A squirrel, mole and raccoon walk into a bar …

I know that I’ve addressed squirrel and mole issues before, but as a victim of repeated furry encounters, I feel it necessary to document these incidents fully, in the event that I am found one evening deep in the back woods, covered loosely in leaves, surrounded by acorn shells, my cold dead hands still clutching a bushy tail.

A few days ago, my dog Kasey cornered a squirrel on our back deck. But, instead of running away, this fuzzy, suicidal terrorist raced full-speed at Kasey and leaped into her mouth in an attempt to martyr itself while choking our dog, thereby “taking one for the team.” Luckily, Kasey is more chicken than dog, and after freezing in horror for a split second, she spat out the squirrel and ran behind me. The woodland creature collapsed in hilarious woodland guffaws, then raised a tiny fist of squirrel solidarity and scampered away.

Next, a small squirrel “fell” from our giant front yard tree, and lay writhing in the grass in apparent pain, but after I rushed around looking for miniature squirrel Band-Aids, it sprung up as I approached, yelled “Nananana-booboo!” and scrammed.

Then came the moles, burrowing tunnels in our yard so deep they could swallow a small child, and every solution we tried — most of which, as I’ve said, should just be called Purina Mole Chow and be done with it — was simply an entertaining challenge for the mole kingdom. Kasey astounded herself by digging one up and holding it for three seconds before racing to the birdbath to gargle. The furry critter snickered as it disappeared — obviously another fiendish trick.

Last weekend, I was sitting at the kitchen table grading papers — which is all I ever do, day and night, night and day, forever until I die, but who’s complaining — and suddenly I caught a glimpse of movement out on the deck. And, as I live and breathe, waddling slowly up the steps onto the porch was an absolutely adorable, cuddly, chubby little raccoon.

Honestly, my first instinct was to rush out, scoop it up, and snuggle with it, perhaps to perch it eventually on my daughter’s old bed, among her discarded stuffed animals. My second instinct, fortunately, was to berate my first instinct for idiocy, and warn myself that it probably had rabies, or trench mouth, or cholera or something, and would undoubtedly kill me in a horrible fashion, so I made sure the dogs didn’t see it, and just watched it explore.

I’d washed a small rug the day before and had hung it out to dry in the sunshine, draping it over the deck railing. And, this little guy thought it made a dandy tent, evidently, because he went under there and stayed. I did call the Animal Control office, where a woman listened patiently as I babbled incoherent concerns, and then said — and I quote — “Well, shoot, ma’am,” (and, I thought that ma’am stuff was particularly uncalled for — I was already in a vulnerable state) “it sounds like he’s just havin’ some fun. Raccoons do like to play, you know.”

“Of course, I knew that,” I snapped. “Who doesn’t know that?”

So, I watched the little guy “play” for about 10 minutes, until he finally got bored, came to the glass doors, put his thumbs in his ears and waggled his fingers at the dogs, then wandered off in search of a good woodland matinee.

Finally, one day in the mountains, some friends and I heard Kasey barking frantically outside. We found her barking up a tree at a reddish-colored mountain squirrel, who’d evidently gotten a telegram from his Chapel Hill cousins with instructions on torturing us and our animals. Suddenly, the squirrel leaped onto the neighbor’s roof, where it stopped, threw its little head back in a triumphant chortle, and took a header into the gutter. And, this squirrel thrashed and plunged his way down the downspout for a good 10 feet before stopping just above a bend in the pipe, where it was apparently blocked.

We could hear it trying desperately to climb up, as Kasey and Gabby barked vicious, gruesome threats — safely separated from it, of course, by that quarter inch of metal. As any self-respecting Italian woman would, I burst into tears and ran to get a saw, determined to hack my way through the gutter if necessary, but before I could, my friend was able to pull one of the sections below the squirrel apart, and then reached a gloved hand up, grabbed the tail and yanked him out.

He looked at us all — wary humans and stunned canines — for a split second, then raised his hand in a small salute, and disappeared. I have a feeling we’re square now — the pest kingdom and me.

Vicki Wentz’s column, which appears here on Sundays, is published in newspapers across the country. She is a high school teacher who lives in Chapel Hill, N.C. Readers may contact her at vwentz@mindspring.com.

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