From Boca Raton to Baghdad,
this squirrel may be the key to winning the War on Terror.
By Julia Reischel
Squirrel has your back, America.
Iraq. On the
graves of two soldiers — one British, one American — two rifles are
crowned with the dead men's helmets. In front of concertina wire,
silhouetted against a blue sky, stands a soldier weighed down with
a heavy pack. She holds her rifle across her body, her head bowed,
eyes closed in prayer. It's a picture of military
stationed in Iraq say that the fact that she is a squirrel —
wearing miniature combat fatigues and holding a tiny AK-47 — makes
her even more inspiring.
Her name is
Sugar Bush Squirrel, and she is the pampered pet of Boca Raton
resident Kelly Foxton. More than a thousand photographs of Sugar
Bush can be found on her website, SugarBushSquirrel.com, showing
her as everything from a blushing bride to the
But it's the
shots of Sugar Bush in military getups that bring in the most web
traffic. Photos of the squirrel posing with firearms, riding tiny
tanks, and uncovering terrorist weapons in Afghanistan and Iraq
have been a sensation. With almost a million hits in its first year
of operation, the rodent's website has apparently been boosting
troop morale better than George Bush handing out Thanksgiving
turkey in a Baghdad mess hall.
popular Sugar Bush snapshot by far is "Searching for Osama," a
photograph of the squirrel in a tiny turban and wearing a chilling
jihadi stare. The caption explains that Sugar Bush is undercover in
Afghanistan, searching for the leader of al Qaeda. She shoots to
Ben Ford was
so moved by the Osama photograph that he tattooed an image of it on
his calf. A 29-year-old sergeant in the Army National Guard
stationed in Iraq, Ford has used other Sugar Bush photos as his
desktop computer's wallpaper, such as one of the squirrel praying
at the graveside of allied soldiers.
has been a huge inspiration on me, and I got the tat to prove it,"
he says. The tattoo design is in memory of his best friend, Staff
Sgt. Mike McMullin, who died in an insurgent attack in Ramadi last
year. Before finding Sugar Bush, Ford struggled with how to best
remember McMullin, who was nicknamed "Squirrel" by his buddies for
his manner and odd, squirrel-like back hair. Sugar Bush was
holding an M-16, and he has a Camel cigarette in his mouth," says
Ford, who Photoshopped the picture to make it a more personal
memorial. "I got it done before I went down and met his family. I
showed them, and they were more than impressed."
just soldiers who love Sugar Bush. Foxton's e-mail inbox is
perpetually filled with letters of praise from homefront patriots
across the country.
for our ALL volunteer military, the finest and most powerful in the
world and thank God for President Bush," wrote one recently. "Keep
up the good work and may God bless you for what you are
soon after her website launched, Sugar Bush made a British tabloid,
the militant mammal starring in a two-page photo spread in the Sun.
Then she received requests for television appearances from the
Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Animal Planet. Film crews from as
far away as Sweden came calling. The producers of Charlie and the
Chocolate Factory wanted Sugar Bush to pose for a DVD extra for the
film. Foxton turned them all down.
want to betray her trust," she says.
has even attracted the attention of the enemy. "I get e-mails from
Arabs — I even sent one of them to the CIA," Foxton says. "I think
for a while they've been intercepting my e-mails anyway." According
to Foxton, this particular correspondent claimed to know the
whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, but the CIA wasn't interested in
following up the tip.
check every lead — don't fluff us off," Foxton says. "This guy has
information about Osama, and he's willing to tell Sugar
career as a military pinup set the stage for Sugar Bush's
childhood in Georgia, and a college career spent winning national
championships for baton twirling, Foxton struck it big when she was
29. She was plucked from an audience in Nashville by Hank Snow, an
aging country singer and Grand Ole Opry staple, for her singing
talent and her good looks. She signed with RCA in 1980 to cut two
albums and "a slew of singles" with Snow, and for a decade, she was
his busty duet partner, charming audiences with ballads such as
"Win Some Lose Some Lonesome."
Foxton was living in New York City and Nashville when a suicide
bomber killed 241 American servicemen in Beirut.
"I saw it on
the news and thought, 'There's got to be something I can do for all
the guys over there. '"
So she paid
to send to troops thousands of copies of a pinup shot of herself
saluting with a gun in a bathing suit, heels, and an officer's hat.
In response, she received hundreds of letters, a modest show of
media attention, and the nickname "Military Pin-Up Queen." Her
image was tacked on barrack walls from Beirut to Grenada.
Meanwhile, the singing continued. In the 1990s, wanting to broaden
her audience, she went solo, moving back east to South Florida to
work the cruise ships.
doing things for the military," she says. But instead of posing for
photos herself, she now sends soldiers shots of her pet squirrel in
drag and even takes custom orders. Sugar Bush can pose in the
"military attire of his/her choice."
