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Monday, January 08, 2007 :::

The Barking of the Squirrels

It's no secret that I've had problems with squirrels in the past. Today the conflict reached a boiling point. I'm going to dramatize the retelling of my terrifying ordeal, but I assure you: while the story might seem fancifully told, the details are entirely accurate.

This morning, I needed to take a ripe-smelling garbage bag to the receptacle in the alley out back, but my "outside" shoes were not conveniently waiting by the back door as usual, so I had to wear my slippers. It seemed safe enough, as the sun had temporarily broken through the clouds and the ground looked dry and coarse, but in reality there had been a frost overnight and the ground wasn't as unslippery as it seemed. My backyard slopes uphill rather dramatically, so about halfway up the treacherous hike in my tractionless slippers, I heard a terrible noise: it was the sound of an angry squirrel, barking. I stopped dead in my tracks.

If you've never heard a squirrel barking, believe me, it would send shivers down your spine. It's indescribable. It kind of sounds like a cross between an evil hiss and an unworldly, demonic grunt. But I recognized it immediately. I slowly turned to see a nasty looking squirrel at the base of my tree. He was on his hind legs. He was angry. And he was looking right at me. Barking.

I tried to retreat, but my slippered feet gave way beneath me and I fell, flailing onto my backside, garbage bag still in hand. This didn't deter the squirrel. It just barked louder. My heart stopped as I watched it take a few menacing, but cautious leaps toward me. It stopped about fifteen feet short of my legs and resumed barking. Cleverly, I banged on my garbage bag to cause a racket, hoping that this would startle the creature and bring a little fear back into its soul-less existence. I even yelped, "Hey you! ... Git...!" but this tactic was unsuccessful.

He held his ground, still hissing, and I lied there as motionless as possible. It was not unlike a tense scene in an action movie where both gunmen have run out of ammunition and simultaneously noticed a loaded gun situated on the ground directly in between them, as the camera pans in dramatically to focus on their twitching eyes. Who would make the first move? Except there was no gun, I was in slippers, and the squirrel clearly had the upper hand.

Making a command decision, I stood up and ran for the back gate, toward the dumpster. The barking had stopped, but I was unsure if the peripheral motion I could see out of the corner of my eye was a rabid running squirrel with sharp fangs or some innocuous rustling leaves, so when I finally reached the dumpster with my garbage bag still in hand, I just kept running. I swear I could hear the insipid beast lunging through my lilac bush, so I never looked back.

By the time I got to the end of the alley, the animal was nowhere to be seen, and I was not about to attempt another confrontation. So I dispensed with the garbage bag in a neighbor's trash bin (an illegal act, I know, but I doubt any jury would convict me after what I had just been through), and walked around the entire block - in my slippers - to my home's front entrance, where I was reasonably sure there were no squirrels lying in wait to feast on my fleshy ankles and weakened spirit. And that is where my tale of courage ends, my friends.

So, I told that story with some exaggerated flourish, but seriously... what could possibly make a squirrel go all bat-shit crazy like that this time of year? Besides rabies? I'm afraid of my backyard. I'm a prisoner in my own home.

Squirrels are nasty. Last time I had a bad encounter with a squirrel, my coworker sent me this image to mock me, the power of which has never diminished:

Just add snow and that's basically what I encountered this morning.

::: posted by dan at 10:28 PM :: [ link ] :: (49) comments Social Bookmark Button

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49 previous comments:

A friend of mine had power lines running thru their backyard & a family of squirrels used to sit on the power line and tease the dog (rottweiler) as he was looking up barking his head off. One time a strong gust of wind knocked a baby squirrel of the line and into the mouth of the rottweiler “Spot” then proceeded to bite the squirrel in half while viciously shaking his head.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:16 AM  

I literally just wet myself. Dan, I love you.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:08 AM  

Next time I visit, I'll bring a pellet gun.

We'll have us some good eats.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:22 AM  

I have two kinds of nightmares, ... fire trucks and squirrels. Glad the rottie ate the baby squirrel.

