The first couple of times I heard the noise above my head I thought it was raccoons on the roof. It was definitely some kind of rodenty, four-legged activity. I took to racing up to the attic with a broom or hockey stick in my hand to give chase, or at least catch a look at my rivals, before they scampered off, but I never once caught sight of a raccoon on the roof.
Probably because it wasn’t raccoons I was up against; it was squirrels, and they weren’t on my roof, they were inside of it. If you think I am an idiot for mistaking the sound of a tiny little squirrel going about its annoying business for the much larger but no less pesky raccoon, then obviously you are lucky enough to have never had an entire extended family of the filthy little rodents take up residence in the ceiling directly above your office.
Now, I was born and raised in the Yukon, and though I have been an urban dweller for some time now, it is quite possible that deep down inside I may still hold onto a few outlooks that are more bush than I would like to believe. The first option that came to me with regards to my uninvited houseguests was to simply dig out my gun and shoot the little buggers. Not all of them; I’m not a monster or anything. My plan was to just pick off one or two of the leaders, the fattest and most confident seeming of the brood. The rest of them would hopefully take the hint and seek alternative shelter elsewhere.
Then I made the mistake of mentioning my plan to one of the women who lives in the suite downstairs.
“You will absolutely do no such thing. If you shoot even one single squirrel I swear I will tell every vegetarian and lesbian in all of East Vancouver. Slowly you will become known as the squirrel murderer, and you will eventually be so ostracized that you will never work in this town again.”
I stared at her face, searching for any sign that she wasn’t completely serious. I couldn’t be sure. My career is still not in a position where I can afford to risk even a halfhearted part-time PETA boycott, so I reluctantly put my pellet gun away, at least until she and her girlfriend go to Costa Rica this spring or something.
One of the good old boys from up the street spotted me unloading a supposedly more humane live trap out of the back of my car a couple of months ago. I had already briefed him about my rodent problem. He knitted his eyebrows in confusion while he bent down to give my old dog her now-expected biscuit from the stash in his coat pocket.
“Thought you were planning to just shoot the little fuckers. Those traps are time consuming. Plus sometimes if you don’t relocate them far enough away, they just come back.”
“Janelle won’t let me,” I lamented. “Says she’ll tell all the lesbians on me and they will quit coming out to my shows.”
He nodded sympathetically, and shrugged his shoulders as if to say, ‘Well, what can you do?’
“What are you going to do with them once you have them in the trap?” he asked.
“I’m gonna put tiny little squirrel-sized blindfolds on them so they can’t see where I’m taking them, then I’ll drive them over to Queen Elizabeth or Stanley Park or something and I’ll let ’em go.”
He shook his head sadly. “Then they’ll just dig holes in someone else’s attic; become some poor other guy’s problem.”
I nodded sympathetically and shrugged a silent ‘Well, what can you do?’
A sly smile stretched across his face, and he held his hand up like a bracket around one side of his mouth, and whispered, “You know, they’re way easier to shoot once you’ve already got them in the trap.”
We both laughed for a minute, and then he and his inherited geriatric hound turned and headed slowly for home.
The thing is, I don’t hate the squirrels in my attic just because they’re noisy and selfish about keeping it down when I’m trying to concentrate and get my work done. I don’t hate them just because they dig little holes in the drywall and get plaster dust all over my printer. I don’t hate them just because one day last summer I left the window in my office open and came home to find one of them sitting on the keyboard of my laptop. He had the gall to give me quite the huffy little attitude when I chased him out the window and tried to knock him out of my flowerbox.
It’s the fire hazard that bothers me. Squirrels really like to chew on electrical wires, and many a fine inferno has a fried little critter as a culprit. Already having had one house burn down makes me all the more reluctant to relive the experience.
My downstairs neighbours already think I have possibly unhealthy conspiracy/survivalist, end-of-the-world tendencies because I suggested a house meeting to ensure we have at least a 72-hour supply of fresh water and nonperishable food in case of a natural disaster. Then I had to go and reinforce their fears by trying to shoot stuff on the property.
I didn’t want to be right, but just before Christmas one of the rodents finally bit the wrong wire in the wrong place at the right time, and bit it for good. It blew the main breaker in our suite and I had to run an extension cord out the back window and plug our deep freeze in downstairs until I get home from up north. Then I’ll have time to fix the wiring, and the squirrels, for good.
Relax, I’m going to call in a professional and have him live-trap and relocate them safely out of my range.
I love my downstairs neighbours. It’s the ones upstairs that have to go.