Yesterday, Sunday morning, I finally watched one of these squirrels die, and the event was disturbing in several ways.
I was finishing up a run, coming up along Magnolia Way as it passes by Parkmead Elementary. Up ahead, I saw a squirrel darting back and forth in the crosswalk, trying to figure out if it should go to the other side of the street or not. And, yes, the animal was in the crosswalk! The little critter was showing preternatural signs of safety consciousness -- which would prove futile considering what would happen next.
A silver sedan rolled down the hill at a normal speed. It seemed that maybe the driver saw the squirrel in the crosswalk. There was a split second pause in the car's approach, but not enough to stop the inevitable. The car's front left tire and the squirrel's body were destined to to meet.
There was a thunk and the squirrel flew a foot or two, then landed, thud, in the street. The car kept driving.
The squirrel's head for a moment seemed pinned to the pavement, while it thrust its tail up and whirled it skyward. As I approached, the squirrel, lying sideways on the pavement, picked up its head a little and dragged itself a few inches back toward the sidewalk from where it had come. The squirrel was struggling to get to what it hoped would be a safe place, out of the street and out of the way of more oncoming cars.
Another car did come rolling down the hill, and saw the little flailing animal. The car's driver slowed down and steered to the right around the squirrel.
But as I came within a few feet of the squirrel, I knew it was dying. And, I could see that it was in agony. How long would this agony last? And, then I wondered, should I end it's misery? Should I show what spiritual people call mercy?
But how? Run and find a rock and smash in its head? Could I do that? No, I couldn't. I suddenly felt useless to act on a decision that suddenly carried the weight of so much morality and humanity.
Please, die. Those were my thoughts as I stood over the squirrel, lying with its mouth, bloodied, open and gasping for breath and its dark left eye staring helplessly up.
Its torso twitched some more. Please die and be no more in pain.
Then the squirrel was still. I looked closer. It's jaw was slack, and a pool of blood was forming beneath its body. I focused on its chest, and didn't see any rise and fall of breath. I said a few more times, please be dead, please be dead, please be dead. And then it was.