My friends calls me squirrel. My buckteeth, fat cheeks, neurotic disposition, bushy hair, and hoarding tendencies, must of given them the idea.
While mindlessly perusing the pages of the eBay jewelry section I decided to see if I could find jewels in honor of my namesake. Imagine my surprise when this came up:
“RARE antique American 1850-80 14K gold pet squirrel collar, chain leash ring”
Intrigued I did a little research on the subject. As early as the Middle Ages squirrels were kept as pets until they went out of favor in Europe. The pet squirrel was reintroduced in colonial America and it was common to see children walking around with one perched upon their shoulder. They were easy to train, portable and according to writer Edward Topsell, “sweet sportful beasts and…very pleasant playfellows in a house.” Special tin cages were made for them, as they could not be housed in wooden ones. Little wheels were placed in them to help them exercise.
The seller added a painting by John Singleton Copley, appropriately titled “Boy with Squirrel” to the auction listing to give further credence to the use of the adornment.
I found this painting by Cosmo Alexander. Look at how smug the little fellow is; he’s like a blinged out parrot asking for crackers, er nuts rather.
I decided to follow the auction and after a couple days, this pops up on the questions area:
Q: It is beautiful and it could be what you think it is but if it is it is just for decoration. It is about as utilitarian as silly putty. If I tried to put that on one of my Guys, (North American Grey or Flying Squirrel) they would look at me like I’d taken leave of my senses, take it off, and hand it back to me. lol You can’t use a collar on a Rodent. It simply doesn’t work. It has to be a harness and even then they have to be willing to wear it. It would take them 2 seconds to bite thru that leash also. :-), Misty G
A: LOL. I’m not advocating it to be used. I actually would hate to think of someone trying to use it. I barely can stand putting my Pug in a collar. I think the world changed alot since 1850. Your email is funny though. I got a chuckle. Victorians had some strange things for sure. There is a painting in my photos that showed they certainly Did use them and how they did, I’m not exactly sure but I guess they had lots of time on their hands to train squirrels. LOL Have a great day.
Despite Misty G’s pessimism I ended up bidding on the leash and as luck would have it this darling piece of squirrel history is in my jewelry box.
Shortly after winning the auction, I took a trip to Thailand. Wandering around the stalls of a street fair we came upon the following:
Ahhh Ha! Misty G and all other squirrel leash naysayers, what proof else do you need? This adorable little fellow is being leashed with a simple thin rope. Despite its fuzziness the last photo shows our connection.