I miss old Stretch. For a long time, he shared our dog Cody’s fenced in play area. He would challenge our Spaniel to a good chase, and at the last second, scamper up the majestic Pin oak, leaving Cody to acknowledge defeat at the paws of a squirrel once again. When Cody was indoors, Stretch made himself at home, foraging in the play area, and resting amid the tree’s branches.

One day, I watched an amazing communication between the two of them. Cody stood on the deck and spied Stretch on his way to his favorite Pin oak. Suddenly Stretch stopped, stood on his hind legs and faced Cody. If actions could speak, he asked Cody, “Well, are you going to chase me or stare at me?” He took a few steps and asked Cody once again. I do believe Cody responded, “Not today. My hind leg is giving me fits.” If squirrels could shrug, Stretch did, before he climbed the tree.

Stretch acquired his name when we hung a bird feeder on a low branch of our Crab apple tree in our front yard. He used his hind legs and tail to cling to another branch while he stretched twice his body length to reach the bird feeder and gobble up all he could.

Still, Stretch was considerate of other critters. He never chased hungry birds away, and sometimes left the feeder to their eager beaks. His antics spilled feed onto the ground and so birds feasted while he stuffed his cheeks.

One day, Stretch almost bought the farm. Out of nowhere, an owl swooped down to grab his squirrel lunch, but the little guy was too fast for him by a split second. Other than an occasional raptor threat, Stretch rested and played in the fenced area, explored beyond the fence, and ate his full in the front yard. After we lost Cody, Stretch explored the backyard deck with no fear of Spaniel attacks. We enjoyed watching his antics as he climbed up and down on the chairs and table.

And then one day, there was no squirrel playing in the back yard. Only birds, and a few greedy chipmunks dined at the feeder.

We never saw Stretch again. A juvenile squirrel turns up occasionally, but it’s not old Stretch. I’m glad he lived large in our yard for as long as he did. I miss the little guy.