My first pregnancy was delightful. We brought our first-born home from the hospital on our first wedding anniversary. That’s right; we jumped right into the whole parenting thing. Charlie was an easy baby from the start. He did all the things the books said he would do, right on schedule. He was happy all the time and was a great eater and sleeper. I remember wondering why everyone didn’t want ten kids. (I was shown a new perspective with baby number two, who is now an incredible ten-year-old, but yeah . . . enlightenment.) I digress.
One day, when Charlie was six months old, I put him down for a nap and did myself the favor of doing the same; a tough choice for a mama feeling like she should use naptime to tidy the house and tackle the laundry. Alas, I managed to choose grace that day.
I couldn’t tell you how many winks I’d logged when I woke with a start to a splashing noise coming from down the hall. I was on my feet and out the bedroom door in record time, sprinting for my son’s bedroom because the only thing I could imagine was that he’d miraculously gotten out of his crib, found some body of water and was clearly in grave danger.
Developmentally, he was still working to master sitting upright. So the idea that he could have pulled himself to his feet, climbed up and over the side of his crib, nailed the landing, and maneuvered into harm’s way was physically impossible. Yet, in my sleep-glossed mind, there was no other possible explanation and so I sprinted on. I reached his door and aggressively flung it open, waking my sweet, sleeping darling. SHOOT! “Of course, he’s in his crib; he doesn’t move yet, ding-dong! . . . and now I’ve awakened a sleeping baby!” Curses.
With Charlie’s safety no longer in question, it was time to investigate the mysterious splashing noise. I left Charlie in his crib and continued down the hall. When I got to the bathroom, I identified that the noise was coming from the toilet. The seat was down but there was definitely something in there. It sounded like a huge fish flapping around inside — a big keeper-fish . . . as in, the size you’d proudly stuff and mount on a wall in your house if that was your thing.
I immediately raced back to my nightstand, collected my phone, and dialed my dad. He’d know what to do; he always knows what to do.
When he picked up the phone, I skipped right over the pleasantries and exclaimed with panic, “Dad, there’s something in my toilet — I think it’s a big fish — what do I do?”
“(laughter) Okay, calm down, it’s not a fish, it’s probably a moth or maybe a small frog; it just sounds bigger than that because it’s in the toilet.
“No, Dad. It’s something much bigger than that, I can tell.”
With more laughter (he was amused by this), he advised me to go get a broom and use the end of it to crack open the lid. Heeding his advice, I approached the bowl with the broom and slowly lifted the lid.
“AAAAAAAHHHHHHGGGGGG!” I screamed (good thing I’d already woken the baby). “IT’S A SQUIRREL!!!!”
“There’s a squirrel in my toilet! He’s thrashing around in there. He’s trapped! What do I do?”
“Call animal control!”
Two hours and $250 later, Critter Control fished a dead squirrel out of my toilet. I feared this outcome when the bowl went silent well before their arrival. I didn’t save him in time. It was so traumatic. RIP squirrel. You were a fighter!
One would think it unlikely for a person to have more than one such experience, but the squirrel escapade was only the start of my animal encounters.
Years later, on the eve of “cleaning-lady day” (as we call it around here) I was tidying up the house in preparation for our cleaning. If you’re not familiar, “cleaning for the cleaning lady” is a thing. As I made my way around the house, I collected a stack of items that needed to go to the basement. I set it at the top of the stairs with the intent to take it down “soon”.
The next morning, when it was well past “soon” and the cleaning crew had arrived, I reached for the pile and something caught my eye. There was movement IN the pile. What the? A mouse? Gross! I screamed (my signature move). Why isn’t it running away? Wait. This mouse . . . it has wings. Oh my gosh, IT’S A BAT! “AAAAAAAHHHHHHGGGGGG!” (More screaming).
I immediately had the attention of the cleaning crew. One of them snapped into action like an everyday superhero. She grabbed a bucket and with one fell swoop, trapped the predator beneath it. Having experience in the area of critters in my house, I quickly phoned animal control and was instructed to leave it alone until someone arrived.
The bat was removed (alive) and thankfully, we’ve not experienced another one in the house since. A few years after that incident, however, we heard movement and scratching noises in the attic above our master bedroom and couldn’t help but wonder if there were more bats living among us. When further inquiry ensued, however, it wasn’t bats. It was worse . . .
It was in the blazing heat of summer that we started to notice a funky smell in the house. We chalked it up to rotten food in the garbage and emptied the trash but the smell didn’t go away. We tried moving the garbage can out of the garage all together. It didn’t help. In fact, it seemed to be growing stronger. Meanwhile, we realized the scratching noise coming from inside the walls had ceased. That felt like a win. It was indeed peace of mind until two and two came together.
The summer heat had reached into the nineties. The smell was now a sickening stench. We started to notice flies in the house and feared the stench was attracting them, yet we still couldn’t pinpoint the source of the odor. We did identify that the smell was strongest upstairs so my husband, Steve took the ladder up to investigate the attic. When he opened the access panel, a wave of thick hot air wafted out along with hundreds of giant flies and a stink so strong, we’re lucky it didn’t knock him off the ladder. “GROSS! Close the door, quick! Don’t go up there,” I pleaded. It was time to, once again, call in the professionals.
A father and son team arrived on the scene. They walked the perimeter of the house and made their way onto the roof. They discovered a hole the size of a volleyball (that explained the scratching sound) and traced the repulsive odor to the attic space above our master bathroom. Moments later, they carefully maneuvered down the ladder from the attic carrying a garbage bag containing the maggot-infested remains of a 30-pound pregnant raccoon. Holy. Moly!
“You’re lucky she didn’t deliver,” said the captor. I stared at the bag with awe and revulsion. “Racoon babies have a tendency to return to their birthplace. Coulda’ been bad.” Yeah, “lucky”. “Coulda’ been”. Exactly what I was thinking.
After that, I was given the nickname Snow White for attracting forest animals into my home. We laugh about it now but those escapades were something else! We did learn a few things along the way . . . it’s worthwhile to have a professional assess the property every few years to make sure “nature” doesn’t find a way in. There are key areas where animals tend to seek entry and action that can be taken to prevent it (thank goodness). In conclusion, I may never respond with grace when it comes to animals in my house, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that they think we’re living in THEIR house and so I’m just glad they aren’t able to call people-control to have us removed.