Slices of Life

by Jill Pertler

Tenderhearted tough guys – and Chippy

 

I was all set to write this week’s column about an incident that happened yesterday when I was cleaning lettuce from the garden and came across a lovely green caterpillar. The creature wriggled in the sink, stretching upward, trying to find a foothold for its escape. I called my son’s attention to “Greenie,” and he plucked the critter from the sink and headed toward the back door to put the little guy outside.

“Don’t put him anywhere near the lettuce,” I said.

I was all set to write about a day earlier this summer when my husband and I found two baby squirrels dead in the middle of the road near our driveway and he got a shovel and dug a hole and we buried them in our backyard.

I was all set to write about caterpillars and squirrels and a few more of my family’s critter-related habits when our cat let out a low, guttural meow in the dining room.

Instinctively, I got up and stood on my chair. When my son (in the family room) bolted from the couch toward the cat and exclaimed, “Oh my goodness!” I knew my initial analysis of the situation had been correct. We had a crisis on our hands.

When my cat lets out a deep, raspy meow, it’s because he is announcing, with pride, that he’s brought home a trophy. After years of cat ownership (or more correctly, being owned by cats) I’ve learned a cat’s trophy is often alive. Hence my perch on the chair.

“It’s a chipmunk!” My son announced. “And it’s alive!” A chipmunk in the dining room. Things could have been worse. Once it was a snake.

A live chipmunk meant one thing. I jumped down from the chair knowing we were now in rescue mode.

I grabbed the cat and ran upstairs to put him in the bedroom while my son stood guard over the chipmunk. With the cat safely out of the way, I returned to the scene of the crime. Chippy (we gave him a nickname) sat rigid under the table, undoubtedly scared out of his little chipmunk mind. Our plight was further complicated by the piano – an old and heavy upright – also in the dining room. If Chippy ran under it, we were in trouble. It was clear we needed reinforcements. I went to get a big brother.

The two boys and I surrounded the table, assessing our options. One son stood in front of the piano, blocking access. The other held a plastic cake cover. In one deft movement the cake cover became a chipmunk cover. We had the little guy secured. Next we slid a large book under the cake cover to create a floor for Chippy and we carried him out to the backyard.

“Run free, little Chippy. Run free.”

After a moment’s hesitation, he did. And we returned to the house. Back to the everyday routine of normalcy that makes up our lives.

We let the cat out of the bedroom and he is strutting around like a 14-year old declawed chipmunk stalker who still considers himself boss of the neighborhood. His tail is riding high. He is confined to the house for a while, to give Chippy a chance to recoup and recover, but the cat doesn’t much care. He knows how awesomely great he is.

Some days I think I live with too many rough and rowdy guys – and I’m not referring to the cat. Today wasn’t one of them. Today we saved a chipmunk’s life. In the scheme of things that’s something. At least around here it is.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning writer and syndicated columnist.