What it’s like to fall in love with a woodchuck

September 10, 2013

This post is not written to impress, but simply is a way for me to keep hold of these memories.  It was such an amazing experience for me and our entire family.
Andy found the babies and I think he found them before they had been attacked.  (This is why I’m writing this, because even now I cannot recall all of the details.)  He had found three baby woodchucks that apparently didn’t have their mother.

For years we had a large woodchuck that lived in a hole just before getting to our woods.  We had no idea if it was male or female, however we gave him a proper name; Wood Charles.  Earlier this summer we had commented that we hadn’t seen Wood Charles in a while.  It was not long after that that Andy found the babies.  We have yet to see Wood Charles since.

If I recall, our experience started right around Father’s Day of this year; 2013. Andy and Sara were playing with the baby woodchuck(s).  There may have been only one at a time in the beginning, but I think we did know that there were at least two and maybe three.  It was a day that both kids worked at the bakery, and in that time (a few hours) all of the woodchucks suffered attacks by flies.  They were completely covered with fly larvae (maggots).  Andy washed the first one with soap and water and gave him milk through a tiny syringe.  Unfortunately, luck was not on our side and the first woodchuck died within hours of trying to rescue him.

The second one did well for a couple of days, and then turned ill.  We gave him pedia-lite through the same tiny syringe, but he died over night while sleeping in a box next to Andy’s bed.  We thought that the maggots may have actually gotten into his mouth and had affected him internally.
By the time we got hold of the third one, the kids realized that cow’s milk may be poisonous to woodchucks and that getting the maggots wet activated them and advanced the situation.  Andy painstakingly picked each individual dry fly larvae from the third woodchuck and he survived.  The first woodchuck was named Chucky, the second was Budsky and the third, our survivor, was Chuck Taylor.

As Chuck Taylor grew over the following days, Andy would take him out in the yard to eat grass in his more familiar setting and as time went on Chuck got so that he could run pretty quick.  One day while out playing, Chuck ran away from Andy and vanished into the hole in the back yard where he apparently had been born.  Andy was pretty sad and we didn’t think that we would ever hold Chuck again, maybe see him, but probably never hold.

A day or two later we glanced out the kitchen window and Chuck had come back to visit.  We gave him lettuce and held him for a while, and then Andy took him back to his home.  The day after that, Sara and I were sitting on the deck talking about if we would ever see him again and to our surprise, at that moment his little head poked up over the steps on the deck.  He had come all the way from the woods, up the steps onto the deck to see us.  I think it was that moment that I fell in love with Chuck.  A wild animal from our woods came up to the house to be with us.

There were times after that, that I would see Chuck in the morning before going to work.  I’d play with him out by the pool, and take pictures.  There were a number of times that when I would eventually leave to go to my car, that he would follow me right to my car.  I was afraid that he would get under the car, so I picked him up, took him over by where we would play, leave him there and run around the backside of the garage and around to my car so that he wouldn’t follow me.
Sara took the first video of Chuck eating strawberries, and I thought it was the cutest thing I’d ever seen.  That was when I started taking videos.  I didn’t want to take the spotlight away from Sara, but I just couldn’t help capturing some really fun videos.  Chuck never took a bad picture or looked bad in video.   He has to be the most photogenic woodchuck in the world.

One Saturday I was determined to do all of the trimming around all of the trees with the weed eater, so I put on my old clothes and shoes, filled up a jug with ice water and set out for the yard.  I made a first pass with the weed eater till it ran out of gas, so I headed back to the garage to take a quick break to take on some water then gas up the weed eater and go for it again.  As I sat down on the patio with my jug of ice water, Chuck decided to waddle over and visit with me.  He came over and I let him nibble on my fingers for a while.  It was a sunny day and we were playing in the direct sun.  After a little more playing with my hand Chuck decided to head back towards the shed.  He ended up going under the diving board at the end of the swimming pool and under it he found shade!  He immediately turned to face the pool and plopped down on his tummy.  Just about the cutest thing I think I’ve seen.  After lying in the shade for a while, for some reason he decided to start rolling around as if he was playing or trying to itch his back.  He started rolling close to the pool and I was afraid that he might accidentally fall in.  Quickly I got up and walked towards the shed and he saw me and followed close behind.  Fatal pool incident averted.

At some point at the end of July, Chuck appeared to have some new kind of larvae growing under his skin.  Tracey was able to squeeze one of these nasty little wormy things out of Chuck’s side, but there were still more that we could not get.  Andy and Tracey cleverly used the syringe that we had used to feed the first two, and used it to extract (suck) the remaining larvae out of Chuck.  We also treated Chuck with flea and tick repellant.  We were kind of worried, but he seemed to recover without any side-effects.

Several times I saw Chuck peeking in the back doors.  The doors to the deck are full panes of glass with only enough of a wood border that would allow a woodchuck to stand on his hind legs and peer into the house.  If he was on the deck and you wanted to open the door, it was completely impossible to avoid having Chuck get in the house.  He would literally squeeze down and go over the threshold and under the door at the same time.

You’d think that a wild animal would not enjoy being in our home, but apparently Chuck had been in our house enough times in the beginning that he loved coming in the house.  He did have the occasional accident that we’d have to clean up.  He’d like to hide under the china cabinet in the dining room and the butcher block table in the kitchen.  We would also play with him in the living room; he loved to scamper under the sofas.  We could sit and hold him, but he was so frisky that we had to feed him in order to keep him still long enough to hold him.

His energy gave him his unique personality; I’ve never experienced anything else like it. I cannot arrange words in a way that satisfy my overwhelming feelings for our little woodland friend.

Light is Life