Water-skiing squirrel puts on a show — and shares a message
You can teach your dog how to sit, fetch and roll over, but can you teach a squirrel watersports? Lou Ann Best can. The licensed wildlife rehabilitator, who lives in Florida, has raised several waterskiing squirrels who carry on the name “Twiggy,” after the first rescue squirrel Best adopted in 1978.
More than three decades later, the 61-year-old Best has created one of the world’s greatest squirrel legacies — squirrels that water-ski, swim and float, all while helping raise awareness about water safety, Best said.
The squirrel celebrities have also starred in national commercials, movies, TV shows and music videos, including the video for country music singer Brad Paisley’s song “River Bank.” And this weekend, Twiggy 7 and Twiggy 8 will be showing off their skills at the Maryland Home and Garden Show at the Maryland State Fairgrounds. (They will perform at
noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. today.)
The squirrels, whom Best takes on cross-country and overseas tours, started with a joke about Best’s husband being far more enamored with a remote-controlled toy motorboat than with his children. He thought of the idea of getting the squirrel onto the boat. Best trained Twiggy, which took about a year and landed her on the cover of newspapers and magazines around the country.
“There’s adults, men in business suits. There’s grandmas and grandpas. There’s people with kids,” she said. “Twiggy draws people of all ages. It’s amazing to me.”
Today, Best uses the squirrel fame to educate the public on water safety — a cause she keeps close to her heart after her husband drowned in an accident in 1997.
Twiggy’s routine, adhering to the motto, “Learn to swim, learn to float, and wear your life jacket all the time when you’re in the boat,” consists of 9-year-old Twiggy 7 water-skiing, floating and even swimming laps around the pool. Twiggy 8, who is 10 years old, mingles with the crowd.
Best said she still gets “tickled” when she sees Twiggy 8 swimming.
“The only way I can explain it is that I honestly believe in my heart that the Lord put this crazy idea into my husband’s head,” she said. “He knew how he was going to pass away. He knew he’d talk me into carrying on and doing water safety, and I feel with all my soul that was Twiggy’s purpose . ... I may never know if she saves somebody, but I have to believe that’s why.”