This past Saturday I woke up to find a squirrel in my kitchen.
Let me set the scene for you: it’s morning. My girlfriend and roommate are out of town. I’m half asleep with no glasses on, walking into the kitchen to greet the rodents who actually live there, our pet guinea pigs. Unable to see well, I see something move in a place where things don’t usually move. I notice a bushy tail. At this point my brain is beginning to process the unprocessable: that a wild, living thing has breached the seemingly indefensible borders of our living quarters. There’s a squirrel on my kitchen counter, as relaxed as could be. He may as well have been eating eggs and reading the paper before mumbling, “G’morning Mike,” while he sipped some coffee.
There were no windows left open and no discernible holes or cracks for entry. So best I can figure, this rodent is basically the squirrel version of David Blaine.
As soon as I realized what it was, I stupidly said, “C’mere, buddy” in a consoling, understanding tone. I then moved towards the creature, at which point it predictably ran away as fast as it could. I’m not sure what my strategy was at this point, but apparently “picking up an unfriendly animal and potentially getting rabies” was a risk I could live with in my evacuation strategy.
So the squirrel runs into a little room off the kitchen, behind the guinea pigs’ cage. My biggest concern was it finding its way into the cage and squabbling with one of our pets. Though there are four of them, they’ve never been in a fight before and this squirrel is from the streets. Our pigs are given lettuce, water and hay every single day. This squirrel has probably killed a pigeon for a chewed up piece of gum.
Luckily, the squirrel wants nothing to do with them and plants himself underneath a radiator. Usually in the mornings I’ll give the pigs a piece of cucumber to eat, so as they looked up at me expectantly while this is going on. I realized that was their only concern. Not now, guys. I’m prioritizing your treat way behind dealing with the psychotic woodland rat.
After moving the pigs to another room, the battle to get this guy out begins. First thing I do is open the window directly above the radiator. If the squirrel was smart, he’d realize freedom waited not five feet above him. Instead he just sat there, frozen in terror. I put a few pieces of bread on the window sill hoping to draw him out, then quickly removed them. What if more animals show up? At that point it becomes easier to just turn the place into a zoo for city animals. Rats, pigeons, squirrels. It will be a veritable treasure trove of dirty, aggressive vermin no one likes and who aren’t afraid of you.
I then Googled “how to get a squirrel out of your apartment.” My favorite bit of advice: “If the squirrel is a mother with a nest of babies somewhere in your house, the humane thing to do is let the babies stay for 2-3 months until they’re strong enough to leave on their own.” Yes, that’s the suggestion I’m looking for. I’m trying to get this thing out of here ASAP and you come at me with, “Have you thought of just letting the squirrel family be your new roommates?” Any solution that involves asking my landlord to add seven additional squirrels to my lease isn’t a solution.
After a few hours of the thing not budging, I call a wildlife removal service. If you thought the squirrel and I were the biggest idiots in this story, wait ’til you get a load of this guy. He shows up with zero equipment. No nets, no gloves, no nothing. Basically, me but with a van. Seems like a nice enough fellow, with a hint of an French accent. I explain the situation and he says, “So where’s the squirrel?”
I show him the squirrel.
He laughs. “So it won’t go out the window?”
What am I supposed to say to that? “Nope, you got me. It went out the window. That’s actually a stuffed animal I put under there to trick animal control guys I invite over to my apartment. I’m lonely. Will you be my friend?” No, it won’t go out the window.
“Oh, okay. Well, you got a towel? And maybe like a plunger?”
Why are we using random household objects for this? Now I’m thinking this may be his first day on the job. “Yeah I’m still figuring out this whole animal removal thing. There’s a lot of trial and error involved. I like to be resourceful and do it with whatever I can find. Last week I got a deer out of a brownstone using a tape measure and a coat hanger.” So I hand Haitian MacGuyver a toilet brush and a towel and let him get to work.
But my part apparently is not done. He says, “Make sure you don’t let it get to other parts of the apartment.” I get that dealing with wild animals in a domestic situation is going to be an inexact science, but shouldn’t you have a way to do this that doesn’t require my help? Are you trying to make me into your apprentice or something? After this is done he takes me down to his van and hands me a badge. “You have earned this. One day when I die this van and everything in it will be yours. I’m truly proud of you…son.”
So he very gets the squirrel out from behind the radiator. After the squirrel darts around behind the cage for a few seconds, he corrals it in a towel. And keep in mind, the service I had requested advertised themselves as being humane. That’s why what happened next shocked me to my core.
The guy holds the squirrel in the towel. Looks at the open window. Looks at me.
“So you want me to throw it out the window?”
Quick recap: I’m on the fourth floor of a walkup, this is not a flying squirrel, and it was still very much alive. He might as well have asked me, “Do you want me to execute it?” He also said it in a weird way, like a kid asking another kid if he wanted to see a dead body. “Should I toss it? Whaddya think will happen?”
My horrified expression gives my answer away. “Uh…no. I don’t want you to throw it out the window.”
“Okay, you want me to take it with me then?”
Yes, that sounds fine. Keep the towel. Now I’m wondering what the training at his company is like. “Okay class, today we’re going to talk about the ethical and humane removal of living animals from an apartment. Our first option? If there’s a window nearby, just chuck it out. Make sure after you do to run away from the scene, as anyone walking underneath the window may be hit by the falling beast and will quickly look to blame you.”
I returned the pigs to their rightful home and our long domestic nightmare was over. As I used a year’s worth of Clorox wipes to disinfect my kitchen afterwards, I kept thinking of what I could have done differently to avoid having to pay a useless animal control guy to basically just help do what I would’ve done if he hadn’t shown up. I even kept Googling other tips on squirrel removal. Then the thought flashed across my mind, “What should I do next time this happens?”
Which was immediately followed by an accompanying thought: “How about just never having a next time?”