(Fred wrote this section.) Robyn leaned in and kissed me goodbye. She was off to the pet store to do her volunteer thing with the kitties, and I was parked in front of the computer to check the day’s news until it was late enough for me to go outside and work on my shed without worrying about disturbing the neighbors. I’ve been looking forward to today, because the day off for the holiday gives me an extra day to work around the property. Early in the morning on a day off is one of my favorite times. I spend two or three hours surfing, plopped in my chair in my undies and a t-shirt with my big bubba mug of coffee in hand. It’s a great way to start the day relaxed, which I usually need because once I start working on things I tend to get stressed over the number of things that go wrong. It’s annoying when something that should take an hour, like changing plugs on a truck, ends up taking three. Or changing transmission fluid takes half the day because the auto parts store gave you the wrong part. Twice. I was getting up to refill my coffee when I heard it: a loud crash from the laundry room, as if one of the cats had run into the door at full speed. When you have a houseful of cats, one of them is always doing something attention-worthy. As I walked through the kitchen, Miss Stinkerbelle came racing out of the laundry room with her tail tucked between her legs. She looked guiltily up at me as she raced by. There was apparently a committee meeting going on between the screen door and the inside door. When I got into the laundry room I saw no less than three cat hind ends sticking out from that small space. I figured one of them was the cause of the loud sound, and the other two were there to investigate, like the Hardy boys. I pulled the inner door open wide to see what was up. There was a tiny squirrel cowering on the threshold, his dark eyes wide with fear. Though he’d been frozen in fear, when he saw me he squealed in fright, which caused all three cats to pounce. In an instant, I was standing in a cartoonish whirlwind of cat and squirrel, still kind of dumbfounded by the whole situation. I did what I thought was best: I pushed the screen door open for him to go outside. The squirrel raced down the back steps, closely followed by the cats. They took turns swatting him and biting at him, and the whole caravan worked its way along the house, over the air conditioners, and to the lone tree in the fenced part of our property. Which the poor squirrel couldn’t climb because I wrapped flashing around it several months ago to keep the cats from climbing it. He would race up the tree to the flashing, try to climb it, then fall back into the waiting crowd of cats. I felt so bad for the poor thing. He was going to die if I didn’t do something, and do it quickly. I frantically searched the top of the washer and dryer for some dirty clothes, something I could wear, but I couldn’t find anything. So I stepped into some sneakers and raced out the door in my underwear and a t-shirt, yelling at the cats. The squirrel saw me coming and made a mad dash across the yard, closely followed by the cats, and more distantly by me. Around the patio, under the clothesline, past the chicken yard, and finally back to the tree. This time, he ran up to the bottom of the flashing and stopped. I got there just as the cats did and used my hands to keep them from jumping up at him. At the same time, I talked soothingly to the squirrel to try and calm him. While he didn’t look calm, he stopped darting around and clung to the tree. The cats circled warily, their tails whipping from side to side. Outside the fence, Miss Mama and Newt slunk back and forth, staring in at us intently. My mind raced. What to do? If I left to find something to catch him in, the cats would get him. If I didn’t do anything, the cats would get him because there was no escape. Left and right I ruled out options in a flash, until there was only one viable solution. I reached out and touched the squirrel, talking softly to him. He let me stroke him, then gently pluck him off the tree. He squealed a couple of times, and wriggled at first, but then he stopped. His eyes started to close, and he went limp. Oh my God, I thought. He’s going to die in my hands, just like all the birds I’ve rescued. His eyes opened wide again, and he looked alert. Then slowly they closed. Open. Closed. He’s going through his death throes. Then they opened, and stayed open. I guessed he was just suffering from the aftershocks of all the adrenalin. When it looked like he was going to live, I realized I had a problem: I was standing in the backyard in my underwear holding a squirrel, surrounded by cats both inside the yard and out, with nothing to put the squirrel in to transport him to safety. And if I was going to get close enough to a squirrel to hold it, I was by God going to get some pictures. We all have our priorities, you know. I walked around, looking desperately for something, anything, to contain the squirrel. I debated shutting him in the chicken coop until I could go find a box, but then I caught a flash of what it would be like trying to crawl around in the chicken poop trying to catch him again and discarded that. What about the grill? I could shut him in the grill, then— No, scratch that. I looked at the back door. I could carry him into the house, find a box, and put him in that. Then I imagined the phone call I’d inevitably have to make to Robyn. “Hey,” I’d say. “I, um, lost a squirrel in the house.” That would be even worse than the time I lost a snake in my car, I think. Then I caught sight of the laundry hanging on the line. Linens. Including the pillowcases off Robyn’s bed. Perfect. I walked over to the clothesline and undid the two clothespins holding one of the pillowcases with my free hand. It dropped to the ground, and I picked it up and shook it open. The squirrel wriggled in my hand when I did, and I quickly thrust him into the pillowcase. He immediately raced onto the hand holding the pillowcase, leapt, and hit the ground running. The cats were right on his tail, and chased him straight to the tree. I ran over and grabbed at him again, only this time he wasn’t all tired out and panicked. He was feeling froggy. As I pulled him off the tree, he turned his head and chomped my finger with his little squirrel teeth, causing me to drop him. He made a mad dash to get away from the cats, climbing the nearest thing that towered above him like a tree. And that’s how I came to be dancing around the backyard in my underwear this morning, clutching a lavendar pillowcase in one flailing hand, with a herd of cats milling around my feet and a squirrel clinging to my thigh. I