I ♥ Vermin (but They Don’t ♥ Me)
Dictionary.com defines vermin as “small animals that are troublesome to man.” Bunnies, raccoons, foxes, chipmunks…they’re all vermin. But, aww, I mean, just look at ‘em!
Heck, I even think rats are cute. Yes, I know about the Black Death, but technically that was caused by bacteria on fleas, hitching rides on rats. I mean, do you arrest a trucker just because some dudes with drugs stowed away on his trailer? OK, so rats could do a better job on personal hygiene, but still…
And mice? Forget about it. Each time our cat Misha captures one, I take it away from her, look into its shiny little eightball eyes, and then set it free in a local forest. The last time Misha caught a mouse, she dropped it in my lap, as if to say, “Here, Mr. Sensitive, you’ll probably want to ‘save’ this.”
I can’t help it. I ♥ vermin.
But they don’t ♥ me. A cosplayer at a Renaissance festival had a pet ferret. I smiled. She said, “Go ahead and pet him. Nigel likes it.” So I put out my hand, and Nigel promptly attempted to separate it from my arm. As I raced to find post-Elizabethan toilet paper to stanch the blood, the woman shouted, “What did you do to him? Now he’s all upset!” I wanted to ring her neck. With Nigel.
Both the high and low points in my vermin-loving career came when we moved to a townhouse in Burbank, California. Several squirrels lived in the pines out front. One, whom my wife dubbed Nutkin, spent most of her time digging up our potted plants. So one day I set down a pile of almonds near her. From that moment on I was her dealer. The minute she spotted me in the morning, she’d leap onto the screen door and rattle it until I brought her “her almonds.” By week two, she was stuffing her cheeks before I walked away. By week three, she was eating them out of my hand. So by week four, certain of her love, I reached out to pet her.
I know. Stupid idea.
By the time I’d shaken her off, Nutkin’s teeth had pierced my digital phalanx to the bone. By comparison, Nigel the Ferret’s nip had been playful tickling. My index finger exploded like a Texas gusher. Once I’d sealed the hole, my finger turned the color–and size–of a ripe eggplant. Two things disappeared that day: 1) my fingernail, 2) my idiotic notion that vermin are pets. There’s no way… Oops, gotta go, there’s a chipmunk outside and…
He’s so cute!
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