Squirrel (copy)

Squirrels can wreck the house if they get inside.  

A few years ago, we had the misfortune of having a large rat somehow gain access to our house. I knew it was a large rat because it got hold of one of the children’s solid bouncing rubber balls that was on the floor in the kitchen, gnawed it to shreds and left carve-out imprints of its incisors on remnants. For a moment, I thought it might have been a squirrel, but there was not the kind of generalized destruction that I’d heard people talk about with squirrel home invasions.

So I went to Lowe’s and bought a large trap with very powerful spring recoil that pretty much required the strength of a grown male to set properly and safely. After all, we had a couple of small children at the time, and just the thought of a curious toddler or child getting near such a dangerous object was horrifying.

We also had a little dog, a Norwich terrier that wasn’t much more than a puppy herself, who, like any dog, was naturally inquisitive and would incessantly search for scraps of food tucked away in the most remote and difficult to clean corners of the kitchen and family den. Before they made vacuum cleaners to do this kind of work, they made dogs with small enough muzzles to do the same thing.

One would think that it would dawn on someone trying to kill a rat with a trap to consider not only the safety of children but also the safety of pets. After all, the trap was baited with cheese, and although cheese might not have been at the top of our terrier’s dietary preferences, it would have been incorrect to assume that it was at the bottom, because she ate everything — and I mean everything.

Once she found a stash of our son’s multi-colored paintball ammo — perhaps enough to fill a bowl. She ate the entire amount, had a rainbow-colored face for days afterward and, not meaning to be too graphic, lower GI aftereffects that were mind boggling and spectacular. But, amazingly, she never became ill — or at least not more than anyone might feel after eating too much candy, for example.

She did that, too, by the way. On another occasion, we had a hefty bowl of seasonally colored red and green M&M’s atop a kitchen table during Christmas. She slept down in that part of the house, and somehow in the middle of the night one evening navigated her way onto a chair and from there jumped to the table. When I came downstairs the next morning, all the M&M’s were gone. Bolio’s tum was a little distended, but other than that she seemed perfectly fine, if not a bit sheepish.

Evidently, all this talk about chocolate being bad for dogs is either grossly exaggerated, or that tiny dog had a gut of steel — and just to be clear, I’m certain it was the latter. Other morsels she enjoyed included cockroaches, cicadas, and at least two chicks that were the progeny of a couple of guineas that mysteriously and unbelievably took up residence in our neighborhood a decade ago. The brood gained fame and was even mentioned in a New York Times article.

So wouldn’t it be an easy deduction to conclude that a dog known to eat anything might be attracted to cheese — even if that cheese was attached to a deadly rat trap? One would think …

We were sitting in the back room watching TV or something when the rat trap was triggered. There was a ghastly loud snapping noise and I thought I heard a whimper. Panicked, I berated my utter stupidity and raced toward the kitchen, expecting to be sickened. But there Bolio stood, munching on the piece of cheese. How that dog escaped serious injury — in fact, any injury whatsoever — or even death I’ll never know.

We had our rat by the next morning. Interestingly, a friend of ours had a similar problem and actually came face-to-face with the rat. Rather than waste time trying to set up a trap, he simply grabbed his shotgun and blasted it — the rat plus a hole in the wall, that is. Another friend cornered a squirrel in his house, only to have the creature jump on his head and start raking away with its claws. Not good.

A few weeks ago, we returned after being away for a few days, and portions of the house were kind of a wreck. A broken vase, chewed up window sills and screens and just sort of a general mess — particularly in the kitchen where bags of chips and nuts were gnawed through and scattered everywhere. Black footprints were a telltale sign, and we assumed that whatever it was had come down the chimney.

I had already left for work the next morning when my wife got the answer. Well, it wasn’t Santa Claus. Instead, a squirrel was perched on a banister rail like he owned the joint. She called a handyman who donned protective gear and chased the animal outside. Now we know to close chimney flues when not in use.

Oh well — it could have been worse. It was only a vase (with a hard ‘a’) that got broken instead of a vahse (with a soft ‘a’). What’s the difference you ask? About $100.