Bright-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed, Sure, But Eager to Chew Holes in My Home

Thursday, July 6, 2006

At first, it wasn't so bad. I awoke on the very first morning we moved into our new house on a small, wooded lot in Del Ray to the sound of playful scampering on the roof outside our window. Squirrels. Not a sound you would have heard in the District apartment building we'd just moved from. But this was a neighborhood. Squirrels came with the territory.

Then they started gnawing on the outdoor teak table and chairs we'd just bought. They chewed up the deck. In a most acrobatic feat, one clung with the tips of his sharp little back claws to the maple tree out back and, upside down, impossibly stretched his hairy little body all the way out to the wooden Japanese bird feeder we'd hung on a branch that we thought was a safe distance from the trunk. Ha. He ate the birdseed. Then he ate the bird feeder. When they began clinging to the gravel stucco on the side of the house and peering in at us through the window, impervious to my shouting "Shoo!" I called my mother.

"Can't you get a .22?" she asked.

She's from Wyoming.

Instead, I began making accommodations. I tossed the husk of a bird feeder. When I discovered that all the tulip bulbs I'd planted in my first rush of proud homeownership had been dug up and strewed about the yard with teeth marks in them, as if rejected for their inferior food content, I stopped planting tulips. When one Halloween they greedily mauled the faces off the jack-o'-lanterns we'd put out on our front steps, we put the pumpkins inside the screened porch the next year.

Then they ate through the screens. I called my sister.

"I heard something about lion urine. If you spread it around your lawn, it'll scare them away."

She got that from my mother.

Then they chewed a hole in my green city-issued garbage can. Often as not, I'd find one in the pin oak tree outside the front door, sitting, unperturbed, on a branch, finishing a slice of pizza or half-eaten chicken nugget one of my kids had not. They began attacking the forsythia bush -- full on, turning somersaults, hurling themselves against the little yellow buds like professional wrestlers performing flying piledrivers. The color yellow seemed to really torque them off. The forsythia died.

My husband thought they were mad: "Maybe there's some hallucinogen in the porch furniture they're eating."

Then last year, one got into the house. There are few things in life I splurge on. My $500-a-window plantation shutters were one. My Ethan Allen cherry sleigh bed was another. The squirrel massacred them. Then pooped in the toy box. I put a message out on my neighborhood listserv.

"Get a dog," one neighbor said.

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