Making it MINE

So it’s been well over a year now since I’ve been alone here in this house.  Well, alone except for the dog. For a while it was me the dog and the cat – but Beki saw fit to shuffle off her mortal coil in February, so it’s been a bit with just the two of us. The neighbors haven’t said anything at all about Sam’s departure, but then what do you say?

“Oh hey – so…..your husband took off.  That’s….a thing…”


So I’ve slowly been establishing myself as the sole resident of the house, both inside and out.

I kept the lawn guys, because there are wasps outside and I really REALLY do not cotton to those.  Plus, yard work?  That smacks of effort.  They’re not THAT expensive and I like coming home and going “Oh hey! The lawn is mowed! Awesome!” Plus they do gutters and leaves and whatnot.  It’s a good deal.

But it’s weird sort of being “me” instead of “us” in the local environs. Plus, if we’re all being brutally honest, I am a crazy person now – at least some of the time.

I mean, my Josh Groban porch-sobbing episodes HAD to have occasioned at least some gossip as I tried to tearfully explain to the dog, me in headphones, why the adorable little gnome just KNEW how to punch you in the feels with his angelic warbling.

And exiting the front door, face-first into spiderwebs streteched between my two giant yew bushes, and then dancing around yelling “FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK YOU MOTHERFUCKING SPIDER FUCK GAH FUCK ADAUGHTER OF UNGOLIANT BITCH FUCK” was probably not the best thing I could have done for my reputation in my quiet, conservative burg.

You have to understand that if you translated “We have lots of money and we love our lawns” into Latin and slapped it on a flag, that’s my city’s motto. Only they’d argue for days – weeks – about the color of the flag, not because anyone gave a shit about the color, but because they worried about what message the color might send and whether or not it clashed with the awareness ribbons.  Awareness of what?  NO ONE WOULD KNOW.

So I am trying to be a good citizen, but occasionally I fail.  Thus it was yesterday when I let SB out back. I just needed him to do his thing and come back inside. Only he caught sight of something and decided it was a terrorist cell in the next door neighbor’s yard. In fact, it was a white squirrel.  Like all white.  Like, admittedly, frighteningly white. He DID NOT LIKE ALBINO SQUIRREL.

So he went apeshit. Like you do.

I tried my normal CTFO tactics, but he was not having any of it. The barking. And the jumping. And the snarling.

I finally ran out of patience and, forgetting myself just a tish, screamed “I KNOW IT’S AN ABOMINATION IN THE EYES OF THE GODS, BUT FOR THE LOVE OF CHEESE AND WAFFLES LEAVE IT!” Which, strangely enough, worked. As if my acknowledgement of its eldritch strangeness was all he was really looking for to begin with.

Also though, my neighbors looked out their back door.

So I went inside and cranked up Josh Groban. For internal consistency reasons.




Bad Medicine

The local vet is a only a few minutes from the house. I got the dog into the lobby, where he bled profusely. So much that the girls behind the counter whispered about how much blood it was. I looked down and suddenly realized that, yeah, it was.  Especially given how much was already on the floor and furniture at home.

I went catatonic.  Which apparently upset other customers. So they put me in an exam room.

My ex husband texted me to ask how Starbuck was. I thought about ignoring him, but was a grownup and told him. I hate being a grownup.

Eventually the vet came in. I’ve seen two vets there.  One is Dr. Hippy – he’s young and has hair down to his waist, but he’s a really good vet. The other one – the one I saw that day – is Doc Oct. For Octegenarian.  He’s clearly going for the record of Oldest Practicing Vet in the World.  He has GOT to be the frontrunner. I have no idea if he’s a good vet.  I don’t understand a word he says. I am pretty sure he uses poultices and treats ague. He’d decided to use pressure bandages to stop the bleeding – because the dog had somehow torn out TWO toenails.  No, I don’t mean broken them off, as dogs are wont to do – I mean TORN THEM OUT COMPLETELY.  How?  No clue. Also, why did he not use silver nitrate? The vet, not the dog, obviously.  No idea.  I texted my cousin, who happens to be a veterinarian (but he’s a long drive from my house for emergencies, which is why I didn’t go see him for this) to ask about it, and while it was OKAY, pressure bandages are not perfect when there’s a risk of infection, which there is here, on, you know, feet.

So I went out to the lobby, dog in tow – who had, by the way, completely forgotten he was injured and was prancing around just fine.  They’d given him pain meds and he was in that sweet spot where the foot had stopped hurting but the grogginess hadn’t set in yet.

I pulled the card out  of my shirt pocket and handed it to the cashier.  I wrapped up the transaction and put the card back in my pocket and got back to the middle of the lobby and, for the first time in his entire life, my dog grabbed my skirt – a simple, long knit skirt – in his teeth and pulled it down around my ankles.

I just stood there and said, “Yep.  That’s about right.”

I pulled up my skirt and trudged out  to my car wondering where my life and dignity had gone.

And realized they were not going to be found today.

Do you know what the only thing worse than having your skirt pulled down in a veterinary lobby and then making it safely out to your car is?

Having to go back INTO that veterinary office to get your purse, which you left in the exam room.

I asked my cousin, and those girls behind the counter are NOT trained to deal with that situation.  They are not.


Walk with the Animals, Talk with the Animals

When Jeff, aka Raccoon Ranger, arrived, he was everything you would expect from someone who specializes in vermin removal and who has a farm for citified animal rehab out in the country. He was also delightful.

He explored the attic and seemed truly disappointed not to find anything.

Next, he went outside and scoured the outside of the house.  I stayed inside with the dog, who was a bit agitated at having someone wandering around the yard.

