Thursday, March 3, 2005

Wildlife in the Walls

Wildlife in the Walls…Part 2
While some of you have been busy mocking my pain, greeting my critter conundrum with a cacophony of catcalls and caustic comments—not to mention a plethora of pitiful pictures—others have been kind enough in express sympathy for my situation and inquire about all the ways I’ve been battling the burrowing beast.
This update is for you.
To be honest, dealing with the monster has not been easy.  Especially since I spent the weekend making one of the classic blunders.  Yes, once again I decided to do research on the Internet.  This is not something that ever turns out well.  The Internet is not, surprisingly enough, filled with stories of how the sweet cuddly raccoon inadvertently found its way into the wall and then, once it realized its mistake, wandered out again.
The Internet is filled with information like “can grow up to 30 pounds” or “distantly related to BEARS” or “vicious when cornered” or my personal favorite “common rabies-carrier.”
Then I came upon an article from August 2006 in USA Today that was titled (I swear this is true!):
Psycho Killer Raccoons Terrorize Olympia
That’s when I decided to stop researching on the Internet…largely due to the fact that it is difficult to do research on the Internet while imagining psycho killer raccoons lurking in my walls, waiting to pounce on me in my sleep and rip out my throat.
Do you get the feeling that I didn’t get an incredible amount of sleep this weekend?  Well, you’re right.  I didn’t.
Which is annoying because I usually have no trouble sleeping.  I usually sleep like a freaking baby. I sleep like the dead.  I can sleep through thunderstorms, tornado warnings, phone calls… I can even sleep through small dogs barking and whining and burying things in my bed.
But I can’t sleep through the sounds – real or imaginary—of raccoons in the walls.
And you know what else?
I don’t handle sleep deprivation well…a fact well evidenced by my recent trip to Ace Hardware to buy spackle.  See, when I was in mid search for the rotten raccoons, I noticed that there was a hole in the drywall above the fireplace.  And since this is the same wall where the raccoon first made its presence known, I thought I should close it up before it forced its way into the main part of my home (how the raccoon was going to squeeze its 30 pound body through a dime-sized hole is unclear, even to me, but that didn’t stop me from working up a pretty good panic about it).  So off I went to Ace Hardware and some spackle.
Except in my exhaustion, I couldn’t remember the word spackle.  So I went to the front checkout, said I had a hole in the wall and then started a full blown game of charades in which I acted out my version of spackling.
It was pretty impressive, let me assure you.
The clerk, oddly unimpressed, raised her eyebrows and said “Spackle?”  in that voice most people save for retarded children.
“Spackle!”  I agreed.
And suddenly, inexplicably fell in love with the word spackle and began repeating it over and over.  Different tones, different inflections, even a few different accents.  In fact, I had just started rhyming it with other words—I’d really like to tackle the spackle—when the clerk said “AISLE ONE!”  like I was some sort of dangerous lunatic.
Unfazed, I went over, grabbed the spackle (so fast I could hear the wrapper crackle!) and returned to the cash register.
At this point I kind of started to realize how weird this poor woman probably thought I was and I decided to explain.  I meant to say something like “Please excuse my strange behavior but I’m really tired.  In addition, I’ve been under a great deal of strain because a wild raccoon has dug its way into my walls and is now possibly living in the attic.”
Instead, I looked the woman dead in the eye and said “I have a raccoon.”
That’s it.
Just “I have a raccoon.”
Like I had it in my purse or something….which is probably why she said “OK, then.” And practically threw my bag of spackle at me before hurrying to the other end of the store.
In any case, I went home, tackled the spackle then set about trying to convince the raccoon that my home is not a wild life refuge.
How does one do this, you might ask?  Well, I could have gotten the exterminator guy back in here with his traps but I didn’t want to do that because:
A.                 The guy actually suggested I stick my hand in a wild raccoon hole
B.                 They kill the poor thing and that messes up my karma.
C.                 They charge something like $400 for 3 days of traps WHETHER THEY CATCH THE DAMN THING OR NOT.
Call me cheap, but I thought I’d see if I could handle this by myself.  So, I tried to figure out where the monster has made its home and then basically flooded the area with light and sound.  So, I have spent the past few days with every light in the house on, the patio light shining on the hole, the radio playing at full volume while I beat a broom handle on the walls and the attic door and all the vents and the hole itself.
I don’t know how the raccoon felt but I can assure you that there are a few small dogs who wish they lived somewhere else.
It is interesting to note that when I mentioned my little adventures around the raccoon hole at work this week my friend and colleague Denise Fischer said (and this IS a direct quote):  “You should pee on it.”
Like I’m going to go outside and urinate all over the yard.  THEY ARREST PEOPLE FOR THAT, DENISE!
Anyway, in the midst of all this, I realized that unless I actually saw the raccoon leave, I would have no way of knowing for sure if I had scared the little monster off.  So in a flash of brilliance I decided to cover the hole with plastic.  If the plastic got ripped through, I would know the rotten little monster was still running in and out of the house.  If it remained intact, I'd know I was safe.  However that little chore isn't as easy as it sounds because every time I heard so much as a leaf blow across the sidewalk, I freaked out and jumped about a foot in the air, preparing to fend off a psycho killer raccoon attack.
And you know what I realized when I finished?
Nothing says class like duct tape.
Anyway, the long and the short of it is that even without resorting to indecent exposure and public urination, it looks as if the beast has left.  The plastic has been undisturbed and today my handyman came over, ripped out all the old siding and insulation, and actually found the nest.
And you know what he said?  “Wow, was it big!”  Convincing me that I not only had a psycho killer raccoon living in the walls but it was some sort of mutant freak hulk sized raccoon to boot.
I’m lucky to be alive.
Anyway, the handyman is now sealing every possible crevice in the building and I should be raccoon free from this point on.

