Reporting Sandra McNeill
PONTIAC (WWJ) - We’ve all heard about it — a furry, little backyard creature zooming around the pool on water skis — but now’s your chance to see it in person.
This weekend, the Metro Detroit area will get a chance to see Twiggy, the world-famous water skiing squirrel, at the Home & Garden Show at the Silverdome in Pontiac.
LouAnn Best said she’s been training squirrels to water ski since 1978. It all started when she and her husband rescued a baby squirrel who was blown from her nest after a hurricane. Named Twiggy, the little furball became a regular member of the family. Then one day, Best’s daughter got a remote control boat for her birthday and her husband made a joke about teaching Twiggy how to water ski. The rest is history.
Best has perfected her craft over 27 years and is now training Twiggy VII and Twiggy VIII, both females.
“Yeah, I’m Twiggy’s mom,” Best said with a laugh. “I tell everybody it’s like training a husband; You give them lots of love and affection and tell them the same thing over and over.”
It takes a little over a year to train the squirrels, said Best, in short intervals a few times a week.
“You don’t want them to get too tired, so I’ll work with them for about 10 minutes and then I’ll let them rest for a couple hours, usually two or three times a week,” she said.
Best said you’d think the Twiggys would respond best with treats, but all that eating turns the active little critter into a sloth.
“They’ll do anything for food but my problem is when they get full, they’re going to go hide and they’re not going to stick around and water ski,” she said.
When they’re not performing, the Twiggys live in Best’s Florida home, where they’re potty-trained and even have their own room.
“They like to wrestle and play with your fingers, and they like little back rubs and tummy rubs,” she said.
Aside from performing, Best said the Twiggys’ other important duty is promoting water and boat safety.
Best said her squirrels have performed all across the world, in the U.S., Canada, Bermuda, Paris, France and Germany. She has appeared in numerous books, magazines, newspapers, and on television shows all over the world.
Best and her husband have also trained other animals to water-ski, including two miniature horses, two French poodles, a black cat, an armadillo and a toad frog. They even taught a squirrel named Ollie to jet-ski.
Keep up with Twiggy on her website: www.twiggyskis.com.