So I was just settling in last night after finishing the post-process on a recent photo shoot (a little victory), had my dvr queued up and ready to watch Brothers and Sisters when I heard a scratching noise behind the bed.
We located both of the cats, and they were curious too. Soon, Tungsten became less curious and more petrified with fear and hid underneath the bed.
It was definitely coming from under the house, not the attic (squirrel central), which Bart and I thought was very odd. He has sealed up a number of the holes to the crawlspace since we found evidence that a cat was living under there. We figured something must have found a way in and was now trying to get out... scratching wildly at the crawlspace door, which - incidentally, is directly beneath me where I sleep.
We both dressed and prepared for critter battle and went outside to open the door. Bart is a little more comfortable with the idea of pest control than I am, but not a killer by any means. He graciously opened the door so I wouldn't have to confront the varmint head-on, but we were both prepared to run. I should mention that I was standing outside in a stiff wind with an old-lady flowered housecoat on, a head-lamp, no socks and clutching a ragmop for protection. Bart had assured me the handgun I suggested would not be necessary.
You might be wondering why a cruelty-free vegetarian pacifist would want to bring a handgun out to meet the wildlife under the house. It seems like overkill, I know, but to me, bludgeoning some creature to death with an ineffective instrument prolongs their suffering. I'd rather just end it quick if that's what has to happen. I once watched my dad kill a rat with his bare hands when it startled him in the cat food bag. Not because he was a ninja, or Rambo, but because there were no appropriate implements around. He was upset for a long time that he didn't have a more humane - and less violent - way to end the fight. I still think of that rat and his suffering. I also cry during nature films when the predator violently kills his prey, but I digress... back to the crawlspace.
Bart opened the door to the crawlspace, a much bigger area than usual underneath our 94-year old house. I readied my ragmop for the fray... and nothing. There were no animals under my bedroom. We could still hear the desperate scratching from the opening, but now it seemed to be coming from above.
Bewildered, we went back into the house, leaving the door open to the crawlspace in case the little guy was indeed in there somewhere. Bart went up into the attic to see if one of our nemesis squirrels had fallen into a wall cavity. The way the house was built, many of the walls are open on the top or bottom and you can see inside the void. I should mention at this point that these are the moments I am so thankful to be married. Sure, I could muster up the courage to venture into the attic after a rodent with claws and teeth. I might even be able to knock it unconscious without passing out myself, but Bart went up instead because he loves me. I am also thankful that he can handle the breakdown I had right about the time he went up the ladder.
"I can see where it fell", he shouted down from above the bathroom. The critter had fallen down into the cavity where the sewer vent pipe comes through the attic. This meant that it was trapped in the wall, and if we didn't do something, it would be buried alive in my house and scratch until it died right behind where I sleep. I imagined the little guy scratching the inside of his coffin while a foot away I was lounging in my pj's. I would likely require years of therapy and medication to get over that... and I still might with what happened.
We started to think of ways we could saw a hole in the wall and free the unseen creature. A wall stud very close to the vent stack meant there was a very narrow cavity he had fallen into, and we would likely injure him trying to cut a hole in the floor beneath where he was. We stood in the bathroom listening to him scratch, trying to come up with a solution. It was now nearly 3 am, I was exhausted from the night of squirrel partying the night before, and running out of problem solving power. My OCD had taken over at this point, and I was obsessing over the squirrel's plight to an incapacitating degree so the details of our search and rescue operation are a little fuzzy from here. I know Bart went back under the house to make sure we couldn't access the wall cavity. I stood guard with my ragmop. We heard the scratching still, each little tear of its little claws making my blood pressure and my migraine (which I had wrestled with all day) more critical.
Unable to find any more structural clues, we went back into the house. Bart listened to the wall in several spots trying to hear where the critter was and then...
The wall fell silent. In fact, the whole house was silent. My "fearless" grey cat slinked out from under the bed where he had been hiding, the wind calmed outside, and there were no sounds in the house.
Bart gave me a hug, and exhausted we crawled back into bed. Of course I wasn't satisfied with the outcome, since I hadn't seen the creature to safety. For all I know he might still be behind my headboard. Bart thinks he must have crawled back out of the void. I guess it could be true, squirrels can climb anything, right? This wasn't good enough for me though, and I spent another 2 hours in migraine agony, unable to sleep for the visions of trapped animals and the overwhelming sense of panic and claustrophobia I was vicariously feeling. Mercifully, I finally fell asleep.
I have worked from the bedroom all day, and heard no more signs of life from within the wall. I hope he made it, but only time and smell will tell. Until then I'll just have to obsessively worry and wonder if something is suffering very nearby.