Foxton is still blond and shapely, happily married and largely
retired from the singing business. One wall of her Boca Raton house
is a shrine of plaques and newspaper clippings dedicated to her
career, but now she wears a tiny golden squirrel pendant around her
neck and devotes her prodigious energies entirely to her
all-consuming passion: Sugar Bush.
owned pet squirrels ever since she was a child and had raised eight
of them before taking in Sugar Bush. Construction workers who had
felled a tree brought Foxton a 5-week-old Sugar Bush in response to
"Squirrel Wanted" ads she posted on telephone poles. After a long
year spent "earning her trust," Sugar Bush was tame enough for her
coaxes Sugar Bush into poses while her mother mans the camera. It
begins with a gentle but persistent stream of baby
to hunt for Osama bin Laden!" Foxton coos, opening the door to
Sugar Bush's palatial cage. The animal is usually skittery but
calms in response to Foxton's Southern lilt. The flow of baby talk
seems to hypnotize her so that Foxton can pick her up and slip a
tiny camouflage flak vest onto her chest and a turban on her
so good," Foxton whispers. Then, after Sugar Bush briefly freaks
out, she stays still long enough for the photo shoot to
spacious home in Boca Raton is ruled by Sugar Bush's needs. Daily,
Foxton prepares 28 fresh fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables
for the animal and brushes her twice a day from nose to tail. What
was once a wet bar is now the squirrel's linen closet, and the
foyer is a memorial to all things ceramic and
great room is now entirely converted into a studio and dressing
room. Sugar Bush is enthroned in the center, in a large cage with a
view of the swimming pool. At one end of the room, an entire wall
is lined floor to ceiling with racks of hanging plastic bags filled
with tiny squirrel outfits, coordinated for convenience. At the
other, shelves and tables are stacked high with props from photo
shoots — dollhouse-sized furniture, miniature cars, a wooden stage
housing interchangeable backdrops and floor
everything I ever wanted to do," Foxton says. "It incorporates
design, drawing, computers, communications, animals, etc. It's
religious, it's patriotic... I enjoy this more than I ever enjoyed
On the web,
Sugar Bush is also one opinionated creature. In the "Sermon
Squirrel" section of her website, Sugar Bush explains (with Foxton
ghostwriting, naturally) that she's an avid proponent of prayer in
schools and has sent President Bush a photograph of herself praying
with a passionate plea to reduce the separation of church and
state. She is antidrug and pro-family values. And, of course, she
is 110 percent behind the War in Iraq.
But what has
inflamed passions on blogs and messageboards across the Internet is
not Sugar Bush's politics so much as the state of her health. Most
people seem unable to believe that she is a real live
it all," Foxton says. "She's a stuffed animal; she's dead. The
bloggers are still having a field day with it."
attempted to pacify doubters by posting "action shots" of Sugar
Bush that show her in midleap (in a tiny karate outfit). The site
insists that Sugar Bush is a "real, live Eastern Gray
"As long as
they think she's not real, they're taken in," Foxton says with the
calculating acumen of a showman. "I get half a million hits that
But the most
criticism, by far, is from those who are convinced that Sugar Bush
is alive — and miserable.
"I think the
most controversial thing is the fact that I'm dressing up a
squirrel," Foxton says. "Just about every day, I can count on
getting an e-mail from somebody asking why I don't free that poor
e-mail, from an anonymous sender, reads: "Your kind [sic] an
asshole for exploiting that poor squirrel."
"Most of the
time, I'll answer as if Sugar Bush is writing it," Foxton says.
"I'm sure that infuriates them even more."
Animal-rights activists frequently use Sugar Bush as a
horrific example of what they are fighting against on
else find a squirrel that was 'rescued from a tree,' dressed up in
a knitted sweater, re-enacting scenes from the tsunami and
petitioning for human-rights more than a little disturbing, and
darest I say it, ironic?" writes one poster on the
simply says, "I bet that squirrel wishes he was
world's reception of Sugar Bush is better than it used to be. "The
response I get is more serious now, instead of 'die bitch, die,'"
Foxton says. "People are taking her as the icon that she
big plans for Sugar Bush. "The possibilities are endless," she
says. "I want her to be the new Mickey Mouse."
selling 2,500 copies of Sugar Bush's 2005 calendar at $10 each last
year, she has plans for a line of greeting cards, children's books,
and a line of miniature clothing for Sugar Bush's stuffed animal
called The Bushy Tail Boutique. But she's in no rush. Just as she
spent three weeks painstakingly constructing the set for a Ground
Zero photograph of the squirrel, she plans to build up Sugar Bush
from an online curiosity to an international icon.
to tell me, 'Build your career slowly and you will stay there,'"
Foxton says. Following her former mentor's advice, Foxton has
invested in a stroller rigged with a squirrel cage that she will
use to stroll outside with Sugar Bush in the Keys while on vacation
with her husband. "The idea is to get Sugar Bush comfortable around
humans — lots of humans. Offers have been pouring in for me
to take her on the set of TV shows but at this time that type of
setting would only frighten her. I will
not betray her trust and will take her into the
public arena only when she is ready to make those
As for the
little people, well, Sugar Bush will never forget
"I also want
Sugar Bush to be Boca's mascot," Foxton says of the squirrel's
hometown. One of Sugar Bush's photos depicts her standing at the
entrance to Boca Raton, clad in full hazardous-waste gear,
protecting the town from a chemical attack. Hopefully, she says,
Boca will thank its littlest patriot with all the proper