This happened several years ago, (last century, actually!), when we were living in Columbia, MD, halfway between the pompousness of D.C. and the gritty craziness of Baltimore.
It began in the late afternoon, with the bizarre behavior of our cat. Now being a cat, he was no stranger to bizarre behavior, but we started to pay closer attention to his actions as they became disturbingly repetitive. He was staring at the fireplace, whimpering and meowing. At times he would even jump at the fireplace cover.
“What the heck is wrong with the nutty cat now?” we wondered. Eventually the cause became obvious, even to us clueless humans. We heard faint scratching, clawing noises coming from inside the chimney. Something was crawling around in there!
As the evening wore on the noises from inside the chimney grew louder and more frequent, and we realized that whatever was in there was stuck. Hoping for the best, we took crazy cat with us into the bedroom and shut him in. He was decidedly unhappy cooped up with us, when, in his little cat mind, he knew he should be stalking whatever was there in the chimney. It was a long, uncomfortable night.
In the morning I opened the bedroom door, letting the cat charge downstairs and immediately resume his actions in front of the fireplace. We had hoped that whatever was in there would have gotten out over the night, but the cat acted as if nothing had changed. After 30 minutes or so it was apparent he was right; we heard the scratching noises from inside the chimney once more.
I had to go to work, which left dealing with the cat and the unknown creature trapped in our chimney to my ex-wife. Not knowing what to do, she called several animal rescue and rehabilitation places; they in turn told her to call an exterminator. This was a mistake. We should have called an animal removal company. As became obvious later, exterminators do not know anything about removing animals from a house.
The exterminator arrived, and after being appraised of the situation said that the best way to remove the animal was to lock up the cat, open the front door and all the windows, then open the doors to the fireplace. The highly disappointed cat was locked up, the front door and all the windows were opened, and at last the metal doors to the fireplace were swung open.
Inside was a squirrel.
I’d like to say that the exterminator’s suggestion worked flawlessly, that the squirrel ran out of the fireplace and immediately bolted out through the open front door. That did not happen. The squirrel just sat there, shaking nervously.
After several minutes of this the exterminator gave the little critter a tap with one of the fireplace pokers, and like a rocket the squirrel shot out of the fireplace.
Now I want you to remember exactly where this squirrel was coming from: a fireplace. A WORKING fireplace. A working fireplace that had recently been used, and was full of ashes. So when, like a rocket, it shot out of the fireplace, it shot out all covered with soot!
And it most certainly did not charge out the open front door, but rather, in a wild panic, ran around and around and around the room, climbing over every piece of furniture and racing across the bookshelves, knocking over books and my ex-wife’s porcelain collectables. At one point it was back in the fireplace, clawing desperately at the walls, and picking up more soot in the process, then in a flash it was running around the room again, soiling everything it touched.
Finally after one more frantic whirlwind of destruction the squirrel happened to climb on a windowsill. It sat there for a moment, halfway out the open window, then in a last gesture of defiance the little monster peed all over the windowsill! One more hop and it was outside, running across the lawn for the closest tree.
My ex-wife was aghast! The living room was a mess! But it could have been worse; she was able to clean up the soot, ashes, and pee, and only one of her collectables had been broken. Unfortunately it was a very nice cut glass dish given to her by one of her bosses, but like I said, it could have been much, much worse.
As I had been at work when all this happened, I came home to a tired, upset woman and a disappointed cat. I gave the cat some tuna, and took my ex-wife out to dinner. It was the least I could do.