The first uninvited guest at my Twin Cities' townhouse snuck in when I wasn't looking.
I first noticed the smell; it was an unpleasant musky odor. Next I noticed dirt from a potted houseplant spilled on the floor in the living room. Finally I saw a small gray animal scurry along the wall right under my big city dog's nose.
I assumed it was a mouse, and without hesitation I climbed up on the coffee table. It wasn't so much that I was afraid of the animal. I felt sorry for the trapped little guy and was sure he'd rather be elsewhere. My panic was more based on the fact that I didn't know how it got in or where it would turn up next as he slipped behind the sofa and the piano and back again.
I directed traffic from my vantage point high in the center of the living room as the only man in the house ran around the room with an ice cream bucket and a broom in an attempt to corner the tiny rodent. During the chase, we got a better look at the animal that was always just out of reach. We decided the rather pointed nose and short tail didn't belong to a mouse. After finally catching and releasing the visitor, we poured through pictures and finally decided it was a short-tailed shrew.
Twice more during my 10 years in that house, the shrew or a relative found its way in. I was thankful that each time someone was there with me. That allowed me to remain in my directing role rather than switch to the capturing job that was beyond my expertise.
When I moved to the country, I gladly welcomed the wildlife I could see through my windows. I hadn't quite prepared myself for the possibility of more uninvited guests. The first mouse sighting in my "new" home was a major event. With my husband working out of town at the time, Mom and Dad came to the rescue. They plugged holes with steel wool, set up d-con and spring traps, and helped me clean out drawers and cabinets that must have looked like cozy and warm apartments to the unwelcome visitors.
I was alone when I heard the first trap snap. I called Mom and Dad for moral support as I disposed of the dead body. Over the next several weeks, many mice and shrews expired in traps in our garage. With so much experience, I became quite brave in dealing with the bodies. I didn't mind them as long as they stayed out of my house and the kitchen cabinets.
As the weather turned colder and some snow appeared, the guests stopped arriving. I figured they'd found warm winter homes outside of ours where they belonged. The daily routine was altered to exclude checking the traps each morning. I wasn't expecting any more intruders again until summer changes to fall again later this year.
I was extremely surprised, therefore, when over the familiar sound of crunchy food pouring into the dogs' bowls, I heard a faint "meow!" I heard it twice more before finding the source above my head in the laundry room. It seems the neighbor's outside cat was looking for a warm place to spend the night. It must have walked in through the open garage door and found a break in the insulation high in the rafters. The dogs were more excited than I was about the intruder this time.
As I helped the cat find its way outside, I thought I must be growing accustomed to life in the country, and learning to expect the unexpected must be part of the training.
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