking her babies back,” Christina said of the momma squirrel. This was despite the rehabilitators’ best efforts to convince her otherwise. And just hours later, the adult squirrel stopped visiting completely, and a tragedy followed.
Yes, one of the little babies unfortunately passed away in her mommy’s absence. But the Reyes couple took on the remaining sister, naming her Thumbelina after the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. The rescuers intended to raise Thumb until they could reintroduce her to nature.
“Almost all squirrels we take in are rescued and released into the wild,” Thumbelina’s official blog explains. “But Thumbelina was a special case.” It seems that the unique circumstances of the baby squirrel’s birth and the subsequent chain of events had had an effect on Thumbelina.
The blog continued, “Due to an abnormal birthing season and the passing of her sister, little Thumb grew up all by herself and did not learn to interact with other squirrels. By the time the normal birthing season had arrived, Thumbelina was already passed the point of bonding with her kind.”
Because of this, the Reyes pair took little Thumbelina to a veterinarian specializing in wild animals. The vets then determined that the squirrel’s natural habitat was too dangerous for her. Instead of opting to euthanize the baby, though, Thumbelina’s rescuers wanted to give her a chance at life.
And so the Reyes family decided to adopt Thumb as a house squirrel, and it’s probably fortunate that they did. It sounds like she would have had a potentially short life outside the safety of a human home, after all. And Thumbelina isn’t what you’d call a squirrel’s squirrel.
“When we tried to introduce her to other squirrel babies, she isolated herself,” Christina told the Daily Mail. “She curled up into a ball, and she wanted nothing to do with them.” Thumb doesn’t move like the other squirrels, either.
“She walked on the ground,” Christina continued. “She didn’t like to climb or jump.” In addition, Thumb’s blog recounts how her development was always slow compared to other squirrel babies. Instead of opening her eyes after four or five weeks, for example, it took Thumbelina closer to nine.
“She’s afraid of everything,” Christina added. “We brought her to the park, and she acted like it was a haunted house. She doesn’t like the cold. She just huddles herself into a ball. She’s not outside squirrel material.” Regardless, her human mommy and daddy think she’s perfect.
So instead of looking after Thumb doing squirrely things, her parents spend their time simply showering her with affection. And Thumb certainly enjoys cuddles with Mommy and Daddy. She even watches their TV and has a rich (if expensive-sounding) diet of arugula, sweet peas, kale and avocado.
“I love Thumbelina so much,” Christina admitted. “My husband and I knew that we never wanted children, [but] Thumbelina is our baby. She’s my little best friend; every day I look forward to spending time with her. When I’m feeling low, she comes over and snuggles with me.”
But while Thumbelina isn’t interested in the company of other squirrels, she’s still doing her part for them. “Thumbelina is now our little ambassador squirrel,” her blog explains. “She helps us to teach people how important it is to respect and be kind to all wildlife and spread the message, ‘Each little life is big to the one living it.’”