That's when it happened. I looked out the back window over the kitchen sink and saw it. The Havahart trap we've had out for days was finally full of groundhog.
We occasionally get groundhogs, because we live in the woods. If you've seen the pictures of my backyard gardens, you see the ravine behind us that is chock full of all sorts of wildlife--the screech owl that sounds like a deranged monkey, the fox that shrieks like a psychotic lunatic when looking to get lucky, about 50 kinds of woodpeckers that come to our suet feeder when the blue jays and sparrows don't take over (I hate to be a bird fascist, but I put the suet out for the pretty birds, not the one-step-up from pigeon birds, but I guess if you feed the birds you have to be accepting of all who arrive), about a zillion chipmunks that would be cute if not for the fact that they are decimating my cherry tomato crop and leaving their half-eaten refuse on the driveway and patio to taunt me, sometimes a rogue wild turkey or two, the lame-legged deer that births fawns EVERY SINGLE YEAR and this year has twins (although someone told me deer always have twins? Is that true?), an opossum nest in the ravine behind our house below the drainage pipe in a creepy cinder block foundation that looks like where someone would hide their abducted teenage girls, and lastly those pesky groundhogs. Despite the fact that I just made it sound like a haunted insane asylum, it's actually quite pretty and I feel very lucky to live in such a beautiful area where I am surrounded by nature--the beautiful and the unattractive alike.
But, the groundhogs. They dig giant holes under the Shed That Bryce Built. Then more chipmunks move in and make themselves at home. And, the groundhogs like to eat plants and nibble them down to nubs. They didn't attack my garden now that it is monstrous, but early in the season a groundhog ate all my tomatoes down to sticks and all my cilantro down to the ground. I was pissed. But, maybe it's like a forest fire or something, because they came back huge and Audrey II -esque, to the point where I am afraid they are making a break for the house. So I forgave the groundhog, who was apparently caught in a Havahart trap across the way and then dispatched to our town's Animal Control office, who, according to our neighbors, euthanize the little buggers. Unlike the town whose borders cross through our backyard and we missed by two houses, who apparently just release them around the corner in the county park and then they come waddling back to wreak havoc in your yard again. (This other town also has brush and leaf pickup though, which is a nice perk that we don't get. Whoever designed a dead end street to be two towns, with one town "owning" the end of the street, was a complete idiot. Make the street all one town!)
Unfortunately, last week I saw two little groundhogs go running from the shed into the ravine when I went to take the trash out. So my fears, that the big groundhog had dug a nest practically halfway to China in order to pop out some groundhoglets, seemed a bit substantiated. They were definitely smaller. So we borrowed the Havahart trap and set it up in the backyard. We heard strawberries did it for our neighbor, who caught another giant groundhog two weeks ago. Kale had definitely lost its luster, as the groundhogs couldn't give a shit about the kale we kept supplying at the recommendation of our neighbor, so we got strawberries. Bryce originally went to give the trap the strawberries in the fridge, and I was like, WE ARE NOT GIVING THE GROUNDHOGS ORGANIC STRAWBERRIES!!! I went to Wegmans to get poisonous pesticide-y strawberries just for the groundhogs. Except apparently chipmunks are lithe enough to run in, get the strawberry, run out with it, and eat it without setting off the trap. I actually saw a chipmunk get a strawberry through the wire mesh and eat it with his little arms through the bars of the (empty) cage. Argh.
But, yesterday, I looked out the window and saw that a little guy had been trapped. Oh. I guess I forgot, that being the Off For The Summer Teacher, I would be the one home to deal with the trap once it had actually worked. I'll be honest, I was hoping it wouldn't. I hated the groundhogs for being destructive, but how can you hate this face?
|Pardon my finger. I was too distraught for better photo.|
I thought about how I'd have to be the one to place the call to Animal Control, and that I'd basically be sending this little guy to his death. I had texted Bryce to tell him the trap was successful, but he hadn't gotten back to me, and I then realized I couldn't very well go all Free Willy on the rodent and let it go, because a) I had visions of letting it go and it attacking me like every ridiculous stuffed-animal bit on TV or movies, and b) Bryce really didn't want this thing living under the shed and he wanted it gone and now he knew the trap worked and he was probably really happy about it. So I did the next logical thing.
