October 25, 2014
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Uninvited guest keeps coming back
WHO’S COMING FOR DINNER? Carolann and Phil Soder are ready for guests, as long as they’re not squirrels.

Carolann sensed a presence in her darkened house. Something was there. She wasn’t sure, but she thought she had heard a shuffling, a stirring, something moving past her. She and her husband, Phil, have a pet cat, but this wasn’t Zoe. Carolann was sure of that.

That instant is all part of an episode that started nearly two weeks ago and was still playing out as of yesterday afternoon. It has been the subject of office talk with nearly everyone offering a suggestion to the dilemma faced by the Soders.

The feeling that the house was being shared by another being was confirmed a few days later when Phil stepped into the dining room. There was a squirrel eating an apple on the dining room table. The two eyed one another and then the squirrel took off. The hunt was on, or better put, Carolann and Phil were about to be tested.

The Soders have had their encounters with animals. There was the raccoon in Phil’s mother’s home. Phil figured the way to get the animal out was to start in the basement and systematically go from room to room clapping until he cornered the animal and shooed it out the nearest open window or door. It worked.

Then there was the time Phil’s son’s pet Nile Monitor, a lizard about three feet long, got out of its giant aquarium. The reptile was an escape artist, which was disconcerting to Carolann who feared she might step on it and it might bite her. On this particular occasion, she hadn’t noticed the lizard made its escape until she went to pull the clothes from the washing machine. There was the monitor at the bottom of the tub, staring up at her in a daze. Spinning is probably not a lizard thing. Carolann figures the lizard found a comfy spot in the heap of clothes and she had tossed him into the machine when she did the laundry. Amazingly, the animal survived, although it was never quite the same again.

The squirrel hasn’t been as complacent as the lizard or as compliant as the raccoon. It has proven to be a formidable adversary or, one might say, more devoted to the Soders than they are to it.

Already it has been shown the door, and used it to make a speedy exit, only to reappear.

After the dining room table introduction, Phil turned to Google for a strategy. Sure enough, the Internet suggested limiting the animal’s options for escape so that it would head for the door and freedom. Of course this was based on the assumption that you knew where the squirrel was and if it really wanted to get out.

Phil was in his recliner when, from behind the living room couch, poked a head with a round set of eyes and pointy ears.

Phil had the subject in his sights and he wasn’t going to miss the opportunity. Hastily, he shut the door leading upstairs and opened the front door. Carolann had the brilliant idea of using a piece of Plexiglas to close off the corridor leading to the dining room and kitchen. The squirrel didn’t budge and was taking in all the preparations. Phil wasn’t sure what to do next but, for safe measure, armed himself with a golf club. Using the club, he touched the squirrel ever so lightly on the head. He could have been throwing a switch to a merry-go-round. The animal tore around the room at breakneck speed, practically vaulting the Plexiglas. Carolann shrieked and the squirrel raced faster.

“It was like the Indy 500,” says Phil. If only he had had a video, the scene would have surely made TV, he said.

Eventually, the squirrel made its escape and Phil and Carolann thought their lives would return to some level of normalcy. The next day Phil, with the help for his friend, Bruce Finelli, stopped at Lowe’s and bought a wire cage to fit over the chimney. Every other house in the neighborhood has a chimney cage, now theirs does. When the job was done, Phil recalled thinking, “We’re good.” Until he checked the damper knob on his fireplace. It was open and he would have sworn he had closed it. Through the glass panels of the fireplace, he could see the squirrel, looking back at him again. It didn’t hang around but shot back up the chimney. It’s still there.

“You can hear it whining, sort of like a cat,” Carolann said, mimicking the animal’s pathetic whimper. She’s considered leaving an apple in the fireplace but Phil doesn’t want to make their home all that welcoming. Friends have suggested a path of peanut butter leading out the door, although both Phil and Carolann aren’t about to subject their living room carpet to that.

Yesterday, Phil was going back to plan A; opening the glass panel to the fireplace and inviting the squirrel back into the living room with a clear passage to the front door and the great outdoors…just as long as the squirrel’s buddy, who has been hanging around the house, doesn’t take that as an invitation to move in, too.


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