The Tale of the Attacking Squirrel.
It was the coldest day yet, of the brand new year. For a few days, the cats had been sniffing around and pawing at the fireplace, but since the kids toys were sort of piled in front of it, and we hadn’t used it since Christmas, I kind of figured it was a large spider (we often find cobwebs in the firebox). Then my wife said “I think there’s something else in there.” I got a flashlight and peered through the blackened glass of the fire doors. There I spied the fluffy tail of an Eastern Grey Squirrel. Further flashlight assisted inspection revealed this was no trifle of a beast, but a mammoth specimen, easily three pounds–he was a foot and a half if he was six inches!
A plan was soon hatched — my wife blockaded the immediate area of the fireplace with crib mattresses, blankets, and laundry baskets. The kids herded the cats and kittens into bedrooms, while I crafted a box.
This was no old shoe box, no discarded consumables crate! This was a carefully cut and duck-taped, maximum efficiency trapping and containing beastie-box. I even fashioned a quick closing flap, so that once the creature was within, I could easily slam the gate down and capture him. I spread a generous dollop of peanut butter at the very back of the box, placed it into the fireplace, and quickly closed the fire doors.
Soon, the wiley rodent began sniffing about the box in earnest, but to my chagrin, he was sniffing at the wrong end! He started pawing and scraping the taped end of the box in an effort to pry that which he sought from the confines of the beastie-box. How odd, that he wouldn’t explore further and find his path open to him. In frustration, I believed I could, with small effort, reach in the enclosed firebox, turn the box around and push it towards the squirrel so that he would be forced within. I reasoned it wouldn’t be such a bad trade-off for the animal–he’d have the peanut butter after all.
As I attempted my advance, the cornered beast leapt from the firebox into the open, over my crouched form, over the mattress/blanket blockade, into the family room! It was an impressive jump, to say the least, easily 6 feet long and 4 feet high from a stationary crouch! After the surprised effeminate cry left my lips, the chase was on!
I started the hunt in the family room. He quickly turned and sprinted past me into the kitchen, skirting the counters and plunging into the powder room. “Aha,” I thought, the squirrel was cornered at last. The powder room in question is a tiny 4 foot by 6 foot box–barely enough room for the intended task. If I could just close the door, I would have him trapped! I’d deal with how to get him out of there afterwards. I approached the powder room cautiously. To close the door, I had to reach within the room and pull the door outwards to fasten it. Since there is a sink and most of the toilet in the way, I figured I had half a chance of success, as the beast was probably inside in the furthest corner.
As I crept towards the door handle, I saw my prey, cowering in a corner. A preemptory grin spread across my face, when suddenly, without warning, the squirrel launched itself into a whirling dervish of squirrel-flesh and careened off the walls in a sprint-bounce combination. And leapt once again, over my startled head. And I was standing up.
Soon, my wife entered the melee, as we circled and double-backed through the first floor of the house.
Eventually, we managed to “contain” the squirrel into the family room by blocking the doorways on either side. I opened two casement windows, and the back door. I could now encourage the creature outside.
It took longer than expected, with me in welding gloves, wielding a small quilt like the cape of a matador, trying to scare the beastie towards the cold cold freedom. I don’t believe the squirrel wanted to go outside. I didn’t want to go outside. I didn’t even want to be in the family room, as I could now see my breath frosting in front of me.
Again and again, the animal slipped past me and avoided the egress of the windows and door. At one point, in a Tom-and-Jerry inspired moment, the squirrel ran over the piano, causing the quick glissando of cartoon fame. Finally, it slipped quietly out the back door. I just barely saw the fluff of the tail sprinting over the threshold. I sensed the squirrel acquiesced, choosing the normalcy of a relatively calm, if cold, rodent life over the warmth and comfort, albeit harried and persecuted life of an out-of-place indoor squirrel.
As I shut the door and the windows, I inspected to make absolute sure it was indeed gone. I retired to the living room/office, flopped on the couch, and announced my victory so the family could come out again. Once I had rested, I picked up my flashlight and determined to inspect the chimney to assuage my doubts regarding the breach of my sanctum. I lay on my back, scurried into the firebox and looked up into the chimney with my flashlight. Right into the eyes of a second Eastern Grey Squirrel.