Don't worry she's not deceased - far from it - but we no longer see her using her back garden.
You see she used to always be out there, planting things and fiddling with her rhubarb but since the 'Great Plague of Rats' she has been curiously absent - despite the fact that all the rats have long since been annihilated.
She is phobic of rats but surely a year or so of having no rats in the garden is long enough for even a true phobic to make a tentative return to the Arena of Former-Terror?
I think her life is so lacking in drama (she is, after all, married to Mr Squirrel) that she takes the smallest incident and blows into a kind of a terrifying cataclysm which threatens to finish us all of. Who needs the worry of Nuclear War or pandemic flu when you can focus on the will of small rodents to enter your garden?
After the Great Plague of Rats she kept calling round and pleading with me to secure my windows and doors with 'vermin proof mesh'. In the style of religious convert, she would proffer brochures selling green netting which, she suggested, I could put across all my doors and windows in order to stop the oncoming wave of vermin (fat lot of good that would have done - they were coming up through the floor...). 'I have seen the future and it looks furry - but if you take up this brochure and purchase you will SAVED! SAVED I CRY! And ye shall walk free amidst your vermin proof home forever more'.
Errr, thanks but no thanks.
Apart from the fact that it would look hideous (I don't want my entire house trussed up in mesh like some kind of out-sized bag of satsumas) - it would be highly impractical. If I put a screen of nylon mesh across the back door, all it would manage to capture would be my poor woolly-haired toddler who would no doubt end up thrashing around like a drag-netted tuna with me shrieking for help and trying to cut him free with a pair of kitchen scissors.
She didn't take my resistance well. In fact she gave me a scornful look and said 'well I suppose you are from the country' (the country is clearly full of the kind of people who use rat blood as aftershave and think that being gnawed to death by rodents is jolly good fun).
Having realised I truly wasn't going to order the netting she took to feeding me horror stories about rats and children and frequently reminding me that I was LEAVING MY BEDROOM WINDOW OPEN ON HOT EVENINGS and the rats (who remember, had WERE DEAD) could easily slip into my bedroom while I slept. Erm, yup, technically they could but I am yet to awake and find a dozen zombified rats swinging from my ear lobes..... (if I do, I promise I'll blog about it).
She then started to quiz me about my keeping of guinea pigs as if I would get them rehomed before they sent out a rallying cry to their distant cousins the rats and started up some kind of rat refugee camp in the garden.
Having realised that I was (once again) non-compliant with her wishes, she moved on to harassing other neighbours about potential rat magnets such as bird feeders, compost heaps, water butts (because rats love to do a good few lengths before work each morning?), piles of tyres and overgrown shrubs (why not go the whole hog and ask us to turn the entire street into a concrete waste-land daubed in rat glue with a helicopter gun-ship overhead just in case one gets through the defences?).
She even claimed that rats came to die in her driveway and she had discovered old corpses under her car. I don't know how true this is? If there is such a thing as a Rats' Graveyard I doubt it's beneath the chassis of a rusting red Escort in the driveway of a suburban terrace but who knows?
Anyway - all of this 'Rat Prevention Mania' was clearly not enough and she no longer ventures into the wasteland that has become her back garden (presumably Mr Squirrel is not up to the job of doing a bit of pruning? Actually thinking back to how long it took him to paint that fence he probably IS trying to sort the back garden out - just at the work-rate of one leaf a week....).
Of course it is possible that it's not the rats keeping her away and it's something entirely different which makes her reluctant to use her back lawn. On pondering this I had a horribly vivid recollection of the day a couple of summer ago when I leaned out of our bedroom window to shout at one of our guinea pigs.
You see we had a VERY fat guinea pig called Teddy and I could see her heading towards one of my flower beds (we used to let them out for a run around in the evening) so I shouted (at top volume): 'OI FATTY - LEAVE IT! YOU'RE FAT ENOUGH AS IT IS!'......only to see my (somewhat rotund) neighbour stand up from behind her fence, where she had been cooking on the barbeque.......... I went to go 'ohhhhh I didn't mean you!' but that just made it even more cringeworthy so I did what all brave heroes do and hid under the bed, praying she wouldn't come knocking or peering through the windows.
So maybe it isn't the rats after all?