#55: Unwelcome Guests

#55: Unwelcome Guests

“When I open it a little, I see fur.”

A guy named Matt was crouched down in front of my fireplace, peering up into the shaft. He had been summoned there that morning by a desperate call to a local critter control company when I realized the scratching and clattering I was hearing was coming from inside my chimney.

“I don’t have the equipment I need to get this thing out properly, but there are a couple of options.”

Um, let me pause right here. It’s been my experience that when anyone offers up a couple of options, you’re probably not going to like half of them. This is especially true with anything pertaining to your home.

Matt continued. “Once I open this flue, this guy’s coming out.  I’ll bet if we open the front and back doors, chances are that he’ll run right outside. I just can’t promise he won’t knock a lamp or two over on the way out the door.”

His comment was met by a blank stare, so we moved on to Option #2, which was for him to go get the blasted equipment he needed to extricate the animal properly.

What followed over the next few weeks was a familiar routine. Man comes to house, supposedly seals any holes that might allow access to rodents or other critters looking for a cozy place to nest, sets traps, comes back and checks them routinely, then finally removes them with an “all clear!” AND a hefty check from homeowner.


Seven years into my townhome ownership, I’ve danced this routine more times than I’d like to remember. I’m now on my fourth company.

Company #1 came out twice in a three year period and did the whole “full exclusion”, as they call it in the biz. The second time, they gave me most of my money back and told me they couldn’t help me anymore, at least not until I convinced all of my neighbors in the building to do the same so that the entire building could be sealed.

Matt represented Company #2 a couple of years later, although he was not the one that did the trapping and checking. That fell to Jason with the multiple body piercings. I actually think there might have been multiple body tattoos, too, but honestly, the glare from the assorted metal studs made it difficult to focus on other details. The company itself was not so reliable (scheduling was sporadic and sketchy), but Jason with the multiple body piercings would always show up promptly once it was on the books.

Unfortunately, the critters showed up again, too. Unannounced and most certainly unwelcome.

I’d like to be able to say that the critters I’m talking about are squirrels or cute little chipmunks. I’d like to be able to picture them as Jaq and Gus, and myself as Cinderella, being helped with my daily chores by cute little mice I call my friends.

But, um, no.

They are rats. Nasty, gross-me-out rats. Sometimes I try to picture them as the hamsters from the KIA commercial that are decked out in gold chains and backward ball caps while they cruise the city streets to “a little bit o’ this and a little bit o’ that”. Hoodlums? Yes. But at least they seem approachable.

It hasn’t worked.

My one consolation, up until NOW, has been that they’ve never broken the living space barrier. I decided long ago I could live without going into my attic. Ever. No problem.

Then one day in December, I was looking under my kitchen sink for something and saw a few kernels of Heidi’s dog food. What followed was a freak out session to end all freak out sessions as the horrible realization that one had been in my kitchen took root. A short time later I opened the bottom of my stove to find this:


Why, yes, that IS a JINGLE BELL in my MUFFIN TIN! (Are you kidding me?!)

I took one look at that – the grey fuzz, the red fuzz, the jingle bell – and thought, “Dude, you can forget that! I am SO not making you an elf costume.” (It was, after all, mid-December.)

I not-calmly-at-all began a clean-out and called in Company #3, and the next several weeks were spent with me being afraid to walk into my kitchen, especially at night. I had a handyman come move appliances and board things up, whether they needed to be boarded up or not. He humored me. I was grateful.

The Kitchen Fiasco of 2012 is behind me now. No signs of anything untoward happening there these days, but the attic saga, I’m sorry to say, continues.

I now have a new guy set to tackle the job.  He’s a neighbor I’ve only recently met, who just happens to be a wildlife removal guy. He lives in an identical unit in my community and knows every crook and cranny. His wife lived there prior to their marriage and had her own critter issues that make mine pale in comparison, so he knows his way around a woman on the edge and seems eager to do what he can to prevent another meltdown in the neighborhood.  I’m cautiously optimistic that this might be the guy who takes care of it for me.

After all, I know where he lives.


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