Friday, January 19, 2007

Adventures in Homeownership - Squirrel Edition


There was a squirrel in my fireplace.

I'm in my office doing my normal morning e-mail check and working on a couple documents, when I start hearing an unusual amount of noise from the living room. Usually this means the cats are wrestling, and if they make enough noise I'll go make a loud noise to startle them into stopping so I can get some work done, but these noises involved clanks and clangs that I could not exactly place.

When I get into the living room, I see Grey Cat in guard position. Orange Cat is too, but much farther back from the fireplace.

Before I finish wondering, "What is this all about?" I hear skittering noises from the fireplace.

Oh. Crap.

There is wildlife in my fireplace.

I couldn't tell exactly what it was -- I couldn't SEE it because of the sun reflecting off the glass doors on the fireplace -- but I was pretty sure it was either a squirrel or a very noisy and panicked bird. And yes, people, it was not in my chimney -- it fell THROUGH the flue, which I must have accidentally left open, all the way into the actual fireplace.

So I close all the blinds and get a flashlight and get down on my knees in front of the fireplace (first ensuring that no little critter could manage to bust out of the glass doors, latch onto my face, and give me rabies, comedy-movie-style), and indeed, there's a squirrel in there. If you look real closely at that heavily-doctored picture on the left, you can see his outline reasonably well. I couldn't get a good shot because there wasn't enough light, but the flash made too much reflection, and there was NO WAY IN HELL I WAS OPENING THE GLASS DOORS.

Panic! Panic! Panic! It takes me like two solid minutes before I manage to find the number for animal control, which is the same thing as PAWS, but I didn't know that, because I've never needed an animal controlled before.

"In the chimney or in the fireplace?" the nice lady at PAWS asks me.


"Good, we can do that. We'll be right over."

So I pace, and wait, and pace, and panic, while the squirrel, poor thing, gets more and more panicked in my fireplace. In a sign of an unfortunate level of adulthood and misplaced priorities, I start cleaning the living room before animal control gets there so I won't be embarassed by my disorganized stack of newspapers. The cats, having ascertained the squirrel can't actually get at them, go back and forth between being bored and being fascinated.

Finally, animal control man, right, arrives. "I'll try to snag him," he tells me, "but usually when they're panicked, what works best is letting them get a whiff of fresh air and go right out the door." Unfortunately, my first floor is open plan. The cats get locked in the bathroom, the one closeable first-floor door gets closed, and the front door is stood wide open. I stand up on the first step because the ONLY thing worse than a squirrel flying at my face and latching on to it would be a squirrel running over my bare toes. Which happened to me once, only with a chimpmunk, and I'm still not over it.

At no point did it occur to me to put on shoes. Clean the living room before animal control arrived, yes. Put on shoes, no.

Animal control man goes squirrel fishing with one of those long grabby things that I use to fish my newspaper out of the bushes and animal dudes use to catch wild things that might bite. He snags him a couple of times, but the squirrel keeps getting away. And then the moment of horror comes -- the squirrel runs out into my living room.

And because this was a squirrel dumb enough to fall down a chimney, this is also a squirrel too dumb to find the front door. Instead, he runs into my dining room, skitters around on the floor, and then leaps to the dining room window and starts trying to climb up THAT. (I was not quick enough to get a picture.)

Finally, with animal control man herding him, he SHOOTS out the front door and up the 60-foot hackberry tree, sans a portion of his tail that was lost in the fight. (That's just some of the fur there on the left.)

Peace is restored to the McGee household. If you're on my block and see a squirrel missing half its tail? That's my unwanted and fortunately evicted houseguest.


HeartShadow said...

Admit it. you thought you put on shoes. You just didn't want squirrel-cooties getting on your collection. :D

I'm glad you've been rescued!

knight in dragonland said...

For such an environmentally conscious individual, you sure aren't too fond of wild critters, E.M. Not up close and personal, at least.

City girl. Heh.

Chef Kevin said...

Funny to read story, but I'm sure not funny for you. I had friends who live in "ruralish" EP that left their side garage door open. When they got home, they opened the big garage door and low and behold, the AFLAC duck (or a cousin)! Had got into the garbage and pooped all over the place. Not as scary as your situation, but funnier than hell. I'm just picturing the big garage door going up and the duck just standing there going "AFLAC!!"

Anonymous said...

After growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, my husband thought it would be cool to live in a rural community. At the time our house was 75 years old and a money pit. I found that even though I loved our kitties and dog, I did not love it when we had inside visitors like birds and bats. We know live in a very tame area of Peoria! The birds are welcome to nest on our property as long as it is OUTSIDE of the house!

Loved your story and could totally relate.

Josh Harris said...

You blog should be voted best blog for the fact that you can write a story and put right there in your living room. I second Kevin's comment, funny for us, probably not for you.

mapgirl said...

Do you listen to the NPR show "This American Life"? (If not, you should.) There was a HILARIOUS installment called Squirrel Cop ... check it out.