Intruder - Linda Mackay

I had an intruder today

Hi Hon,

When I came home today around noon, I heard some noise in the house. There were no cars parked up at the house, so I thought it odd. Since I was already in the house, I did a pretend call out to you and did a fake asking of you if Arnie was still here and whether all the guys were still coming over. It was my way of letting an intruder know that there were men around or about to be around. I figured it was safer for me that way. Well, the noise started to increase and it sounded like several people were in the house because things were being knocked around.

Not sure why, but I wasn't particularly scared.....I just figured I had to find out what was happening inside our home..... As I entered the hall in front of the kitchen, I heard a lot of noise in the living room but I didn't see any large figures- so maybe they were crouching down? Then I caught a sudden movement in front of me by the west windows.

A squirrel was hopping and jumping from painting to painting to vase to lamp to top of window to into the window to top of door trim and back again. He was going crazy and knocking over stuff and tilting artwork and hanging onto artwork.....he was a quick and destructive little guy. Since he was staying in the window area, I opened the door there and thought he might see the light and maybe I could steer him in that direction. This seemed a reasonable thought process since he had tried to jump through the closed window several times and a larger clear opening with real air to it might be appealing.

So I tried to scare him towards the open door. Instead he scurried and jumped away and landed inside a tall handmade paper lamp , the 3 foot high one. I figured this was ok. All I had to do was lay the lamp down on its side and he would be on the floor directly in front of the open door and only 10 feet to go.

So I knocked over the lamp and he stayed in the lamp until I knocked the bottom of the lamp a few times...then he scampered out and ran right past the door and stayed inside the house running around knocking more things over....it was like the cartoons of the Tasmanian devil whirlwinds!!!!
Needless to say I didn't know where he got to but I thought I heard him upstairs....you can imagine my dismay if he got into my messy studio area....enough said!!! I walked up the steps with anxious heart wondering if he went left or right..... Our bedroom or my studio... both were bad news. This is when I decided to call Arnie and hope he was home. Maybe he would know how to lure a squirrel and how to catch a squirrel. This rodent was out of my league!!!

Unfortunately there was no answer but I know it was a rather frantic and deranged message I left for him. But I was on my own. And I regretted that the kitchen door had been left open a few days ago since this squirrel has probably been living in the house a few days and it is a miracle I didn't hear him before. Well, I just had to deal with this. I remembered something Arnie taught me when he showed me how to catch a rabbit. "Think like a rabbit", then you will know how to set the snare to tighten over the right part of his body, direct the movement so the snare is where the rabbit will go.

This is all well and good, but I am not a hunter nor a skilled rodent thinker. But what were my options? So I put my university education to good use and thought up a logical scientific process. I figured the squirrel would be up high somewhere and I figured he'd get frantic if he heard me. So I started to speak loudly again in the hallway upstairs, thinking that would give me the clue as to whether he went left or right.

Then I heard a noise downstairs so I ran back down and I heard a few things fall in the library. So he was running circles around the room, literally!!! Did you know squirrels can run and jump literally everything in the room? From top window trim to book case to top of painting to bookcase to door trim to top of door to top of painting to filing cabinet to painting and then back to top of window trim!!!!!! And he can do this very quickly!!! And he never falls!

So I closed the door to the library and now he was trapped for good!! I was quite proud of my ability to think quickly and shut the door to trap him in an enclosed area. I knew that sooner or later Arnie would be home and then he could help me out. But in the meantime, I thought I had bought some time to figure out an approach. I thought, well really wishfully hoped, that maybe I could shoo him out of the library if I opened the front doors and somehow directed him towards the front door.

