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Tuesday, December 27, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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After goodbye visit, squirrel moves on

This is a story with a happy ending.

It involves a squirrel, a litter of puppies and a woman committed to helping animals.

It began Sept. 9 when Debby Cantlon got a call about a newborn squirrel found at the base of a tree near Renton. The squirrel was small and hadn't yet opened its eyes.

Cantlon, who often takes in injured and sick animals, took in the squirrel and began caring for it. About that time, her dog had a litter of puppies, and the orphan squirrel joined the five pups and nursed with them.

But when the puppies got too rambunctious, the squirrel — named Finnegan by Cantlon — found another haven: a pocket in Cantlon's jeans hooked to the back of her bedroom door.

For three weeks, he'd climb into the pocket, roll into a ball and sleep.

When Finnegan was 8 weeks old, Cantlon decided he was old enough to be on his own and began putting him outside. He'd run around but would stay in the yard. Each night, he would scratch at the back door or at Cantlon's daughter's window to be let in for the night.

But one day when Cantlon put him outside, he didn't come back.

She didn't see him for two weeks, but then he returned with four squirrels. He disappeared again and returned Thanksgiving Day.

"He came close, but he wouldn't let me touch him," Cantlon said. "He just wanted me to know he was OK. He's wild and free and happy and doing exactly what he's supposed to be doing."

Cantlon, who lives with her husband, Maqsood Ahmed, in View Ridge, has cancer and said helping the animals is a healing activity.

"It's therapeutic for me to be able to work with wildlife and be involved in saving the little lives of animals," she said.

"Animals have always been the love of my life, so to set them free and watch them fly and join their own kind, that's what I get out of it."

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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