Jannet Talbott lives on a ranch in rural Alberta, Canada, miles from the nearest town, but she’s far from all alone. A host of animals, both domestic and wild, live on her property — and she knows that being a good neighbor means looking out for them, too.
Recently, Talbott went above and beyond to do just that.
A few weeks ago, Talbott was on her deck enjoying the sight of a squirrel having a snack in one of her open bird feeders. Several local squirrels frequent the spot, and Talbott is happy to have them — but then she noticed there was something unusual about this particular visitor.
«I could see there was something on the side of his face,» Talbott told The Dodo. «I got closer and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s a massive tooth growing out of his mouth.’»
Squirrels’ teeth never stop growing, but they are normally kept in check from use.
Somehow, this squirrel’s tooth had grown long enough to reach his eye — and it was putting his life at risk. Talbott decided she had to try to help him.
Talbott named this squirrel Bucky, and began to ponder how she might catch him. Over the weeks that followed, the problem kept her up at night. But then she had a lucky break.
«One day, I saw him in the feeder. It was like divine intervention. I just had to reach in and grab him,» Talbott said. «Once I had him in my hand, I just kept telling him, ‘I’m going to help you, Bucky. You’re going to be OK.’»
It was then that Talbott discovered the squirrel’s dental woes were much worse than she initially thought.
Several of Bucky’s teeth had a problem.
«His mouth was an absolute mess. His upper incisors were curled around and growing inside his mouth,» Talbott said. «When he ate, his teeth were rubbing on his face. He was so horrific.»
Talbott considered taking Bucky to a vet in town, but worried he’d be seen as a lost cause. So, she studied up on what she could do herself to help. Turns out, squirrels don’t have feeling in their teeth; all they needed was to be trimmed with a sharp tool.
«I thought, ‘I can do this,’» Talbott said. Bucky’s life depended on it.
«I went upstairs and got my cuticle trimmers. I wanted to have him nice and calm, so I let him relax for a bit. Then I got my trimmers, swaddled him and went to work,» Talbott said. «It took under 10 minutes. He was totally relaxed the whole time. It was kind of serious dentistry, but he was such a good patient.»
And just like that, Bucky was back to normal — and he looked quite relieved.
Fortunately, aside from the tooth problem, he appeared to be in good shape.
This whole experience was no doubt a bit perplexing for Bucky; he is, after all, a wild squirrel (and trips to the dentist aren’t something most folks look forward to). But before long, he seemed to realize it was all worthwhile.
«I took him outside, and he ran to a branch and started rubbing his little cheeks,» Talbott said. «It was like he couldn’t believe those teeth were gone. He just kept rubbing his face.»
Talbott suspected that Bucky might venture on his way now that he could live a more normal life, but he’s apparently chosen to stick around on her property.
«The next day, I saw him back in the feeder — and he had the most amazing little squirrel smile on his face,» Talbott said. «He was just so happy.»
Talbott’s simple act of kindness had changed everything.
While it’s unclear what caused Bucky’s problem in the first place, hopefully Talbott’s intervention will work as a lasting solution. She could have easily done nothing, letting nature take its course — but being kind is in Talbott’s nature, and she felt duty-bound to answer that call.
«We share the planet with animals. If there’s an animal in need that comes across my radar, I wouldn’t think twice, because there’s no better feeling helping an animal,» she said. «And if what I did for Bucky inspires someone else to help an animal in need, that is honestly a dream come true for me.»