I have a debilitating fear of animals. Almost all animals. I play nice with dogs, from a distance. I like to look at elephants at the zoo. Other than that, animals are not my cup of tea. Especially mice, rats, squirrels. Seeing one makes my insides seize up, and I can barely breathe.
Somehow animals find their way into my life in the most intrusive of ways.
When my daughter was one-month old, I was still feed her several times a night on our living room couch. One night around 2 am, I heard a little noise from the fireplace - a ping of something falling. The most surprising part was that we have a non-functional fireplace that is completely bricked-in.
A week goes by and every night I hear the same noise. Somehow the debilitating exhaustion of having a newborn prevented me from doing anything about it.
One night after dinner I lay Baby Girl in her little yellow cradle, which just happens to be in front of the fireplace. As I walk away, I turned around to look at her, and I see something. A big black tail is fanned across our white fireplace, about a foot away from our baby daughter’s face.
Everything gets very blurry after this point. I don’t remember walking or reaching, I just suddenly had my baby in my arms, and I remember kind of grunting to my husband. Once I got Baby Girl behind a closed door, I lost it. I picked up the phone and started calling any number remotely related to animal control.
I frantically told the gentleman who answered my first phone call that there was a creature in my fireplace. “I don’t know what it is, but come right away. Come with guns! Lots of guns!”
He calmly pointed out that it is Sunday night and someone could come within 24 hours. “TWENTY FOUR HOURS!?!? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? THERE IS A CREATURE TRYING TO EAT MY NEWBORN BABY!!!!!!!!” (all rational thought had left the building.)
I call a few more people who all tell me they could come out the next day. So I do the only thing I can think to do: I run. I packed hundreds of diapers not knowing if I would ever return to this house, and I ran like a fugitive. (Baby Girl is cooing through this whole event.) I went to my sister’s house and made her give me tight hugs, until my breathing returned to normal.
The next day animal control went up on the roof to inspect the situation. After peering in our chimney with a mirror, a nice lad announced “Oh yeah. You gotta mama raccoon and all her little babies in there.”
Let’s pause to take in this news: A mama raccoon was a foot away from my baby girls face.
Continue the story - Apparently Animal Control is more animal-friendly than I am. I thought they would stick a gun in there and game over. But this nice, tender-hearted gentleman explained that raccoons hate the smell of pine. He dropped a few pine-smelling packets down the chimney and assured us that Miss Mama Raccoon would carry out all her babies, one by one. Then they seal up the chimney. As a new mother, I did feel a tinge of guilt for evicting this mama. This feeling was fleeting however, and I was ecstatic to know the raccoons would be relocating.
After several long phone calls, my husband convinced me that there were no more animals in our house and it was safe to come back home.
I’m sure this baby girl of mine is going to become an animal-loving, raccoon-saving veterinarian one day and we’ll laugh about the time I wanted to shoot a family of raccoons out of our chimney. I’m not laughing yet, but I’m sure we’ll get there.