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

WIldlife in the Walls

So, as many of you know, I have been battling the woodland creatures that have decided to make their home in my home.  I initially thought they were in the chimney but after hysterical investigation (not at all helped by the mongrel hounds) I realized the chimney was vermin free.  The vermin, you see, were actually in the walls.
Which gave me horrible images of that stupid yet disturbing movie The People Under The Stairs with the bizarre incestuous brother and sister and all the kids trapped in the walls.
In any case, I thought I had finally gotten rid of the evil beasts a week or so ago when I had all the siding ripped off one side of the house and completely replaced.
I had, you see, misunderstood the tenacity and inherent malevolence of the woodland fiends.
See, yesterday morning I heard them scrabbling about on the other side of the fireplace…chittering and chattering to each other, scratching on the wall and otherwise freaking me and the mongrels out.
Though in a noble effort to keep the house from becoming a paradise for parasites and other pernicious pests, Peek ran across the room and began clawing at the wall, barking and otherwise threatening the creatures.
The creatures were not, unfortunately, impressed.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I could hear them in the wall, laughing and taunting us without mercy.
And then, when I took a quick look outside to see if I could figure out what was going on, I noticed a huge hole in the side of my house.
Like almost 10 inches high and 4 inches across with insulation and other housing materials hanging out.
Like some horrible wild animal had clawed its way inside.
So, I grabbed my flashlight, went outside, peered inside then reached in the hole and---
Yah, right.  I stuck my hand in the hole.  I reached inside a wild animal’s lair and started fishing around.  That’s what I did.  Then I drove down to East St. Louis, stripped naked and began walking around screaming racial slurs. 
You know me, I just like to live on the edge.
However, it is interesting to note that last night when the vermin removal specialist arrived and looked at the hole, that’s exactly what he asked.  “Did you try reaching inside?”  He asked.
“No,” I replied.  “I was going to but I didn’t want to put down my crack pipe.”
At which point he made a lot of observations that I would like to categorize as HIGHLY DISTURBING.  For example:
1.      I’m not sure what it is but it’s definitely big.
2.      Look at those claw marks!
3.      Wow, that’s really gotta be big.
4.      I’ve just never seen anything like it.
5.      It could be a raccoon or a possum but it has to be a big one.
6.      Seems like there’s gotta be more than one in there…maybe a mama and some babies.
7.      Boy, I hope it’s not a mama raccoon; they sure are mean when they’re protecting their babies.
8.      I mean, we are talking about a BIG animal here.
Which is when I pretty much begged him to stop talking.
The most disturbing thing he said was that although he’s sure he can trap the beast, due to state laws about dealing with dangerous animals, he can’t come back with traps until Monday.
Yes, he actually said the words DANGEROUS ANIMALS.
A phrase I’m pretty sure he regretted almost immediately since I started saying things like “Are you trying to make me cry here?  Because I have no trouble crying, if that’s what you’re after.”
Judging by the fervency of his apology, that’s not what he was after.
He did come in and investigate the fireplace and the rest of the house to make sure there was no access for the animals but if I were you people, I would plan on hysterical phone calls and long winded complaints from me for the rest of the weekend.
Be afraid.