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For eight days and eight nights, a hungry squirrel terrorized an 80-year-old woman who recently moved onto a side street of fashionable Middlesex Road, not far from Delaware Park.

Well, she wasn't exactly terrorized. In fact, she was a bit fascinated. But she did spend a lot of time upstairs in her room during that week.

"I felt he needed his privacy," Irene Wright of Dana Road said Thursday night. A woman with patience, affection and a wry sense of humor, she added, "He was trying to get out from under the cupboard. Oh, he was destructive. It's interesting what a squirrel can actually do."

Every day, she would find a pile of wood chips on her kitchen floor next to the hole in the cupboard molding near the floor. Every day she'd put another board over the hole, only to find it eaten through the next morning. And every night, she'd hear him gnawing, gnawing, gnawing.

"He was hungry, poor darling," she marvels. "That's why I went up to my room. I said, 'OK, do your own thing, but not with me around.' I mean, it was either the squirrel or me."

Her son, artist Peter Dyett, caught sight of the squirrel one day, and an exterminator was called and traps were set throughout the house.

But the squirrel was too smart.

"I was going to rent a cat," Wright said. "Or a dog."

Then he started in on the mullions, the wooden separators between the small panes on the windows.

"Unbelievable," she says, pointing to a five-foot stretch of chewed wood on the sill of the large window in the back bedroom. "He wanted out, poor darling."

This gave her an idea. Why not open the window for him to escape? But temperatures had been down in the teens and gas has become so dear. "I thought, 'Oh, well, your heating bill is high enough -- who cares?' " she says.

That did the trick.

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