A few weeks ago I told the story about a bat coming into my first house and what it took to get rid of it. The story was called “Trust But Verify” and if you didn’t read it, I bet you’ll enjoy it.
That experience taught me that if you end up with a wild animal in your house, you are better off dealing with it yourself.
January 2008 was very cold. The Super Bowl that year was scheduled for Sunday February 3rd. The cold that had been with us through January continued, as the calendar flipped to the shortest month of the year.
February second 2008, Ground Hog Day, was a Saturday like any other. My wife’s college roommate Kathleen was visiting us, and in the morning we just lounged around with the kids in the house avoiding the cold temperatures outside.
After lunch, Emily and Kathleen went off to do some girly thing and I took the kids to the grocery store. For those of you who are not familiar with Rochester, we have the greatest grocery store in the world called Wegmans. The Wegmans in Penfield has a little place inside called the W-Kids Fun Center, which basically provides an hour of free babysitting while you shop. So, although taking four kids (aged, 7, 6, 5 & 4) to the grocery store sounds like chaos, it was in fact an hour of alone time for me.
When we got home, I noticed that the fireplace screen was on the family room floor. I interrogated the children and they all insisted that they had not been playing with the fireplace screen. I even tried to pit them against each other, but either they hadn’t done it, or they really had their stories straight.
I put the screen back where it belonged and continued to put the groceries away.
That evening we all sat around the family room with the gas log in our fireplace burning for hours. The kids were all in bed by 8:30 and by 11:00, so were the adults.
Snuggled under our blankets and quilts, we slept through the night with plans to get up in time to go to church at 9:00.
A little after 7:00am, Emily and I were awakened by a noise downstairs. “What was that?” she asked. I thought about it and after a little analysis, I replied “it sounded like the fireplace screen falling on the ground.”
I came down the stairs and sure enough, the fireplace screen was again lying on the ground. Standing in the archway between our living room and family room, I scratched my head trying to figure out what kept causing the screen to fall, when out of the corner of my eye I saw it… a squirrel perched atop our family room curtains.
I shrieked like a little girl.
I ran upstairs to our bedroom where Emily asked (not calmly at all) “what the hell is going on?” I hysterically replied “there’s a @#$%^& squirrel in the family room!”
“What are you going to do?” she inquired. I stood there silent for a few beats and then quietly said, “I don’t know.”
If you are a regular reader of this blog then you know how rare a statement that is for me. My wife is equally unfamiliar with those words escaping my lips and as I said them, panic and uncertainly filled her face.
I came back downstairs, and as I rounded the corner, the squirrel was staring straight at me. I took one step in its direction and it jumped from the curtains onto a chair and down on to the floor, I freaked.
I turned and opened the front door, then the sliding doors in the kitchen and family room hoping that the squirrel would want to leave my house as much as I wanted him to. The biting cold filled the house almost immediately.
I ran around the whole first floor like an idiot, making noise and moving furniture, hoping to scare Mr. Squirrel back outside, but after I had turned by back on him to open the font door I had not seen him again. I looked everywhere but there was no sign of the squirrel.
Being the optimist that I am, I assumed he had run out the door and the ordeal was over.
I closed all the doors, put the fireplace screen back, and went upstairs to get ready for church. We all had a good laugh about the squirrel, but upon our return, I opened the door from the garage and there he was again, clinging to the curtains and staring me down with his beady rodent eyes.
I stepped into the room, but this time I didn’t let him out of my sight. The squirrel again hopped down to the chair and then the floor, but this time he made a direct line back to the fireplace, scurrying a few feet up the chimney where there was a little shelf that once held a damper. I quickly placed the screen back on the hearth and pushed a chair up against it.
The squirrel was contained, now what?
Emily was not impressed, sure the squirrel was contained but it was still “in the house.” I knew my Dad had a little Havahart Trap that he used to relocate chipmunks. I drove over to his house, grabbed the trap out of the garage and came home to set it up.
If you’ve never seen one of these traps work, they are basically a square wire tube with angled doors at both ends. To set the trap, you put some bait on the square platform in the middle of the trap and raise the doors. When your target walks into the trap and gets to the bait, any motion on the platform causes the doors to close… quarry contained.
I baited the trap, quickly tipped the screen back, and placed the trap in the fireplace.
We fed the kids lunch and went to the YMCA to swim, giving the squirrel a couple of hours to enjoy his little peanut butter “treat.” When we returned home mid-afternoon, the screen was still in place, the bait was gone, the trap had been sprung… but it was empty. Damnit.
Looking closely at the situation, I figured out that the trap was simply too small. The squirrel had walked in, and licked the peanut butter clean, but when the door fell, it landed on his spine allowing him to hold it up while he backed out of the trap. Back to square one.
Of course it was Sunday, but not just any Sunday… Super Bowl Sunday. I made several calls around town, but most stores were closed and those that were open, didn’t have the larger trap I was looking for.
I made a few more calls to friends and finally found what I was looking for. My friend Chop (his real name is Dave) had a larger trap that he was happy to lend me. I went and picked it up, but it was in need of a little attention, so down to the workshop I went. Half an hour later I emerged with a clean, well-oiled and functioning trap.
I baited it and put it back in the fireplace. We all decided to watch the Super Bowl and eat pizza in the basement, far away from the squirrel. When we emerged to put the kids to bed, the trap was undisturbed. A little while later, Emily and I went to bed.
As I drifted off to sleep I was operating on the idea that I would awake to a trapped squirrel and that would be that. Beyond that I had no other plan.
I awoke around five the next morning to find Mr. Squirrel secure in the trap, VICTORY! I went back upstairs, showered and got ready for work. As I pulled down the driveway in my purple minivan, fully-loaded trap sitting on the back seat, the dashboard thermometer read -5 F.
I drove the four miles to my office, opened the sliding side door, released the trap and let him go. I figured the squirrel had come down the chimney either Friday night or early Saturday morning. This means that he had been without water for two days and had likely been gassed to sleep by exhaust fumes on Saturday night as we ran the fireplace. In the harsh light of my office parking lot, I got a good look at him.
In a word, the boy was raggedy.
As soon as it was warm enough that spring, I installed something called a Lyemance Damper at the top of our chimney and we haven’t had any squirrel security breaches since.
The point here is illustrated by an image you’ve probably see on the Internet a thousand times.
Whenever I’m in the middle of figuring something out and I am asked, “do you know what you’re doing?” I always say, “I’m getting there.” We are all “getting there” and the more we learn the better equipped we are to take on bigger and more complex things. As you learn and grow however, if you have to shriek like a little girl, try not to do it out loud.
Copyright © 2014 - Stephen S. Nazarian - All rights reserved. (I Shrieked Like A Little Girl)