brushed the squirrel off my leg and he immediately jumped at me again. And that’s how I came to be running around the backyard in my underwear this morning, chased by a squirrel and a herd of cats. He gave up trying to climb me after a few tries, and went back for the tree. I was able to use the pillowcase to catch him this time. As I did, I noticed my finger was bleeding where he bit me. I carried the pillowcase into the house and called Robyn. “I don’t really know any way to even lead into this, so I’ll just tell you,” I said. “I’ve been bitten by a squirrel.” “Oh, Jesus Christ,” she said. “How the hell did you manage that?” I told her the story and she decided to come back home to go to the emergency room with me if I needed to go. When we hung up, I called the vet’s office to see what their suggestion was. I don’t really think of squirrels when I think of rabies, but better safe than sorry. “Go to the emergency room,” I was told. “They may want to give you shot, because it’s not like you can catch the squirrel and bring it in.” “Nope,” I said, and pulled the pillowcase behind my back in case she could see through the phone. I didn’t want the little guy to have to die because of my actions. When Robyn got home, we let the squirrel go, and I decided to go to the emergency room on my own. Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to go to the emergency room over a tiny little scratch on one finger? I asked to talk to a nurse before doing anything, because I didn’t really think my squirrel bite was an emergency. I just wanted to know if I needed a shot or not. As it turns out, squirrels almost never have rabies, and the nurse said I should just keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t get infected. And that, boys and girls, is how I’ve spent my Veterans Day holiday so far. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Yesterday afternoon I was watching TV when the phone rang. It was Fred, calling from his cell phone. I knew he’d been out working on the shed, so I figured he was calling to tell me to come admire his handiwork. “Come to the side door and bring the camera,” he said. “Newt’s been hunting.” I did, and found Fred holding a small vole by the tail. “Is it dead?” I asked. “No, it’s still alive.” “Is it kicking-and-screaming alive, or just barely?” “It’s perfectly fine. I think Newt had just found it when I walked by.” I snapped a few pictures. “If you hold on a minute, I’ll get my glove on, and you can shoot a few pictures of it in my hand.” I waited, and told Newt what a big, bad hunter he was. (But he already knew that.) Fred came out, the rodent in his gloved hand, and held his hand up so I could shoot a few pictures. The vole squirted out between his thumb and forefinger, and hit the ground running. Newt leapt upon him and grabbed him up. The vole squealed and kicked. I did a little squealing myself. Fred grabbed at the vole, Newt dropped it, it ran a few feet, and Newt snatched it up again. Fred made sounds of exasperation at Newt, grabbed at the vole, the whole scene repeated itself, but just before Newt could grab the vole again, Fred got hold of it. Miz Poo sat by the fence gate, looking at us with great interest and puzzlement. I snapped a picture, and out squirted the vole again. Newt jumped at it, the vole squealed and ran through the fence into the back yard by Miz Poo, who stared at it with disapproval, like “Oh, are they bringing more animals into the back yard? Shocking.” Fred opened the gate, Newt went running through the gate at the vole, Fred grabbed it up, and said “I give up. I’m going to go set it free in the back forty.” I shut the gate – Newt still in the back yard – and Fred said “Now Newt’s probably so disgruntled he’ll kill and eat a chicken when we’re not looking.” He didn’t, though. He’s a mighty hunter, but he’s no dummy. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Last night I was sitting in front of my computer, digesting dinner, when Fred frantically yelled “We have an escapee!” I got up from my chair and headed for the hallway. I wasn’t sure where he’d yelled from, and the most recent escapees we’d had to deal with were from the foster kitten room, so I thought perhaps he’d gone upstairs to spend some time with the kittens, opened the door, and one of them had shot out. Spooky, especially, is a little escape artist, waiting at the door until you open it, then he shoots out the door, down the hall, under the guest bed, and into the guest bedroom closet. Same path, every time. “What’s going on?” I yelled up the stairwell, and waited for a response. No response. “Hey!” Still no response. I glanced over at the front room and realized that the front door wasn’t quite completely shut. I went and opened it, to see Fred kneeling on the porch looking over the side. “Tommy escaped!” he said. I looked over his shoulder to see Tommy running joyously around under the bushes beside the porch. I called him, he ignored me, and I decided to go back inside, through the house, put on some shoes, and go out to try to catch him. Tommy ran from the side yard, across the front of the yard, and along the other side yard, ending up in the bush that sits directly outside my bedroom window. It was dark so I couldn’t see him, but I could hear him rustling around. Fred went inside, ran the length of the house, grabbed some shoes, and came at Tommy from the back yard. Tommy ran from the bush by my bedroom window to the bush alongside the porch, and finally ventured close enough so that Fred could grab him. “Bad boy, Tommy. BAD,” Fred said grimly as Tommy fought for freedom. We went inside, and Fred scolded him again before releasing him. Tommy grumped and ran off down the hall. “He disguised himself as Maxi!” Fred said. Apparently Newt was sitting by the front door, asking to be let out, and Tommy – who has clearly learned how things work around these parts – was sitting next to him. It wasn’t until Fred had let them both out and turned around to see Maxi regarding him from the back of the couch that he realized he’d been had. The entire time we were chasing Tommy around the yard, Newt was running around, chirruping and pouncing, as if he was thrilled to have a new outside friend. The mighty, mighty hunter.

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Previously 2006: In lieu of an entry today, you get a plea. 2005: No entry. 2004: No entry. 2003: I’m not holding much love for Tubby at the moment, believe you me. 2002: And also, I have short and stubby legs. 2001: I think that our dog thinks she’s a Mexican jumping bean. 2000: In fact, my new motto is going to be “Bitch, whine, moan. Lather, rinse, repeat.” 1999: I would name her Molly.]]>