Pet squirrel accompanies owner everywhere, even on motorcycle

Zipper, wearing his red helmet, climbs over a motorcycle before he goes for a ride with owner Suki Mixson. Buy this photo

The way Suki Mixson sees it, every squirrel needs a nut, and she’s Zipper’s.

The rodent has been her constant companion for five years, ever since the night she was on her way to see a band called the Squirrel Nut Zippers and met a man too inebriated to drive.

She gave the guy a ride home, and his son was so grateful that he rewarded Mixson with a baby squirrel that cried every two hours around the clock, wanting to be fed from a bottle.

“That was better than if he’d given me a $100 bill,” said Mixson, who has owned rats, possums, raccoons, snakes, giant lizards and a pot-bellied pig.

It didn’t take long for Zipper to become the queen of Mixson’s house, which also includes three cats and a dog.

Mixson said the squirrel has had a chance to live in the wild but prefers the domestic lifestyle. She sleeps in Mixson’s bedroom, roams the house freely and rides on Mixson’s motorcycle with her.

“I’ve always ridden, and I’ve had a cat and a rat that used to ride with me,” said Mixson, who lives in Ardmore subdivision. “It was just natural to me that Zipper would ride, too.”

Zipper first started riding along on Mixson’s bike when she was so small that she could fit in her shirt pocket.

Now she sits in the seat of honor, on a pillow right behind the windshield.

Mixson, who has a sticker on her van that says, “I kissed a squirrel and I liked it,” a nod to the Katy Perry pop song, takes Zipper along nearly everywhere she goes.

“We get great and quick service at the McDonald’s drive-through,” she said. “The girls there love to see her, but then they practically throw the bag at me, like, ‘Here’s your food.’ ”

Wearing a little helmet made from a child’s toy and a pet leash, Zipper climbs on Mixson’s motorcycle and takes her perch whenever she gets close enough to do so.

“She will actually get on somebody else’s bike, too, and sometimes that’s a problem,” Mixson said. “She’s been completely comfortable riding from the get-go.”

Zipper doesn’t have any other tricks, and Mixson said she’s never considered putting her on waterskis like Twiggy, the world-famous late-’70s novelty act.

“That’s been done,” she said. “Besides, it’s actually not that hard to do because squirrels don’t really like water so of course they are going to stay on the skis.”

But Zipper has not been without controversy either. A few years ago, she accompanied Mixson to a bar and bit a patron who tried to touch her. The pair wound up in court, where Mixson was required to get a wildlife rehabilitation license to keep her pet and Zipper was sentenced to three months’ house arrest.

“I was just waiting for them to bring out a little ankle bracelet for her to wear,” Mixson said.

One day she may get notoriety of a more positive sort. Mixson, a medical courier by day, said she has started writing a children’s book based on Zipper’s life.

“Squirrels in captivity have about a 20-year lifespan, so we should have plenty more years together,” Mixson said. “I’d say our relationship is one of unconditional love.”

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or www.facebook.com/brindge.

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