Note to Dr. Erik, m-i-l from Louisville, KY notes that while squirrel meat is too gamey, it does make a nice gravy. We quote her on the "gravy" line constantly.

By Anonymous toddbee, at 7:34 AM  

This is not going to help you, but my neighbor had a squirrel chew through wires under his car. That squirrel tried to cut his brakes man!

By Blogger Biglug, at 7:44 AM  

guy in my office also had squirrels chomp on his car's wiring. two times.

freaking nuts, those rodents are.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:59 AM  

to hear a squirrel barking:

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:19 AM  

Does your vagina hurt?

By Anonymous Matt, at 8:19 AM  

Squirrels are the Devil's oven mitts.

I've told you this before, in other Dan squirrel posts. I'll keep saying it until the world is convinced.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:36 AM  

You mentioned you were in your slippers but were you in your jammies as well?

By Anonymous Doll, at 9:00 AM  

Dan, I can totally relate to your squirrel phobia. My neighborhood has zillions of squirrels running around. In fact, we have a street that we call Dead Squirrel Parkway because there are so many that get ran over. These squirrels are vicious too. They hang out in my front yard, barking & hissing as you enter or exit the house. My dogs love to bark back at them, which just seems to exacerbate the situation. As cute as they may seem, SQUIRRELS ARE EVIL!!!!


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:04 AM  

Just like New York pigeons... If you're sitting there eating a hot dog they just wait...

Wait and coo.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:31 AM  

Awww Dan...that's a sad story. I'm glad you and your slippers escaped though and hope you weren't too cold. I think you should rid your neighborhood of this needless terror. I will leave the method up to you and you wiles. Good luck!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:49 PM  

oops...that was supposed to say your wiles. I'm leaving it up to you and your wiles Drat...stupid blogger with no spell/grammar check.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:53 PM  

lol You actually let a squirrel scare you enough to walk around a full block in slippers. In January. A squirrel! lol

By Anonymous Richard, at 3:45 PM  

K-Mart has the best prices on pellet guns. I keep one at my back door. Just keep in mind that one of the indicators for being a Redneck Hunter (according to those stupid little signs you can by at stupid little tourist shops)is that the squirrels run when you open the back door. However, I'm fine with being classified as such a Redneck Hunter if that means they're not living in my attic anymore. And, yes, they do bark & hiss rather aggressively. I had one poke his head out of my attic to YELL at me when I was doing some outside repairs. Apparently, they don't like hammering. Those fat-tailed rats are menacing little bastards.

By Blogger Michelle, at 5:14 PM  

also, many house fires are attributed to the electrical damage from the bastards eating the insulation of your wires in the attic...another reason they must die.

By Blogger Michelle, at 5:16 PM  

The exact same thing happened to me once. Except it was bunnies. And I was carrying a dead hooker to the dumpster.

Otherwise, it was the exact same thing.

By Blogger Jake, at 6:12 PM  

Squirrels freak my shit out. At our old apartment, we had "Pricilla." She was fearless. A real city squirrel. You could shake a broom at her, and she'd bark at you and her tail would flip all over the place, without budging.

One day my boyfriend had enough and shoved a broom handle in the nest she made above our back door. She responded to the threat by taking her baby out of the nest and THROWING it over the fourth floor balcony -- where it plummeted to it's death. And then she just looked at my boyfriend.

It freaked our shit out.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:54 PM  

It was the mention of Dan's "fleshy ankles" which had me rolling off my chair!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:07 PM  

Having a squirrel stare at you through a glass door every damn day, knowing full well it is waiting patiently for food (and the nun that fed it) is the most unnerving feeling in the world. I half expected it to try to figure out the door, raptor-style.

You know, you could get all Dian Fossey on them and try to earn the squirrels' acceptance into their tribe.

Just don't EVER make eye contact. They see that as a threat.

