As a longtime practitioner of animal husbandry, which makes me a husband who has had a lot of animals, I love all of God’s creatures, except certain creepy insects and other lower life forms, some of whom I have voted for.
Sue, whose husband I am, is even more of an animal lover. She would, I admit, hurt a fly, which is why, flyswatter in hand, she prowls the house in a relentless hunt for the little winged invaders.
But otherwise, she’s as gentle as a lamb, one of the few domestic creatures we have not had as pets over the years. Our menagerie has included a dog, a granddog, four cats, several hamsters, half a dozen gerbils and countless fish, one of which lives in a bowl on the liquor cabinet. I put it there so I could say our finny friend drinks like a fish.
But lately Sue has been at war with a pair of squirrels and an indeterminate number of rabbits (the population is uncertain because they breed like rabbits), all of whom are eating her flowers and the fruits and vegetables in her garden.
The squirrels are the worst. Sue thinks they are either siblings or a young married couple honeymooning on our property. I can just see the postcard: “The menu is wonderful. Wish you were here.”
I think they are cousins twice removed, though even if I removed them, they would return twice.
The problem is catching them. Because I am afraid of heights and lack a prehensile tail, which fell off when I was in college, I don’t climb trees.
Not that it matters because these rambunctious rodents frequently stay on the ground, taunting us. Most normal squirrels would beat a hasty retreat up a nearby oak when they saw a human. Or at least one that looks like me.
Our antagonists sit on the grass and stare directly at us. I could almost hear them say, “Nyah, nyah!” Then again, maybe it’s the wind.
The rabbits are just as bad. I’ve gone out and yelled, “Eh, what’s up, doc?” But they just twitch their noses at me. It’s infuriating.
Because Sue and I don’t want to resort to violence, although I hear there’s a sale on dynamite at the Acme Company, we have tried to come up with less harmful means of ridding the yard of these persistent pests.
My sister Elizabeth suggested cutlery.
“We don’t want to eat them,” I said.
“You don’t have to,” she replied. “Get some plastic forks and put them in the garden with the tines sticking up. That will discourage the critters.”
It worked for a while, until the critters figured out a way to get at Sue’s squash and string beans anyway.
“I hate squash, so they can have it,” I told Sue. “But I like string beans, so we’ll have to try something else.”
I suggested putting up a scarecrow with my picture on the face, but Sue said it would be cruelty to animals.
Then there was the coffee ground defense, which entails spreading grounds on the ground. It didn’t work.
“No wonder,” I said. “The coffee probably kept the critters up all night.”
Finally, Sue came up with a solution, which is, ironically, a solution containing water and hot red pepper. They are put into a plastic spray bottle and spritzed on the flowers and whatever grows in the garden, repelling squirrels, rabbits, birds, warthogs and any other creatures that have designs on your flora.
Unfortunately, it’s worked on only one creature.
“Eat your vegetables,” Sue said one evening at dinner.
“No, thanks,” I replied. “Give them to the squirrels. I’d hate to see any of God’s creatures go hungry.”
Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Hearst Connecticut Media and is the author of four books. His latest is “Nini and Poppie’s Excellent Adventures.” Email: JerryZ111@optonline.net. Blog: www.jerryzezima.blogspot.com.