Zoology tells us that non-human mammals, number around 500 billion, and almost all of them are four-legged. No one is counting, but 10 trillion reptiles and amphibians, give or take, are also lurking around.
Beautiful. The more the merrier.
But why do most of them want to live at my house? Or under my house? (We’re looking at you, Mr. Armadillo.)
Sometimes living in the Broadmoor area of Shreveport is like living in a tame but teeming suburban Serengeti. Instead of wildebeest, we have possums. Instead of buffalos, raccoons. Instead of zebras, the aforementioned armadillos.
There is also the friendly squirrel and the harmless rabbit. That’s fine. Squirrels are fascinating athletes in my opinion, and a rabbit who kept showing up in my yard in December of 2001 got so friendly that the big-earned fuzzy cuddler actually sat in my lap and watched most of Super Bowl XXXVI with me, Patriots vs. Rams (vs. Rabbits). After a couple more weeks and low on carrots, I gave him (or her, I never looked) away to a rabbit-keeping-equipped friend with rabbit-loving children.
I’m told he or she thrived.
The record shows this clearly: I love animals. And pets. I know it. You know it. The American people know it.
But … there is a line. And if you as an animal have appeared in advertising that concerns pest control, if you are on that side of the line, we can’t be friends. Only acquaintances.
That dog just won’t hunt.
I once had a rat problem that was cured with small plastic devices that looked like tyrannosaurus rex jaws. In bed I’d hear the tell-tale CLAP! from the attic and sleep a winner’s sleep. Night after night until every one of them, the size of kittens, were sleeping with the fishes.
Once raccoons got into my chimney, where a little ledge inside allowed them to sleep all day in air conditioning, right above the fireplace and a few feet from the TV. Thought they were in the Waldorf-Astoria. The only way I knew they were there? The smell, and the fleas.
Had to hire “a guy” to “take care” of them.
Once in the garage, I felt someone looking at me and there was a coon, a baby, hanging by one arm, like he was doing show-off chin-ups, cute as a bug, his baby eyes piercing me with a question: “Mind if I hang around?”
Not two nights later I was rounding the corner of the garage and Daddy Coon was standing on his hind legs, chill as if he’d gone out for a smoke. Neither of us expected the other and we both ran, like cartoon characters, in opposite directions.
So, while I have gotten better at keeping them outside, they are still invading the “boundaries” my marsupial counselor told me to set. It’s not working out well.
The back fence is some sort of possum magnet; that’s the only explanation. I don’t hear of possums on other people’s fences. But they love this one, and Gracie Lou, a Maltese and domesticated and plenty of trouble by her herself, will bark and roar at lion magnitude until the neighbor dogs, Molly and Gus and Jezebel, sometimes Dixie, join in and soon it’s like a barking garage band that’s not very good.
The possums have only one rule: they never get on the fence until you’re in bed for the night.
And so …
One remarkably loud and recent evening, me and Frank, The World’s Greatest Neighbor, had to dispatch an exceptionally hard-headed one, the Dog Crescendo having reached wake-the-dead levels. He or she (again, I didn’t look) was properly buried the next morning on land outside of town.
My part of “the cleanup” was to place the checked-out marsupial in a coffin — found an empty Tito’s Vodka box in the garage — and leave the box by the dogwood tree by the porch. Frank, “The Eraser,” did the rest.
And that’s the world I am living in these days.
When I sat the box by the porch, I noticed something that hadn’t been there the day before. Ridges in the side yard. Holes.
Me against another wave of those 500 billion mammals.
The beat (down) goes on …
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