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The squirrel that keeps coming back: Unexpected friendship brings hope for Dallas woman

Sunflower Ladd never expected to develop a bond when she saved a squirrel last fall

DALLAS — As her name might suggest, Sunflower Ladd has always had a big heart. That’s why, last fall, she agreed to take in a baby that had just become an orphan.

“I took this on with no motive other than for her to have a healthy, happy life,” Ladd said with a tear streaming down her cheek. “I love her.”

Who was this little girl she’d fallen so hard for? A squirrel she named Butterball.

Back in August, a friend called Ladd saying she’d found a baby squirrel that had fallen from a tree during a storm. Ladd, who has snakes, geckos and a cat, couldn’t leave the tiny rodent out to die.

“It is not just a squirrel,” she said. “It is a life. Every life is significant.”

Because she believes every life is significant, Ladd cared for that baby like it was her own. She nursed it with an eye dropper and kept it away from predators. That meant, most nights, letting it take shelter in her shed, which the squirrel has since taken over.

Ladd, who’s an artist, built the shed to be her brand new art studio. Now, though, there are bite marks, a nest and holes in the window screens.

“She has chewed the wiring,” Ladd said. “I have no electricity anymore. It’s made of wood, so she has eaten some walls. Several people [think I’m crazy], but that didn’t start with the squirrel.”

She admits it does sound crazy until people understand the depth of this bond.

After releasing Butterball back into the wild a few weeks ago, Ladd wasn’t sure she’d ever see her again.

Yet, every night, Butterball returns, often coming when called.

Ladd has obviously left an impression on this squirrel, but she says Butterball wasn’t the only one who has gained something.

“She needed me,” Ladd said. “And I have learned in this process that I needed her as well.”

Ladd says her relationship with Butterball has restored some faith in humanity.

She says it’s a bond that defies explanation, but an example we all desperately need.

“Anything that you care for, you will develop a love for,” she said, holding back tears. “If I and a squirrel can do this then there’s no excuse why we as people all over the place can’t do the same, can’t look at each other and say ‘your life is significant.’ It should be that way.”

If these two can bridge their differences, what’s our excuse?