One day, while Simone Serfontein was walking home, she saw a squirrel fall from a tree. She rushed to its side; the creature was cold but still alive. Simone decided to take it home with her because if she didn’t, she figured it would die if left unattended.
“We honestly did not think that this tiny thing would make it, but we needed to try and help this baby. I did not really know anything about raising a baby squirrel and had to do a lot of research; I never knew that raising a squirrel could be this hard.”
The little animal needed constant care. She had to be fed every few hours and had to be kept warm at all times. Simone named her Dingetjie.
“She did not like the idea of being in a cage at all. It was only a matter of time until she refused to sleep in the shoe box and preferred the bed with me.”
It’s no surprise the squirrel and Simone soon became inseparable. Dingetjie had to accompany her everywhere because she still needed constant care and she couldn’t be left alone. Simone would carry her in her shirt or on her shoulder.
“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.”
Simone was happy to see Dingetjie’s health improving, but she knew she couldn’t keep her with her forever. It was time for her to return to the wild where she belonged. It wasn’t easy letting her go, but Simone knew it was the right thing to do.
She worried whether Dingetjie would survive. But she needed to give her that chance. On the day she released her, Simone was nervous yet hopeful. As much as she enjoyed having Dingetjie with her, she wanted her to have a good life in her natural environment. She set Dingetjie free in her garden. The squirrel took to her new home in the wild well.
“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.”
She noticed Dingetjie was gaining weight. Then she didn’t come around for awhile. Simone figured Dingetjie had found a mate of her own and was happy in her own home.
“We thought she left, and because she was pregnant, she might have decided to be wild after all. But that was not the case.”
She returned when it was time to have her baby. She wanted back inside the house. Simone brought her in and made her a nest. Soon, Dingetjie went into labor. Unfortunately, this didn’t go well.
“We had to assist her during birth as she fell asleep and did not have any energy to complete the process.”
Sadly, the baby squirrel was stillborn. Dingetjie returned to the wild. About a year later, she came back to Simone’s home, again hoping to be let inside. she was pregnant once more. Simone couldn’t help feeling anxious as Dingetjie labored to birth her baby. Things went much better this time.
She had a healthy baby girl. Simone was even allowed to hold her.
She described what it felt like to have this trust with a wild animal. “There is so much trust, she allows us to look, touch, and hold her baby. I really think that it’s impossible to ever explain the relationship we have with her and the relationship she has with us. It’s honestly the most incredible thing I have ever experienced.”