As a little girl, I grew up with hamsters as pets and knew the sound of a rodent trying to chew its way out of confinement. Chippy, my pet hamster in Berlin Germany, was so noisy at night trying to escape from his metal cage that he was moved across the house into our kitchen.
It was the only way to get a good night’s sleep.
Now, as I sat in my dining room writing an article for a magazine, there was no mistaking the sound of tiny sharp teeth trying to chew through metal grating. It echoed through the house as it told the story.
We had a rodent in the walls of the house trying to chew its way through the air vents. OMG!
We had just put our house on the market, and the real-estate agent was on her way over to drop off the latest pictures for the brochure.
A moment of panic set in as I tried to locate the little rascal.
Anytime I took a step the chewing would stop. I had to stand silently and wait for the chewing to begin again, then sprint as silently yet as quickly as possible in its direction. It was like playing the childhood game of Red-Light-Green-Light where you would try to quietly sneak up on whoever was ‘it’ when they called, “Green Light” and freezing when they yelled “Red-Light.” If you even twitched rather than freezing you had to go back to the beginning and start again.
The chewing started again. I sprinted up the flight of stairs and down the hall toward the children’s bedroom.
Silence….. Waiting….. Holding my breath…. Then I felt it…. Something was watching me.
My eyes followed my intuition to where two tiny fury hands held onto the metal grating of the air intake on the wall by my feet. Peering up at me through the slat was one big brown eye.
It was staring at me!
I sprinted down the stairs into the kitchen. Grabbed a pair of double-thick rubber gloves, the large pot for spaghetti with the cover, a butter knife and ran back up the stairs. The screws to the grating come off easily with the butter knife and with gloved hands I positioned the pot for the little jumper as I popped the grating off the wall.
Nothing. The creature had disappeared into the space between the walls, somewhere down the hall or most likely up into the attack. I began to beat on the wall with my fist, to make it run. Then, I might be able to hear which way it was scampering.
About that time, Peter, my husband walked out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist. Peering down at my gloved hands clutching a butter knife in one, the metal grating in the other while balancing the big pot against my knees and the wall, he asked, “WTF are you doing?”
“We may have something live in the wall, Honey, and I was trying to catch it in the pot so I could let it go outside.”
Pandemonium disrupted as my husband screamed in a Frankie Valley falsetto voice, “Put that grating back on! Now!!” while doing a perfect Michel Jackson moon-walk down the hallway clutching his towel and manhood.
Then we heard it above our heads. It was in the attic.
“Well ma’am, if this is an emergency we can send someone over right now, but, it will be an additional charge,” the man from Kritter Kontrol said on the phone. “Or, we can send someone over tomorrow.”
“No, no! Today!” How soon can you get here?” My husband yelled. “Honey, he’s on speaker. You don’t have to yell.”
An hour later the Kritter Kontrol man descended from the attic with a verdict.
“You have a whole family of squirrels in your attic. A mama and what looks to be five juveniles hopping around up there. The mama ran out the slats in the roof that were not covered with mesh. She’s outside on the roof right now. So I plugged up the hole so she can’t get back in. I’m going to set a trap to catch the babies.”
“What kind of trap?” I asked “Well, we can set a snap trap.” “No. I don’t want those babies hurt.” “I don’t care about those babies!” Peter yelled. “I do,” I said and realized by the look on his face I needed to appeal to his male common sense. “Dead squirrels in the attic will stink up the whole house when we are trying to sell it. No kill traps.”
“Well, then,” the man from Kritter Kontrol said, “we can set a funnel trap outside the house connected to the hole and hope they climb out after their mama. I’ll be back and check it in a couple of days.”
“Okay,” I said. “My husband and I are leaving for Orlando tomorrow. Give us a call.”
That evening while packing I heard a thud on the balcony outside our bedroom and there stood the mother squirrel, fury hands pressed against the glass, eyes desperately trying to figure out how to get in through the sliding door to her babies. When she looked at me, I could see the panic in her eyes and felt her desperation. The look on her face said it all. “My babies. I need to get to my babies.” She ran up the wall to the rooftop where she sat above the funnel trap. She was still there perched on the peak as darkness swallowed her.
It broke my heart.
We were at Universal Studio’s Harry Potter attraction when the phone rang. I put it on speaker. “The trap worked. There are five baby squirrels in it, and I am on my way up the ladder to get them, now.”
“What are you going to do with them?” I asked “Well, ma’am. I take them with me.”
That was a death sentence.
“Would you please be so kind as to let them go. Their mother has been patiently waiting for them on the roof day and night, and I really do not want those baby squirrels destroyed simply because they exist. Seriously, the trees on our property are full of squirrels. Let them go, and their mother will take them to a new nest.”
Peter frowned at me.
“I will need that in writing ma’am.”
“I don’t believe there is any law precluding you from releasing them on my own property. I’ll send you a text release right now. Just close up the hole, cover it with meshed grating and thank you very much. You did an excellent job.”
“I will leave the trap there a few more days,” he said, “just in case she had more than five babies and they are still in your attic.”
“More than five?” Peter echoed, panic in his eyes.
The trap remained empty, and our house was silent once again. I reflected on the universal love mothers have for their babies and wondered how many other people would have stood up for those tiny, fury little feet? Sometimes you just have to politely take a stand no matter how unpopular.