As a going away present, my dear friend Lindsay gave me a unique and quirky travel journal. One of the questions on the first page is: Do you like squirrels?
It was the first question in the journal I answered and I answered it with a resounding NO!
I really don’t like squirrels.
I’ve survived two significant squirrel encounters in my adult life.
The first happened two years ago. I was living in the town of East Haven, Conn., near the beach. My cape-style house was green, drafty and haunted. One night, I heard what could only be described as the sound of a madman with a chainsaw trying to break into guest bedroom (on the second floor) – or a terrified squirrel desperately trying to gnaw his way out…
Now, at this time in my life, my knowledge about squirrels was limited to the following:
1. They carry diseases.
2. My Ex’s father got pretty torn up by one when he was a kid – apparently squirrels have really long, sharp claws. Reference sketch below. Ew.
I had to do something.
I closed by bedroom door and pulled the covers up over my head.
I had to do something else. The gnawing wouldn’t stop. Tell-tale heart style.
I considered my two options: 1) grab a jar of peanut butter from the kitchen and try to tame the flea-bitten beast, risking exposure to rabies and the plague or 2) set the beast free.
Since I’m not Snow Freaking White, I don’t deal well with woodland creatures invading my domestic space. I had to free the squirrel.
In squirrel encounters, as in life, it is imperative one dresses for success. I wore: Sweat pants over jeans over long johns and a jacket over a hoodie over a long sleeved shirt to maintain three levels of coverage all over my body. I protected my feet with my steel-toed boots. I put on an apron, gloves and safety glasses. I considered a bike helmet, but opted out. No need to be ridiculous. For my pièce de résistance, I grabbed a broom. I was ready.
I walked up to the guest room door and listened. The gnawing was still going strong. I took a breath and ran back to my bedroom.
I didn’t know who to call. It was so late and my problem felt so….lame.
I begrudgingly phoned my Ex.
He’d broken off our engagement with the phrase “its just not fun anymore” less than a month earlier. I was hell-bent on having fun and never calling him again. But, I was weak and in a rodent hostage situation. He answered the phone even though he was out with some friends and the girl he had left me for. Great. The Ex is out with the new “fun girl” and I’m at home trying to fight off a fluffy gray rodent…alone…like a loser! File that under humiliating situations I never want to talk about again.
He told me to go to bed and call animal control in the morning. He didn’t think I should face the squirrel alone.
Something about hearing another girl’s laughter in the background fueled me to do something to….impress him? I told him to stay on the phone for just a minute. Put the phone in my hoodie pocket, banged on the door, and screamed in my big girl voice, “ALRIGHT SQUIRREL, READY OR NOT, I AM GOING TO SET YOU FREE.”
I rushed into the guest room. There was no sign of the beast, so I opened the window and rushed out, slamming the door behind me.
I proudly told my Ex what I had done. He laughed and said he never expected me to be able to do it. I told him to have fun and apologized for interrupting his evening. We hung up.
I cried into my journal for the next few hours, wanting to give the squirrel enough time to escape, but not quite enough time to come back to my cozy abode.
Around 3 a.m. I closed the window.
I enjoyed my squirrel-free home for about a week before I noticed a terrible smell coming from behind the wall in the kitchen. Apparently, the squirrel fell down an old stove shaft and died behind my kitchen cabinets.
That’s when I moved to a little house in Branford, Conn.
I loved my new house. It was clean and bright and not haunted. I would often see squirrels sitting on my back porch, but they seemed happy to stay in nature – where they belonged.
Then, one month before I moved out, I heard a noise in the basement.
Assuming my cat was tangled up in something I rushed down the stairs, calling, “kitty kitty kitty.”
As I was letting my eyes adjust to the dim basement light, I heard a scratching noise that was clearly not my cat or any other domestic animal. That’s when I saw it, crouching by the back door: squirrel.
Now, at this time in my life, I was significantly more educated about squirrels. I knew:
1. They carry diseases.
2. My Ex’s father got pretty torn up by one when he was a kid
3. I had faced a squirrel in the past and walked away unscathed.
I called a friend who would stay on the phone with me for the duration of my squirrel encounter. I wanted someone on the phone who could call 911 for me immediately in the case things took a turn for the worse. Although my friend felt like I was being ridiculous, she humored me. I simply opened the back door and waited for the squirrel to vacate.
I got cold. And went back inside.
My friend Jen showed up about an hour later – we were going out for dinner. Feeling brave now that I wasn’t alone, I asked her if she wouldn’t mind waiting a minute while I changed out my laundry and checked my basement for signs of the squirrel.
I was throwing handfuls of wet clothes into the dryer, explaining my history of squirrel issues, when something caught my eye.
He was burrowing into the insulation in the wall right above the dryer.
I screamed. Like a girl.
When Jen stopped laughing, we walked out to her car. I slammed my fist into the side of the house and the squirrel ran out the back door.
Back to the wild. Where squirrels belong. Born Free.
The next morning, I was sipping my coffee and saw the squirrel on my back porch. I raised my mug and gave my opponent a respectful nod.
I felt at peace. I guess I’ll always be a “live and let live” kinda girl.