If you have ever gone outside, you might have noticed that there are a lot of small brown things running around near the more wooded areas on campus. These are called squirrels, and they are a type of rodent that can be identified by their large front teeth.
Here’s a fun story about squirrels. It takes place on a very hot day in August (2022). To give you an idea of how hot it was, I had built a small solar oven out of cardboard and aluminum foil back in elementary school science camp. If I had remembered to keep that oven until the day in question, I probably could have baked a pie in it just to prove it was very hot. However, instead of baking a pie, I was walking through the heat on a shaded path in the west half of campus when I saw a squirrel lying flat in the dirt with its limbs (4) stretched out to the sides like its flying cousin, but with significantly less elevation. I don’t know about you, but I do not have a very clear mental image of what a dead squirrel should look like. When I saw the squirrel cartoonishly spread out on the ground, I assumed (pretty reasonably) that it was dead. I paid my respects and moved on.
As I walked, I began to question my inaction. I remembered how, in ancient times, traveling Buddhist monks would carry shovels to inter bodies they found along their pilgrimages. Do squirrels have karma? Was I denying this animal its proper passage? I came back along the same path and tracked down the tree where I found the squirrel. Back and forth in front of the tree I went, but all I saw was dirt and pine needles. It was gone! Already in a spiritual mindset, I assumed (pretty reasonably) that it had resurrected in a holy miracle. At this point, the Campanile began to sound; I realized that I was already cutting into the Berkeley time before my lecture, so I hurried away, still a little confused.
Later on, the image of the squirrel continued to haunt me. Had I really witnessed a return from the dead? Maybe it was a zombie squirrel now, and Chancellor Carol Tecla Christ would have to quarantine the entire campus to prevent an outbreak. That would really mess up my body clock. I just had to know. A few seconds of research later, I had my answer. I had witnessed splooting.
That entire story was fabricated (I only know about splooting because it was a trending topic a few weeks ago) but splooting is a real phenomenon in which squirrels splay themselves out on the ground in order to lose heat. It is often seen in other furry mammals as well. You may have noticed your dog or cat splooting, if you have a dog or a cat. In fact, it was recently revealed to me in a dream that every single mammal, including humans (that’s you), has a natural desire to sploot when the weather gets warmer.
So, how do you sploot? Here at the Clog, we’re all about keeping our readers comfortable, so we’ve put together a guide to this handy way to cool off. Here we go, step by step:
1. Lay down on your stomach, making contact with the floor. Don’t worry about sanitation, the floor can always be cleaned later.
2. Spread all your limbs out like you’re doing a jumping jack, making as much contact with the floor as possible.
Nice! If you followed along, you should now be splooting. Think about how this makes you feel. Stay like that for a second.
Sometimes, when I see my cats lying on the floor at home (not exactly splooting, but close), I sploot near them to demonstrate solidarity. I think it’s hygienically acceptable to do this since we have a Roomba.
Over (approximately) the past decade, a cognitive biologist named Dr. Mikel Maria Delgado has performed several very interesting studies on the squirrels on our UC Berkeley campus. Even though I have no experience in the field, they were super interesting to read. Squirrels bury 10,000 nuts per year, and have to memorize the location of each food cache they create, often for months at a time. This is almost on par with the level of memorization required to keep track of all the internships you were rejected from this year. It honestly makes a lot of sense that squirrels would have to just pancake on the floor sometimes.
If you’re still splooting you should know that you look pretty silly.