Splash Kingdom in Shreveport plays host today to an unusual performer...a water skiing squirrel. It started out as a joke for Lou Ann Best's husband, Chuck, and turned into quite a career.

The original Twiggy was a baby in 1978, when she was blown from her nest after a hurricane and taken in by Chuck and Lou Ann. The squirrel went everywhere with them and their family. She'd even go on camping and waterskiing excursions with them, sometimes taking a dip in the water to cool off on a hot day.

Later, Chuck bought his daughter Lalainia a remote-controlled boat for her birthday. But friends teased Chuck that he played with it more than she did. In his defense, he told them he was learning how to use it so he could teach his squirrel how to waterski. And so began Twiggy's career as a water performer.

Lou Ann tells KEEL News that in 1997, her husband drowned while trying to save his step-father's life, and she wasn't sure what to do. That's when the flood of calls came in from people everywhere, all wanting Twiggy. So she's continued to rescue orphaned squirrels and has taught some of them the sport.

There have been eight different Twiggys throughout the years, with two on tour right now -- a male and a female. Twiggy VII is the one you'll see at Splash Kingdom today. But those aren't the only animals Lou Ann and her family have trained to water ski. There are two miniature horses, two French poodles, a black cat, an armadillo and a toad frog.

So...how DOES one go about training a squirrel? "It's like training a husband," Best jokes. "You give 'em lots of love and affection, and you tell 'em the same thing over and over." She says it takes about a year to get them trained to do something like this, and you can't train them with food. "They'll go hide it, not stick around to water ski," Best says.

But this show isn't just about entertainment. It's also about teaching kids about water safety. Best says this has sort of been her calling since her husband's death. She says it might not have happened yet, but she thinks some day...Twiggy will save someone's life. Visit Twiggy the Water Skiing Squirrel's website to read more about Best's story and her mission.

Twiggy will perform in the Splash Kingdom Wave Pool three times this afternoon...at 1, 3 and 5 p.m. The show heads to the Canton, Texas, water park tomorrow.

Twiggy VII
Twiggy the Water Skiing Squirrel/Angela Thomas

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