An act of kindness towards an injured animal ended up having some very good payback for Simone Serfontein. One October while at a friends’ house in South Africa, Simone and her friend saw a baby squirrel fall out of a nest. It cried for its mother, but she never came. They wanted to help the baby squirrel, who was so young it barely had fur.
Simone told The Dodo:“We honestly did not think that this tiny thing would make it, but we needed to try and help this baby.” She added: “When we picked her up her body temperature was very cold and she was obviously very scared. Her eyes were still closed… We kept her nice and warm and she eventually stopped screaming.”
Simone took the squirrel home with her, naming her new pet Dingetjie. She and her boyfriend raised the little squirrel, giving her feedings throughout the night. Simone took Dingetjie everywhere with her since the tiny squirrel couldn’t be left alone, as she noted: “She went with me to work every day for the first three months. I normally fed her when I woke up and then get ready and then she got into my scarf, shirt, or anywhere warm close to my body and off we went to work.”
When the squirrel was healthy enough, Simone released her into the wild, explaining: “We live in the Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa and everything is wild around. There are many dangerous animals around us that she can run into and she needed to be ready for that.”
Dingetjie did just fine, despite her initial living circumstances, acclimating to the wild, and even returning to see Simone. She noted that “every day for the first few months was a bit stressful saying goodbye; I always thought that this could maybe be the last time I see her, but then every day when I came home she would be there either waiting or maybe she’d see me walking home from a tree or something and then a few minutes later she will run inside to come and say hello.”
Simone would even leave a window open so the squirrel could come in for a visit when she pleased. The squirrel reached six months and when she came to visit, Simone noticed that she had gained a bit more weight. She explained: “We knew she made a few squirrel friends but also thought that she was not yet sexually active. We then discovered that she was pregnant.”
Simone kept Dingetjie in her home during her pregnancy, creating a nest out of toilet paper. Her first baby was a stillborn, sadly, but the squirrel got pregnant again, this time giving birth to a healthy baby girl.
Simone recognized their special relationship, noting that “There is so much trust.” She added, “She allows us to look, touch and hold her baby. We never thought she would stay with us. But she chose to.”
The squirrel and her baby are welcome in Simone’s home anytime. “She’s such a smart and clever squirrel. I really think that it’s impossible to ever explain the relationship we have with her and the relationship she has with us,” Simone said, adding, “It’s honestly the most incredible thing I have ever experienced.”