I cried. I couldn't finish my almond-butter-and-blueberry-spread sandwich because I'd made it all soggy from crying while eating (which is challenging to execute and the risks of choking are high). I went to visit him to see if he was ok.
"Hi little guy...I'm so sorry you're going off to a death camp. I'm so sorry your free range days are over." And then I cried some more. The poor thing was so scared it shit all over the cage, on the lettuce put in there the day before, and the flies were buzzing all around and it didn't seem to care that it was in a shitcage. From the window I could see that it was chewing on the bars and trying to get out. It was horrible. My heart was breaking into tiny little pieces for this poor, trapped, desperate varmint.
I decided he deserved a delicious Last Supper. I decided he deserved more strawberries while he waited to be put down. I cried as I shoved them through the wire mesh, trying to avoid the fly-covered piles of shit that made the little guy just slightly less sympathetic.
I left an insane message for Bryce, where I sobbed and was incoherent through most of it, crying that I couldn't do it, I couldn't call in the death brigade to come get him, that it was making me really sad, that he was just a BABY, I couldn't stay in the house like this, please call me back and make the call.
I fed him more strawberries and tried to talk in a soothing voice, but the little guy was shaking in the corner and eyeing me suspiciously (but ate the strawberries once I walked away). And then, since sometimes he's in meetings all day and I was afraid that day was one of those busy nonstop affairs, I decided it was far more cruel to leave the groundhog in a trap all day waiting for Bryce to take care of it, that I had to put my big girl panties on and grow a set of ovaries and take care of it myself.
The Animal Control office went straight to voicemail and I had to leave a message detailing the issue, trying to sound calm and in control. I did ask if I could leave it in the backyard instead of carrying it to the front yard, because that sounded very scary to me. And so it was done. I had made the Death Call.
Then Bryce called. He hadn't listened to his message, so he had no idea what he was in for. I sobbed and re-hystericalled myself, and he couldn't help but laugh through the whole thing. "Do you want to let it go?" he asked. "I CAAAAAAN'T!" I wailed. "I already called in the Death Call!" and I devolved into hysterical sobbing again. Bryce apologized for laughing, "You're just so cute," he said. "You'd make a terrible farmer's wife." "Well GOOD THING I'm NOT!" I sobbed again, like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally when she is crying about being single and her ex getting married and turning 40 "someday." Then I got call waiting from the Animal Control Unit.
There is a happy ending here. The officer was very kind and answered my insane, cry-hitched voiced questions nicely. No, they do not euthanize unless they absolutely have to, like if the animal is sick or injured in a serious way. "We are a voice for the animals without a voice," he said, and sounded actually quite upset that they were being mischaracterized as animal killers, even if people were happy about that. He sounded tired and apparently had had a long day of extracting snakes, groundhogs, and racoons, and so he did ask if I could put the cage in the front. He said it would chatter its teeth at me and ram its head into the cage, but that they were really not smart and wouldn't harm me in any way and the worst that would happen would be a split nose that was no big deal. Then he would come in the afternoon and take it, test it, and rerelease it into a wild space elsewhere in our town, like the Thousand Acre Swamp (doesn't that sound like something out of Winnie the Pooh?).
