This young, hardworking squirrel is named Bear. He lives in Milwaukee and has been diagnosed with The Squirrel Diabeetus. But his battle with this disease has been silent because Bear doesn’t have things that we humans tend to take for granted, like being able to afford the internet, and the ability to speak English. It wasn’t until his good friend Nate St Pierre, a human who has the internet and who is fluent in Squirrel, helped me get in contact with Bear via email to share Bear’s story.
IllustrArticles: Hi Bear, tell everyone about yourself.
Bear: I just turned three years old, and the tree I’m in now (in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Lake Drive right up against Lake Michigan) is the first place I’ve lived on my own since leaving the nest six months ago. I’m about a mile away from my mom and dad and siblings, which is a good distance, but not too far that I can’t see them when I want to. I’m just a couple hundred yards from the lakefront, so when I’m up in my nest at the top of my tree, I have a beautiful view of the shoreline and the lake, with downtown Milwaukee just to the north. Originally my family line comes from the high Scottish moors. I believe one of my ancestors stowed away on an immigration boat to Chicago by way of the St. Lawrence seaway. I have family all up and down the Lake Michigan shoreline between Chicago and Milwaukee.
IA: What do you do?
B: I work for the city as an electrician (squirrels have their own rodent cities alongside the human ones), mainly running electrical lines to newly inhabited trees. Most humans don’t know this, but we squirrels often tap into the humans’ houses and run secret lines to our trees for electricity, broadband, etc. On the side, I’m something of a gamer. I don’t have internet yet in my nest (it’s expensive for us), but I have all the old video game systems and I’m a master at most of them.
IA: What’s your favorite food?
B: I’ve always loved black walnuts – they’re my favorite. When I moved into the neighborhood and discovered never-ending supply of leftover cookies (and sometimes even cookie dough), I just couldn’t help myself. My human neighbor’s house has a man and woman living in it. The woman is a baker, and she’s constantly trying out new cookie recipes. She throws away most of it, but she always throws a few extra cookies out onto the porch for me and my buddies, and occasionally even some of the raw cookie dough, which I tell you, is a delicacy that no squirrel should ever live his life without trying . . . and I have an unlimited supply!
IA: What is Squirrel Diabeetus?
B: That unlimited supply is both a blessing and a curse – I’m never hungry, but I also can’t stop myself from eating it. It’s so good. Over the past six months I’ve developed what doctors call the Squirrel Diabeetus. I guess it was originally discovered by a human named Wilford Brimley while he would take a cookie break outside his trailer during shootings for his commercials. He used to feed his squirrel friends his leftover cookies, and found that they would quickly blow up to an extremely round size and have some of the same problems that he did. So, he got to name the disease among our people, and it became “The Squirrel Diabeetus, discovered by Human Wilford Brimley”.
IA: How does The Squirrel Diabeetus affect your life?
B: My real name is Alexander but I kept eating and eating [the cookies] until I got so big that the human man who lived there started calling me Bear. When my friends heard it, they started too, and now that’s all anyone ever calls me. I’m okay with it, actually. It makes me sound tough, and that’s a rare thing for a squirrel. The disease isn’t actually that bad right now. I’ve bulked up, and the fat layers keep me super warm during the brutal northern winter, so I’m better off there than most of my friends. They may even be a little jealous. But it’s going to be a problem in spring and summer when I can’t run around or find a mate or make additions to me nest. Unfortunately, human medication doesn’t work on me, so I’ve been talking to our squirrel doctors (who are not as advanced), and they have me on an experimental treatment right now.
IA: What kind of treatments are you receiving?
B: This treatment involves me eating a strict regimen of only the smallest of the winter storage nuts, a few frozen berries, and going to hypnosis classes to try to circumvent my desire for the cookie dough. I think it may be working a little bit, because last week I only ate cookies and/or cookie dough four days of the week, though I did see it out there for five.
I’ve seen what a problem this is going to be for me in the summertime, so I’m glad I’m taking steps now at the end of winter to get better. I don’t want to have to deal with this problem when all my friends are running around having fun, going swimming on weekends and tailgating at the Milwaukee Brewer games (we tend to keep our groups hidden, but we enjoy the feast the humans drop for us).
IA: How are you paying for the treatments? Are you enrolled in health insurance?
B: I’m not sure humans know the details of how this works, but the squirrel system of government takes its lead from the human system, right down to the naming of the squirrel president once elected. I got in on President Squobama’s subsidy program last year, and am now paying affordable monthly payments that help cover the bulk of the new treatments. The insurance is more expensive and not as good as when I was under my parents, but it’s definitely helping now that I’m on my own without too much money.
IA: Thank you for your time, Bear.
B: Thank you so much for your time, Tanya!