To any and every Penn State alumni, student or staff, it's common knowledge that the campus squirrels are quite friendly. Just sit down with your lunch sometime and see who comes over to join you. Or bring a bag of peanuts and find out who's your next best friend! But there's one squirrel in particular that's captured the hearts of folks all over the world. She's been featured in the Daily News, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Today Show, The Chive, bored panda, the Daily Mail, and most recently made the cover of the Penn Stater magazine. She even has her own Facebook page with over 40,000 fans! Heck, I'd be happy just to get 1000 followers! Yes, it's Sneezy the Penn State squirrel.
Having grown up here, I've made many friends with the squirrels over the years. As a college student, I remember stopping to adjust my backpack, putting my kick stand down on my bike. When I stood up, there was one sitting on top of my bike seat. I spent a few years living in Park Forest where you see a squirrel every 10 feet. We befriended a family when I was just a kid, feeding them peanut butter cracker sandwiches every morning one summer. I've read about Sneezy, I follow her on Facebook and one day, I kept telling myself, I need to meet and photograph her. Finally, this week I did. My first celebrity!
Sneezy's human friend, known as the squirrel whisperer, arranged to meet me in front of Old Main. She cautioned me that Sneezy may or may not come out, but we would try. It was a beautiful fall day, the kind you wish you could freeze and make last all winter long. The squirrels were everywhere, collecting and burying nuts, getting ready for winter. I asked Mary, Sneezy's friend, if she could recognize Sneezy right away. She said oh yes. There she is, the fat one! Sneezy's been quite busy preparing for the long cold months ahead and at the ripe age of 3 or so, she is now a mature adult. But more specifically, she told me to look for the white line between her eyes. Her winter coat hasn't come in all the way just yet, so this is what she looks like right now.
It was a flurry of activity with other squirrels coming over to eat the peanuts Mary was handing out. Sneezy doesn't like it when other squirrels come around, so she disappeared for a bit. But eventually we saw her again. She clearly trusted Mary, coming back again and again for more nuts. Mary put one of her famous hats on Sneezy, while I snapped away to my heart's delight. When Sneezy was full, it was time for a drink of water, then off to do well, what squirrels do! If I wanted more photos, I'd have to come back another day.
Mary shared lots of tidbits about squirrels with me, like how their winter coats come in starting at the tail until it reaches their noses. She showed me which trees the mom squirrels will keep their babies and what months to come look for them. She took out her cell phone and showed me the dozens upon dozens of photos she's taken of Sneezy. It's a friendship that's lasted 3 years and has captivated followers all over the world. It's clear that everyone knows who this special squirrel is. A group of students have gathered behind me, snapping their shutter buttons on their cameras. One young man says to me, we all come to join and watch with you. Clearly they are also in awe of this famous little rodent.
It's been a while since Sneezy disappeared, Mary and I engrossed in our conversation about Shaver's Creek, zoos and other wildlife. We walk off campus together, I promise to post my photos on Sneezy's page. She tells me to let her know if I'd like to come up and see Sneezy again. You bet I will and assure her that I'll be in touch.