I remembered my two butterfly nets in the potting shed which would extend my arms for "shooing" duty so I went outside and got them and brought them to the house. Now I had to figure out how to create meaningful obstacles to ensure the squirrel would go the way I needed him to. I decided there was no way to do this. So I hoped for the best, one butterfly net in each hand with visions of scooping him midair and then using the centrifugal force of his jump to good effect, I would keep twirling him around and he would stay encased in the net until I could throw him out the front door. This seemed do-able. (Tom, do you think I have an unrealistic view of my athletic capabilities or am I just overly optimistic? Maybe don't answer that)

Did you know squirrels can change their body positions mid-air? Needless to say, my attempts to catch him with the butterfly net put him into an even more frantic and chaotic frame of mind and now he wasn't just running around the room up high, he was all over the map. He bounced into the windows, clung to the screen, jumped on the horse statue, on the coffee table, jumped on my computer monitor tilting it forward and almost turning it over, jumping on top of the thin edge of my open mac computer ( how can he do this?) , running on the printer..( he was turning into a destructive techie!!!!)

Ok, things were getting bad. And when he started to cling with his claws to textile artwork and knock everything over on the fireplace mantel and jump on the artwork some more, I just had to retreat and close the door.

Ok, this wasn't working. I had better close the front doors now and not risk any mice coming into the house...you never know about those sneaky mice!

Well, I had a mental block....I really can't think like a rodent, but I did notice he doesn't just stay up high like I thought. And he does move away from me if I come from the side and not from the front. Really just like horses- he is prey and I am predator. I have to think like a predator and know how he will react as prey. I was still armed- I had my butterfly nets in each hand ready for action.
And then I remembered the fireplace in the library. If I could direct him into the fireplace, maybe I could quickly shut the doors and he would be trapped in a smaller enclosed area and not be able to jump on my computers and potentially topple them over.
Right about now, you are thinking, Oh know!!! Is she serious????

What about the soot and stuff and how are you going to really be able to direct a squirrel? Well, let me tell you.

First of all, the fireplace doors were already partially open and the screen had been partially opened as well. And the glass doors were all marked up. So I put two and two together and realized the squirrel had come into the house this way. He had come down the chimney, bounced around and managed to muscle his way through the screen and the glass doors. Quite the determination and feat I would say.

Ok, big deep breath as I go to battle. Well, the ensuing chase was not pretty. It might have been comical except for the destruction all around. I swung and he moved away from me, he jumped up and down and all around, knocking things over. He made a frantic jump into the glass window again and then tried for the screened window and his nails temporarily stuck on that which made him fall to the ground when he unstuck his nails.

And wouldn't you know it, he ran right into the fireplace box and I snapped the doors shut and wedged the butterfly nets into the door handles. ( I simply knew they had to be useful !) This was still not going to hold this squirrel though, I was convinced he could bounce around enough to open the doors. So I rolled two heavy planters in front of the doors as well. Kind of like you see in the movies with a chest of drawers in front of the door.

Yay! My intruder is captured!!!! I was soooo elated!!! And feeling pretty good about my abilities (ok, well, maybe it was pure luck!!)
Now what! I have a live squirrel in the fireplace box and my husband it gone for one week and if the squirrel dies there, it will be stinky, especially because it is summer..... This is not good.

So I did the only think I knew, and called brother Arnie again. Even if he wasn't home, at least he needed to know the squirrel was now trapped which would require different approaches than if he was still running around loose.

Miraculously, Kelly answered and said her Dad was in the garage and got Arnie for me to talk to. Arnie had a solution. He would bring up two rat traps and we would bait them with peanut butter. (sorry Tom, I had to open up your new almond butter since we don't have peanut butter).

Arnie placed almond butter on the rat traps and I held his fishing net in one hand and one of my butterfly nets in the other. We slid the planters to the side and discussed strategy. Arnie would slowly open the door- we could see the squirrel in the far corner of the fireplace, covered in soot. We hoped the squirrel would stay put as Arnie placed the traps and if the squirrel jumped out, maybe I could catch him in a fishing net or the butterfly net. I hoped it wouldn't come to that since I had not much luck with the nets earlier, so why expect a different result?

At about this time, I figured I should have named this squirrel since I had spent considerable time with him in the house already. Kind of like I had invited him for a run, but now I was inviting him for tea or specifically almond butter treats.....
Well, I guess you wouldn't plan to chop off a friend's head so it is good I didn't name him. So we went for it. Arnie opened the door a bit and placed the first trap on the bottom of the firebox. The squirrel stayed put. We closed the door as we re- grouped for the second trap. And then the realization hit. Well, it hit Arnie, not me. I was just so excited to have a trap in the fireplace to get this pesky, destructive, no good for nothing rodent that had already wasted a couple of hours of mine.....it had felt like forever. I don't actually know how long this all had taken!

