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Before The Doggy Beach….In 2001…

‘Some people are just nuts — for squirrels.

This from my co-worker and gal pal Megan. As an investigative reporter, she encounters far more interesting people than I ever could hope to meet.

In 2001 I wrote a short story for the Sun-Sentinel about a South Florida woman who asked the Town Commission in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea to prohibit people from feeding squirrels. “Common sense would tell you they are a rodent, and you wouldn’t want to attract rodents,” she told her elected officials. They scoffed and sent her, um, scurrying. “I feed the squirrels. I’m guilty,” said then-Commissioner Bob Waller.

Twiggy in action

Since the story appeared, I’ve been getting, unsolicited, a regular newsletter from, of all things, squirrel lovers. “In a Nutshell” is usually eight pages long, complete with photos and headlines such as: “Baldy and His Gang — Part 5” ( a 1,200-word essay by a squirrel-feeding window washer charmed by a hoard of squirrels peering into his bucket). In the May/June issue the same author has a piece on his 1997 invitation to appear on the Rosie O’Donnell show to defend the honor of all squirrels, whom Rosie likened to “rats with too much hair” (a phrase she no doubt later employed in her feud with Donald Trump).

The newsletter is the communication vehicle for the 2,500-member Squirrel Lover’s Club, published by something called Squirrelly Productions, “a division of Cats ‘N’ Such, Inc.,” out of Elmhurst, Illinois. Cost of membership: $28 a year. (For another $9.99 you can have a DVD with 75 pictures of the “albino squirrels of Olney, Illinois.”) Club members remind each other about daylight savings time, mourn the deaths of other squirrel lovers, and commiserate over chewed screen doors.

Little known facts are shared, too. Did you know Hollywood makeup artists prefer to use brushes made from squirrel hair? The brushes give the face “an otherworldly sheen.” The latest newsletter even has a cartoon dealing with the sub-prime mortgage crisis and its impact on squirrels. (Picture a nut being thrown out of a hole in a tree.)

Not surprisingly, club members go so far as to bestow names on their favorite squirrels. Besides Baldy, the newsletter refers to Frisky, Cutie, Gray, Hector, Happy, Jazzy, Eenie, Meanie, Miney, and Moe. There’s even reference to a fictional critter, Binky — a water-skiing squirrel that’s a character in the mystery novel Death of a Six-Foot Teddy Bear. Binky presumably is modeled after Twiggy, a real-life skiing performer that is a fixture at boat shows.

Click here to read more for yourself about the Squirrel Lovers Club, including an update on Twiggy’s 2008′

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