Instantly I felt much better. I called Bryce back and gave him the happy news, found a winter glove, and set out to move the groundhog. He was pretty calm and when he did ram the cage once I just put him down and tried to calm him down (?) and then moved him into a shady spot in the front yard. I chatted with him, and then I waited for Animal Control on the front steps so I could keep an eye on him, read my book, and keep him company if I felt he was lonely. Yes, I do realize how insane this sounds. I love animals, even long-nailed, digging machines like this little groundhog, and I hate the idea of anything in pain. Lupron totally fueled some of this though I'm sure, because it was all very amplified and the amount of tears given to a rodent pest was, um, disproportionate. Especially, ESPECIALLY because when the Animal Control Officer came to get him and confirmed that he was just a baby, I got teary eyed, and then I cried after he left. Like he was my little furry friend or something. GOD HELP ME when I actually do get pregnant--there had better be no strays or pests or anything like that nearby or I will end up with a petting zoo. I will turn into a crazed Mrs. Doolittle. I am also very glad that I second guessed my decision to give him a third serving of strawberries before getting picked up, in case he was hungry, because the timing would have been right as the Animal Control truck pulled in and that would have looked very, very strange.
It was exhausting. I was spent. It was 3:30 by the time the truck came, so I couldn't go visit my Grandma. I was dehydrated from the groundhoggy tears. My head hurt and I needed a snack and a nap. I laid down and read my book and zoned out, just wrung out and ready for the day to be over.
Bryce felt sufficiently awful about the turn the day took that he picked me up and whisked me away to The Revelry, a local fancypants restaurant that we went to for my birthday that has delicious craft cocktails, delicious duck tacos, delicious everything, really. He did give me a heads up so I could do up my face a bit and erase the effects of groundhog angst and mourning, which was nice.
At dinner, I thought about where we are right now. How this one thing is so incredibly difficult, more difficult than I ever could have imagined. But, that if you take that one thing out of the equation, we are SO VERY LUCKY. We are genuinely happy together. Despite the Lupron, despite my hating the body Bryce loves so much, despite the specter of loss and emptiness in our home, we are HAPPY. We have a beautiful friendship and love and partnership. Our marriage is built on mutual respect and we both contribute beautifully to our relationship -- we appreciate what each of us brings to the table and work seamlessly as a team. We are both successful in our careers and very good at what we do (not to toot our horns, but it's true). We are passionate about our work. We are passionate about our causes. We are passionate about food, and wine, and music, and books, and nature. We DO things together. We have built a gorgeous home. Ok, the home was built in the 1930s and it was originally bought with his ex-wife, but we have made this home OUR home. There are no ghosts in it. It is nothing but happiness and Bryce's woodworking (and some shrines to our lost babylings and some hoodoo items that may not immediately be recognizable as such). While frustrated that we are stuck, we are in a very good place financially and are incredibly fortunate that that is not an overwhelming consideration for treatment. We have built a life together that will only be enhanced by the very special baby/babies that are meant for us, that will come to us in whatever way they decide (but, uh, decide already, ok? We get how special you are. We just want you here.). We are kind with each other (minus some human slips) and argue well and make up well. We enjoy each others' company. We find each other ridiculously attractive. We appreciate each other's sense of humor. We appreciate each other, PERIOD.
We have SO MUCH. And, I mean, who wouldn't love this hot hunk of man?
|Deciding what delicious items to eat and drink and just looking so fine.|
Even though the day was oddly emotionally draining DUE TO A RODENT, it also ended on a surprisingly high note. A beautiful dinner when my plan was leftovers, a surprise date with my amazing husband, a reminder that all is not dark clouds and woe-is-me. Sometimes you need that, you know? A little reminder that there ARE silver linings, as much as in the depths of despair you don't want to acknowledge them because the clouds are just so roiling, dark, and destructive. I am proud of the family of two that we have built so far. We have a lot to be grateful for and we are happy. So in case you were waiting for the "right time," babies, now is it. We could not be more ready. We could not have more love. We have everything you could possibly want. Your mama cries over groundhogs because she is just filled with SO MUCH LOVE (and Lupron). It really ought to go to you. So feel free to come on over, make yourselves known, add your beautiful souls to our family.