(photo culled from random internet stock photo site, but let's pretend I took it. It's pretty good).
On Sunday, the girls burst into the house, voices tumbling over each other as they called for me to help them.
"It's Chip! It's Chip! He's stuck in the trap," Bear told me frantically. Chip is a chipmunk that lives in our garden. He's so used to us that he frequently gathers fallen from the bird feeder on the patio while we're sitting a foot or two away. He's adorable, bright of eye and stripey of head. We've gotten a little attached to him.
(And I know what you're thinking, and you can stop speed-dialing PETA now. It's a Hav-a-Hart (humane) trap set up on our front porch to catch the diabolical gray squirrel who has made it his singular life mission to knock down my bird feeders. When we catch him, he will be humanely transported across the river so he can knock down someone else's damn feeders).
"It's fine," I told her, "As soon as he spits out his mouthful of seeds, he can fit right through the bars. I've seen him do it before."
"No, he's stuck half in and half out," Bug added urgently, "You've got to help him, Mom!"
Wondering exactly when I became "Mom: Saver of Wildlife", I went out on the porch to discover that he was indeed wedged halfway through the bars and seemed stuck at his pelvis. Hm. He scrabbled wildly, biting at the bars, and struggling to free himself. I watched for a few minutes but began to be afraid he'd hurt himself. The girls waited anxiously.
I sent Bug for my leather gloves and tried to eyeball the situation. I couldn't tell for sure if it was his pelvis that was stuck or a hind leg, which seemed to be snagged near the mechanism that held the seed.
Putting on the leather gloves (See? I'm not a moron. I probably shouldn't disclose that I also occasionally use these gloves to pick up snakes that I find in the garden), I gently cradled his body with one hand and reached the other into the trap to check on his leg. He relaxed in my hand and eyed me with one beady little black eye.
Me: Hey, little buddy, we're just going to get you out.
Chip: (valiant pull and scrabbling of legs)
Me: Aw, girls look how sweet his little pawsies are! OK, the leg is fine. Let's see if we can eeeeeeease his pelvis through. (I try shifting his body slightly one way, then another to no avail).
Bear: He's being so sweet!
Bug: Poor Chip! Hold on, Chippie. You'll be out soon.
Me: No, that's not going to work either. I think I need to get him back through the bars, so he can come out the front of the trap. (begin to gently, gently! push his tiny body back through).
Chip: (tenses body and braces back legs so I can't push him)
Me: Come on, Chip. Work with me.
Chip: (eyeballs me, swiftly turns head and tries to bite my finger, but gets mostly glove).
Me: Whoa there, nipper! (I ease the glove out of his mouth and try again to get him through the bars).
Chip: (reassesses, takes another mighty chomp on the finger. Even through the glove, I can tell those teeth are SHARP).
Me: SON OF A WHORE. Er, I mean, go get the phone book, girls. We're calling Animal Control.
The girls, wide-eyed, fetch me the phone book. And, of course, as I sit there paging through the book to find the Animal Control number, Chip magically frees himself and scampers off the patio.
Not even a thank-you.