What did Arnie figure out? Simple mechanics. The fireplace grate was just above the rat trap so if the trap was sprung, it would get stuck on the grate and wouldn't crush his head after all.... I had no sympathy for this squirrel and now regretted opening your almond butter unnecessarily.

 Now what????

Well, Arnie, the hunter had his pellet gun in his truck. Did I want him to shoot the squirrel? He didn't like to do this, but we were out of other options and I didn't want to smell squirrel remains for the summer. Is it safe to shoot with such force in a confined space?

Well, Arnie, says, it is probably not an issue. A pellet gun could drive the pellet into wood about an inch or so and it is possible to crack the brick on the fireplace, perhaps. But he didn't think it would come to that. He would shoot to kill and the pellet would be embedded in the squirrel's brain or body and that would probably be enough to stop the pellet from harming the fireplace.
Mission control said full scale ahead so Arnie got his gun and came back to the library. I babysat the squirrel and put him in lock down again (braced the doors with the butterfly nets and moved the planters back in place to hold the doors totally shut).
I asked again if it was safe or wise to shoot on such a short range and Arnie reiterated the previous conversation....he is a patient man!! And then we noticed that indeed the squirrel had gone for the almond butter and the trap was stuck on the grate.....

Ok, so now Arnie is on sniper duty and I rolled away the planter into the middle of the room so he would have more room. ( I had visions of the American Sniper movie and figured he would need to lie on his belly and get the squirrel in studied crosshairs...) well, he didn't quite get into that position, but he did need the room to position himself correctly. He slowly moved the glass doors open just large enough to fit his pellet gun in. I was hoping the squirrel would stay put and not jump at us. You remember Rocky? He could fly and so could this relative of his.

Arnie took aim and 'pow', right in his brain. I can't say I was sorry, but it was somewhat unnerving to watch him for about a minute or so as he kept moving and scampering and stirring up the soot. Just like a chicken with his head cut off. Who knew???!!
When the dust settled, I provided Arnie with three plastic bags to take him out of the fireplace- one to handle him, one to place him inside and the other to double body bag him. There will be no forensics on this puppy, er...rodent!!!

So now you think the drama is over, right? By the way, with today’s adrenalin rush, I became a ferocious hunter as evidenced by my treatment of a large ugly spider that walked by me as I wrote you this account. I just slapped it with my bare hand. That's right, no Kleenex or paper towel or book between me and the spider...I simply attacked and squashed it with my bare hands and didn't flinch or anything. It felt good!!!

Ok, back to the story. The aftermath.

Much of my artwork needs to be analyzed for scratches and at a minimum needs to be rehung straight. There is soot and squirrel droppings to clean up.

I had to pick up lamps, decor, large but light urns with twigs on them that Mr Squirrel scampered across thinking they were trees....

I looked at the firebox and indeed there are a couple of cracks in it, but I doubt it is from todays event. But the back of the firebox does move about half an inch so I think the squirrel may have dislodged something as he jumped around. He probably took running jumps at the glass door and bounced backwards with equal force on the firebox wall. Really, this was some super strain of trained terroristic squirrel - I kid you not. You had to have been there.

Which brings me to the last, but not the least.

Why is it that yet again, as soon as you leave, something happens to me that is some kind of hardship or inconvenience or attack? Something that has never happened before. There is a long list by now, as you know. And it is very weird. The squirrel invasion is the first squirrel event in our home in the twenty six years we have lived here. And it occurred within twenty four hours of you leaving. This is beyond Murphy's Law. When you add this to the water pump quitting minutes before you were to leave, one has to question things a bit.....

Really, I am fine. Seriously. But I do wonder what the rest of the week has in stow for me. Only four more days to wonder.........only three more sleeps...

Still love you, Linda
Hurry back now, ya hear!!!

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