It had been years since the family had rescued the squirrel, and she had showed her gratitude ever since. Almost every day, they had found their little furry visitor waiting for attention. And then one day when the squirrel came round, she had a surprise for her rescuers.
The aforementioned squirrel is Bella, who had a rough start to life at a young age. In fact, she was discovered in 2009 at the tender age of four weeks old. Unfortunately, an owl had attacked and badly wounded her.
Bella stood no chance of surviving her wounds in the wild, but she wasn’t alone. Luckily, a resident of South Carolina called Brantley Harrison rescued her, and took Bella into her Greenville County home. Harrison was an experienced wildlife rehabilitator and happy to help little Bella.
Harrison not only gave Bella a home, but she also gave the baby squirrel a family. Subsequently, Bella shared her home with three adopted siblings called Moe, Larry and Curly. During her recovery period, Bella lived with the trio in a shelter in the Harrison’s yard.
Because of her young age, Bella stayed with the Harrisons during the winter for her own safety. Meanwhile, she grew strong on a diet of fruits, vegetables, formula and – her personal favorite treat – nuts. However, Harrison didn’t domesticate any of the squirrels.
On November 12, 2017, Harrison explained this to The Dodo in her own words. “The main objective is to return them all back into the wild so I never treated [Bella] like a pet,” she said. “She acted no different than the others.”
As a result, Harrison said that her charge behaved just like a wild squirrel. “[Bella’s] personality was not any different than any other squirrel I have ever raised,” Harrison described. Naturally, she didn’t expect to see Bella more than a few times after her release.
Therefore, when Harrison introduced the squirrels back into the wild in April 2009, it was to say goodbye. She must have felt a sense of pride when they vanished into the trees, capable of fending for themselves. Nevertheless, Harrison did see her babies again.
“[Bella] started to come back for a treat or two within days of being released,” Harrison told The Dodo. “The others came back too for a few days, which is very typical. And then, after a week or so, they usually stop coming by.”
Consequently, Harrison had no reason to think Bella’s behavior was any different – at least, initially. It soon became clear that she wasn’t like the other squirrels. Indeed, Bella seemed to have a strong bond with the Harrisons that kept her visiting almost every day.
Bella has spent the past eight years since her release visiting her rescuers, and seeking their attention. “Bella sits right at the front door waiting for someone to notice [… her],” Harrison described. And she goes to great lengths for the attention too.
“She has even resorted to jumping over to the dining room window to peer in for someone to see her,” Harrison said. But it’s not just Harrison herself who gets Bella’s company. In fact, the rest of the family have also come to love her.
Harrison told The Dodo, “My husband will be running late for something and rushes out the door to be greeted by her. And he happily runs back inside to the big bowl of walnuts we leave by the front door. [Then he] spend[s] some time with her.”
Indeed, Bella is so comfortable with the family that it has led to some excellent photograph opportunities. “Just recently, I have started putting hats on her for photos,” Harrison informed WYFF news on December 13, 2017. “And I can’t believe she lets me do it.”
Surprisingly, the family’s deaf rescue dog Cid enjoys Bella’s visits. Harrison described how he waits at the family’s screen door for the squirrel to come by. He looks forward to seeing Bella every day, but on one occasion, she came back injured.
It’s unclear exactly what happened, but somehow Bella managed to injure her foot. However, she knew exactly where to go for help, and returned to her humans. Harrison welcomed Bella back, and she dedicated herself once again to taking care of the squirrel.
Harrison gave the squirrel a temporary home in a rehab cage to treat Bella’s wound properly. Harrison also gave Bella a course of antibiotics, and thankfully, Bella recovered nicely. But before Bella was released, she had a surprise for her human family.
Unknown to her rescuer, Bella was pregnant, and she gave birth to three baby squirrels of her own. She was in the right place for it, too; Harrison was the ideal person to help look after the family. She told The Dodo it was a fulfilling experience.
“It was truly amazing to watch the baby I raised raise her own babies,” Harrison informed The Dodo. But Bella doesn’t just bring joy to her family; she’s also become a local celebrity. Harrison told WYFF, “She has changed the way many of my friends think of squirrels.”
“She is a very special squirrel,” Harrison concluded. “If Bella can teach at least one person to have compassion for all living things … then we have done what we have set out to.” It might sound nuts, but Bella seems up to the challenge.