After about ten minutes, Raccoon Ranger knocked excitedly at the door and beckoned me out back to check out “positive Raccoon Sign.”

He took me to the back landing and walked me through the clues like Poirot at a murder scene. But with a Southern twang.

“Well, you gotcher claw scratches on the lattice where he crawled up here, then he ambled on over and you gotcher paw prints on the siding, and the downspout is all bowed out where he shimmied on up, and raccoon belly tuft fur where he scooched out to the eaves, and then pop goes the – well, the raccoon – he was up and over onto your roof, and up into your attic.”

“That’s a very strange skill set you have there, Jeff.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ll set up them traps.”

I’d been outside for all of four minutes. I went back inside – and found an abattoir. There was blood everywhere.  There were literal pools of it standing on the ottoman. And there was no sign of either the dog or the cat.

I panicked.

The dog came limping in from the garage, whining, his right front paw a pulpy ruin.

I had no idea what had happened, but I did a quick search and found the cat asleep.

I tried to clean up the paw, but he wouldn’t let me. He snapped at me. I couldn’t even rinse it to see how bad the actual injury was, much less find the source of the bleeding.

I made a mistake here.  I called my ex husband to ask for help.  He got angry and yelled because he had patients and could not just leave them to come  deal with my problems. I just hadn’t thought about what time it was.  Sigh.

RR came to the front door and saw the mess and asked if I needed anything.  Whatever look was on my face told him I did not require him as I reached for my wallet and tossed him my credit card.

While he processed payment for the initial traps, I wrapped Starbuck’s leg in a towel as best I could and ran out and tossed all 65 pounds of him in the car. I grabbed my stuff, checked the back, locked the door, pulled out of the driveway, rolled down the passenger window, caught the clipboard, signed the sheet, tossed back the clipboard, stowed the card in my shirt pocket, rolled up the window, and called my friend Carol – like a goddamned domestic ninja – to ask her to tell me I was a rock star. She didn’t skip a beat, then asked why. I told her.  She told me I was an EGOT winner. She cautioned me not to wreck the car. Good advice.


Strangers in the Night

Starbuck (my dog) had never in his life been one for sleeping in the bed, but suddenly the other night he was determined to do so. He snuggled up next to me, his nose pressed onto my knee. That was fine. Nice, even. Until it wasn’t – which was at about 2:00 AM when he began emitting a low, rumbling growl.

As I clawed my way up from the depths of sleep, I realized that he was attempting to alert me to the fact that a band of homicidal hobos had broken into the garage, used the ladder there to climb into the attic, crossed through the roof to the bedroom, and now were going to drill through the ceiling to drop down and murderface me with bloody abandon. Like they do.

Starbuck’s growls rose to an urgent whine as the tumbling and thumping above me increased in volume and intensity.

What. The. Hell.

When I possessed enough of my faculties to all but dismiss the murderous ceiling vagrant theory, I realized that there was likely vermin of some kind in the attic, which wasn’t much better. Also, whatever they were, they were RUDE – and Starbuck strongly, and loudly, objected to their presence for the next four hours. I didn’t sleep any more that night.

At about 4:00AM I resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to get any more sleep, so I started researching what might be in the attic.  I mean, I already had it narrowed down to a certain extent – it was not going to be wombats or meerkats or something. But it turns out that critters in one’s attic is a fairly common problem in the Midwest, so there are a number of websites dedicated to fairly elaborate and nuanced descriptions of the noises made by the most frequent offenders.

From what I could tell, a traveling raccoon theater troupe had moved into the attic and was rehearsing an all-vermin production of A Chorus Line.  Raccoon Cassie had SPUNK.

Now that I thought I knew what was scrabbling around, I had to find someone to deal with them, so I looked for reviews and found a company that seemed to be a good fit and called them. Do I need to point out that I waited until civilized business hours?  I did.

I talked to a guy named “Jeff” (that’s his real name – but hang on, I’ll be giving him a nickname in a minute anyway) and got info and pricing.

I started to share my raccoon thespian theory with Jeff, but he was a pro and didn’t want me to taint his investigation with my premature conclusions, so he asked me to just describe the situation.  By which he meant noises. In detail. And onomatopoeia.  He confirmed my suspicions. From that point forward, he was Raccoon Ranger.

I arranged for him to come out on Thursday to…do whatever it is he does.

Oh – and on the off chance you should ever need raccoon removal services, here’s how the pricing works.  So, there is a flat fee to put out traps.  Any  number of traps. Raccoon bait can be a lot of stuff because, well, they eat pretty much anything. Here in the fancypants suburb where I live (I don’t live in the fancypants part of town, but I do live close enough to be a thorn in the side of those who take their lawns and homeowners’ associations seriously) they probably dine on quinoa and kale and free range salmon most nights. But if he put fish in the traps, we’d catch every neighborhood cat, so, no. Instead, he used candy apples and marshmallows.

Anyway, so he put out three traps, one flat fee.

Now if you CATCH a raccoon, that’s an additional per-varmint cost for removal and disposal. I DID ask what disposal meant.  Because I kinda thought I should.  Apparently there is a lovely farm out in the woods about 75 miles from my house where all the city raccoons are rehabbed to country life. No, seriously – that’s a thing. He takes them out to the country by where he lives and turns them loose, but far enough from civilization that they won’t wander back to the suburbs. I’d like to think they all sit in little lawn chairs and hammocks talking about their days rummaging in garbage cans and dodging Labradoodles.

And yes, there is a group discount.  I asked.  Because remember  – I thought I had a whole freaking raccoon family band.

I was not prepared, though, for what happened when he came to visit.