I love animals. Not like a crazy PETA member, but I love the cute little ones that God created for my pleasure. I had a hamster as a kid (two, actually, both named Snowball–actually, named Snowball 1 and Snowball 2, respectively), we had two dogs and a cat in our family, and I always knew I’d want some pets when I had a family of my own.
We have a dog, a beagle named Elphaba (yes, that is a Wicked reference) who stirs up the highest levels of pet affection and pet annoyance on a pretty regular basis. We also have a cat, Cece, who does nothing but eat and sleep and has the loudest and most annoying “meow” ever uttered by a feline.
So I love animals. But I do not love them when they are interlopers…
Last spring we discovered some birds had found a small opening into the eaves above Audrey’s window. We’d seen them flying around the house like crazy, past her window, and suddenly disappearing–but really didn’t know what they were up to until we heard the chirping of little babies.
Not wanting to be the daddy whose kids watched him kill some innocent birds, I decided to let it go and deal with it later. Later turned out to be yesterday.
I was working in the office when Robyn called me. “Honey,” she said, “what is this?”
I walked into Audrey and Autumn’s room and heard some scratching–which sounded like it was coming from the walls outside, as if something was trying to get in. Now, this would not have really been a cause for concern if we hadn’t started getting hints of other visitors in the backyard.
We have a large rockwall along our backyard and over the past couple weeks, we’ve watched Elphie absolutely go nuts smelling around the nooks and crannies of the wall. We figured it was something small, probably a mouse, especially since the neighbors at the other end of the block had been having a slight difficulty with getting their trash out on time.
So the other night the dog freaks out. Jumping at the back door, barking, just going crazy. We let her out and she goes right to the barbecue. Smelling, sniffing, barking, whimpering–she’s just beside herself to get something out of there. And suddenly, out of a crack in the lid, a mouse sticks out its head. Robyn freaks out now and we’re both certain we will never leave the backdoor open for the dog again.
Many thoughts of how to stop the mice from getting any closer to the house (other than releasing Elphie to go rogue) fill our minds that night. So when we hear the sounds on–or in–the walls the next day, we’re pretty sure it’s mice. A whole slew of ’em in our walls. And that would totally, completely, suck.
But then we remembered the birds that had been there in that crack above Audrey’s window, so I got the ladder and entered the really large crawl space above the bedrooms. It took me several minutes–Robyn says ten, but I say it was more like 3–to get the nerve to climb in. I kept picturing Tippi Hedren in The Birds, convinced they would descend on me en masse, ready to peck my eyes out.
In the dim light of the “attic,” I couldn’t see very much, and it didn’t help that Robyn was on the phone with her father, the former career Navy man, who said things like, “Birds aren’t scary. Do you want me to come take care of it?” Determined to prove to my wife that I could protect her in some neo-caveman way, I came down off the ladder and looked for a flashlight. Couldn’t find one quickly, so I got a lamp–one of those ones you put behind a plant to shine in the corner–plugged it into the outlet, and grabbed a bunch of socks to stuff in whatever open holes I can find.
I hoisted myself into the attic and pushed the insulation, which looks like snow, out of the way so I didn’t end up pulling a Chevy Chase–you know, that scene in Christmas Vacation where he falls through the ceiling–and made my way across the trusses supporting the roof until I reached the corner where the birds entered the roof. Sure enough, there was a huge nest and lots of feathers, so I covered my hands with the socks I’d stuffed into my sweater, and began pushing it all back out the hole the birds came in. It was pretty nasty, and it felt kind of creepy, too. And I know I looked just awesome.
Suddenly I heard a bunch of noises on the roof and I freaked out. The birds were coming for me. They knew I was hell bent on destroying their home. Like a predatory lender, I was foreclosing on them–but they weren’t waiting on a bailout from anyone–they were coming after me. I quickly plotted an escape route (the easiest would have been to just jump as hard as I could through the cieling and land on Audrey or Autumn’s bed–of course, they would have followed me and then the birds would have been in the house, and not just in the roof–but logic fails when you are terrified of tiny deadly birds of prey). My screams of fear–I mean, my manly cries of “get out of here!”–must have frightened them off, for they never came in.
The hole was way too big to fill with some old dress socks, so I called to Robyn, who ended up bringing me an old polar fleece Christmas blanket. I stuffed it into the hole, hoping I wasn’t pushing it too far, because I certainly didn’t want to go outside and see the nasty old blanket, which had been chewed up by Elphie, sticking out against the yellow siding of our house. By this time the dust had gotten to me, and I was coughing, balancing on beams and trying not to step on an air vent. I’m clearly the winner here, but it has been a hard fought battle.
Of course, I looked up then and saw Robyn with the video camera. “What are you doing?” I asked.
“If you fall through the cieling, I thought we should get it on tape.”
For one of those video clip shows, I thought.
“So we can laugh at you later,” she said.
Lucky for me, the battery died before I had to humiliate myself by getting out of the crawl space, doing my best to get my feet on the top rung of the ladder (the one that says, “Danger! Do not stand or sit!”). I made my way outside, where the white insulation looked like a light dusting of snow, and a messy pile of twigs, weeds, and cigarette butts (?), were all that remained of our former tenants. I watched out for them for awhile, but they did not return. Perhaps the Christmas blanket scared them away.
I didn’t hurt any animals, only wounded my pride a little bit, and was glad to prove I could protect my home as well as any grunting cave-dweller. Now, what to do about that mouse? Perhaps if I it gets in the grill again, I’ll just turn on the gas and throw in a match…
No, probably not. That would be mean and cruel, so I’ll have to think of a nicer way to get the little thing to move on. Unfortunately, I’m out of Christmas blankets.