Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Well, Here I Am - or - the Death of Squirrel Nutkin

I held out as long as I could. I was utterly convinced that I would not succumb to the self-indulgent tendency of creating a place where people could come and read what I thought about life, the universe, and everything. I simply wasn't going to do it. Just like I wasn't gong to do multiple email addresses (what, three years now?), myspace (eight months ago), or facebook (five months ago). It's just too tempting. The blessings of technology have made things so simple and approachable - I mean, seriously, three steps for your very own webpage? Thank you, Google! In addition to that, though, I have to be honest and say that I was subtly pressured into this very public experiment by my friend Becky, who has a wonderful blog of her own (Boys Rule My Life - you should check it out). These are the two most obvious reasons that I'm typing this today. However, there is a third reason, and the reason that specifies today as the day I join in the world of external journaling. I have some private pain that I felt needed sharing. Not so much pain; that's the wrong word. See, I discovered last night that I have some deeply seated emotional issues that I am going to need to work past if I plan to one day become a fully functional adult. Issues that I blame fully on the Walt Disney corporation. But before I get into that, a little scene setting.
I live with my parents and one of my two younger brothers, a senior in high school. They have all been gone this Columbus Day weekend, doing a mini-college tour in preparation for the onslaught that will be the next three months (poor guy - I do not envy him.) and I have been at home, on my own with our two dogs, Taylor and Simon. It was a great weekend - peace and quiet, lots of violent video games and mindless television, and all the uninterrupted knitting my poor fingers could stand. Until last night. Last night Simon was on the steps leading to Little Brother's lair, sniffing madly at something. This is not unusual behavior for him, so I was pretty much ignoring him, until I saw something brown and furry fall - or jump - from one of the top steps to our entryway hall, then run behind the aquarium. Now I was paying attention. I quickly got a hand on Simon (by the way, this is kind of a Simon-centric story. It's not that Taylor wasn't there or that I'm just ignoring him, but he is a Chicken Dog, and was hiding behind a pillow on the couch for much of the tale.) and starting turning on lots of lights, trying to see where the interloper had landed. After a few minutes or this, I decided to change tactics; put the dogs in the laundry room and opened the front doors to let Mr. Fur run out if he so desired. Broom in hand and armed with my tiny Maglite, I went from room to room, hoping to find the rodent that had Simon howling and scratching at the door. This went on, completely uneventfully, for about ten minutes, while I was on the phone with my dad, trying to get some hunting tips and plotting a game plan about calling our pest control the next day if I couldn't find the little bugger. Time passes, and there's no sign of Mr. Fur. Daddy tells me to go buy some glue traps, and that should take care of it. So I secure our (clearly-not-so-)stronghold and make a quick trip to WalMart, the only place I could think of that might have this kind of thing and would be open at 9:00 on a Monday night. I started out in the garden section, thinking, "Surely they'll have traps in with the bug stuff." I found traps for Japanese beetles, poison for ants, bait for roaches and squirrel food (don't ask me - I'm just writing it down), but no mammal traps. Confounded, I wandered back through the paltry home repair section, back to sporting goods, and still nothing. I finally stopped a stocker (free tip: if you ever need to find anything at a WalMart, don't bother with the floor employees. They will not know. They will be rude and dismissive. Find a stocker - they know everything.) and he told me that it was in the grocery section - of course! What was I thinking? So I powerwalked through electronics, through crafts, through the baby section, and located the Aisle of Death. Really. I must have stood there for ten minutes, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of product, all designed to ensnare and kill common household pests. Wanting to both follow my father's advice and not kill this defenseless animal, I finally settled on a glue trap that had an anesthetic on it and I got three live traps, hoping in my heart of hearts that the peanut butter and graham cracker bait I would lay would prove more effective than the oddly cinnamon-scented snare of doom. Paid, left, drove home like a madwoman, frantic to have this fiasco behind me.
I very carefully baited the live traps with the aforementioned graham cracker and peanut butter, which I remember from Bible camp when I was a kid, laid them strategically in the hall, in the dining room, and in my bedroom (hey, it's a mess right now, and if I were a rodent, I would so be headed in there...I really need to clean that up tonight.) and then laid the super sticky glue traps on the far side of the aquarium and on the steps, where Simon first found Mr. F. (And I just had a little Arrested Development moment, where I had to sing "Mr. F" in a bad British accent. Sorry.)
After putting gates up so that the dogs wouldn't investigate the glue traps (not a mess I was in the mood to clean up), I settled down to watch some tv, assuming that Mr. Fur would have retreated to whatever hidey-hole he came out of for the evening. I was mistaken. I went to the kitchen to refill my glass of water and spotted him. Poor little guy. He was in the dining room, skittering around on the hard wood floor; I can only assume he was looking for a way out. So I thought I'd help him. I grabbed my trusty broom, and started shepherding him toward the front door. It was going really well - I had gotten him out of the corner, out from under the china cabinet, and into the hall, when, instead of running through the open hall, he decided to feint toward the broom, behind the aquarium, and ran straight around into - yeah - the Glue Trap. Oh, Tomcat, you truly are sticky. Sticky and evil. I had to stand there and watch him twitch, only to see him get ever more resolutely adhered to the pad. I called Daddy to ask him what I could do, and his only suggestion was, "Well, if you don't want to just throw him away, you can find something sharp and put him out of his misery..." Such a dad thing to say, am I right? Clearly, that was out of the question. I did very well in my biology classes, thank you very much, but I was not using a steak knife to try and decapitate Suzy Squirrel. (Does anyone else remember that cartoon? Suzy Squirrel, Danny Dog, etc.? I digress...)
So, here I was. Broom in hand, dogs howling in their room, and poor, squirming Mr. Fur. I couldn't believe that it had happened in the first place. Now, as I looked at his big eyes and sad face, I wished I could do something to take it back. Or that I could be brave enough to make him stop suffering. But I couldn't do either of those things. I was just as stuck as he was, metaphorically speaking, of course. I finally screwed up my courage and disposed of him. The anesthetic on the pad surely helped a little as that glue did it's beastly work, but all night long I had sad, sick dreams of squirrels running freely in the trees, only to be ensnared by stick patches on the branches. It was a rough night.
So, thank you, Walt Disney. Thank you for anthropomorphizing animals; for giving pests sad eyes and vocal folds along with their gloves. But I will triumph. I will rise above my childhood conditioning. I may feel bad about it; I may not ever be able to read Beatrix Potter again with a clear conscience, but I can be an adult. I can make rational decisions based on the evidence that has presented itself, and I can try to do what needs to be done to protect myself, my family, and my pets against the possibility of disease.
I'll just cry about it later.