Vicki Wentz: A squirrel, a mole and a raccoon walk into a bar ...
I know that I’ve addressed wild animal issues before, but as a victim of repeated furry encounters, I feel it necessary to document these incidents fully, in the event that I am found one evening deep in the woods, covered loosely in leaves, surrounded by acorn shells, my cold, dead hands still clutching a bushy tail.
A few days ago, my dog Kasey cornered a squirrel on our back deck. But, instead of running away, this fuzzy, suicidal terrorist raced full-speed at Kasey and leaped into her mouth in an attempt to martyr itself while choking my dog, thereby “taking one for the team.” Luckily, Kasey is more chicken than dog, and after freezing in horror for a split second, she spat out the squirrel and ran behind me. The little creature collapsed in hilarious woodland guffaws, then raised a tiny fist of squirrel solidarity, and scampered away.
Then came the moles, burrowing tunnels in our yard so deep they could swallow a Honda Civic, and every solution I tried – most of which might as well be called Purina Mole Chow – was simply an entertaining challenge for the mole kingdom. Kasey astounded herself by digging one up and holding it for three seconds before racing to the birdbath to gargle. The woolly critter snickered as it disappeared – obviously another fiendish trick.
One warmish day, I was sitting at the kitchen table grading papers – which is all I ever do, day and night, night and day, forever until I die, but who’s complaining – and suddenly I caught a glimpse of movement out on the deck. And, as I live and breathe, waddling slowly up the steps onto the porch was an absolutely adorable, cuddly, chubby little raccoon.
My first instinct was to rush out, scoop it up and snuggle with it, perhaps to perch it eventually on my daughter’s old bed, among her discarded stuffed animals. My second instinct, fortunately, was to berate my first instinct and warn myself that it probably had rabies or cholera or something, and would undoubtedly kill me in a horrible fashion, so I stashed the dogs in another room, and just watched it explore. I’d washed a small rug earlier, and hung it out to dry in the sunshine, draped over the deck railing, and little Rocky thought it made a dandy tent because he went under there and set up camp.
I finally called the Animal Control office, where a woman listened patiently as I fretted, and then said, and I quote, “Well, shoot, Ma’am,” (and, I thought that Ma’am stuff was particularly uncalled for – I was already in a vulnerable state) “it sounds like he’s just havin’ some fun. Raccoons do like to play, you know.”
“Of course, I knew that,” I snapped. “Who doesn’t know that?” (I totally didn’t know that.) So, I watched the little guy “play” for about 10 minutes, until he finally got bored and wandered off in search of a good woodland matinee.
Last week, when we all awoke to that sparkling, ice-covered world, I hadn’t even gotten out of my pj’s before I heard the dogs barking outside, looked out the window and watched a chipmunk scamper by, followed closely by Kasey and Gabby. I didn’t realize how deceptive the ice was until the chipmunk took a hard left, and my poor girls just went sailing right by as it put its little thumbs in its little ears and waggled its little fingers. I’m sure I heard a tiny, “Nyah nyah, nyah nyah!”
Then, one day in the mountains, some friends and I found Gabby furiously barking up a tree at a reddish-colored mountain squirrel, who’d evidently gotten a telegram from his Chapel Hill cousins with instructions on torturing our animals. Suddenly, the squirrel leaped onto the neighbor’s roof, where it stopped, threw its little head back in a triumphant chortle, and took a header into the gutter, thrashing and plunging his way down the downspout for a good 10 feet before stopping just above a bend in the pipe, where it was apparently blocked.
We could hear it trying desperately to climb up, as Kasey and Gabby barked vicious, gruesome threats – safely separated from it, of course, by that quarter inch of metal. As any self-respecting Italian woman would, I burst into tears and ran to get a saw, determined to hack my way through the gutter if necessary, but before I could, a neighbor was able to pull one of the sections below the squirrel apart, and then reached a gloved hand up, grabbed the tail and yanked him out.
He looked at us all – wary humans and stunned canines – for a split second, then raised his hand in a small salute, and disappeared. I have a feeling we’re square now – the pest kingdom and I.
Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker. Readers may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her website, www.vickiwentz.com.