By Blogger Monkey, at 9:06 PM  

After reading all these posts - I have come to the conclusion that there are different varieties of squirrels. I live in NY and although there are squirrels here and there, they are non-violent (except to each other - I have seen them chase each other around) I sit out in my yard all the time and co-exist peacefully with the squirrels. In fact our variety ("new yorkus squirrelitis") are actually afraid of humans. Move to the big apple Dan.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:56 AM  

I used to live in DC and the squirrels there are sinister. There are two kinds: the grey (relatively harmless) kind and then a black-haired mangy variety with a temper. The black-hair squirrels often are balding on the tail side, thereby losing all cuteness appeal. As a college student, those squirrels used to follow me back from the grocery store, trailing and barking at me as I walked the length of several city blocks. I had to cross the street at the sight of them. I worked in DC for a couple years after college, and when I left the job my co-workers gave me a parting gift of a scrapbook filled with pictures, memories, and images of rabid squirrels screaming angry threats. My co-workers liked me, I think.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:23 AM  

You had me crying with laughter. Thanks for brightening many a day.

P.S. Thanks also for the good oil on the Gilmore Girls. They've been replaying all of the episodes here, right from the beginning... and I'm hooked.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:12 AM  

My business partner is deathly afraid of squirrels. You have just given me a priceless gift.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:05 AM  

how's this for freaky: albino squirrels.

seriously. red eyes and everything.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:19 AM  

Come on people! we´re talking about SQUIRRELS here, not rabid pitbulls or something... squirrels are cute and fluffy - sure they get hungry and bark around a little, but no reason to get phobic about it. Dan, if you seriuosly are squirrlaphobic, i suggest shock therapy. First, learn some relaxation technigues, then THROW YOURSELF into a small little room FULL of squirrels - with no way out. practice the relaxation techniques while letting the squirrels crawl all around you and nibble on you, and then maybe in 5 to 10 years you will be able to throw out your garbage in your own dumpster!

By Anonymous Richard, at 11:30 AM  

I think you need to figure out which one of your neighbors is feeding the squirrels. He obviously mistook your garbage bag for a delicious bag of peanuts....

By Anonymous KEW, at 11:49 AM  

I used to live in Washington state, where the squirrels were cute and fluffy and mild mannered. But now I live in Wisconsin, about 2 hours from Dan, and I assure you, the squirrels here are HUGE and very agressive. and freaky. and the screaming... it sends shivers, just thinking about it. I read the story in fear of what was going to happen next... not with humor. I was scared for Dan's life !

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:45 PM  

How did you write all that without making one joke about the squirrel being "Nuts?"

Just seems like a missed opportunity, that's all.

See, because squirrels eat nuts, and it's a synonym for "crazy," and...forget it.

By Anonymous Patrick Walsh, at 4:25 PM  

Oh, Richard, you just haven't met the right pitbull. They are cute & fluffy and they never throw pecan shells at you.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:47 PM  

and, by the way, my cute pitbull loves to carry squirrels around when they fall out of the tree after I shoot them with my pellet gun.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:48 PM  

My parents hate squirrels. They are retired and bored and have many bird feeders in their back yard. My Dad's new mission in life is to rid the yard of the squirrels who feast on the bird food.
This will never happen.
He's tried everything, but his latest is the best. He is now trapping them live, putting them in the trunk of his car and driving up a nearby mountain to let them go. He says he's moved seven, but I think he's just moved the same one seven times. Seems the squirrel hops on the bumper of the car and rides back to town with my Dad.
Nasty, spiteful little buggers

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:02 PM  

I live in another country without squirrels. A counry where real mean never wear slippers though. We have opossums but they generally aren't confrontational in nature. I'm sorry Dan but you need to harden up. Why aren't the women taking out the rubbish anywho? Whats wrong with the place you live?

By Anonymous Andrew, at 4:16 AM  

There was a similar story on the radio program this American Life. I know you'd love the show, Dan. It's as wacky as you are.
Look for episode:
"And the Call Was Coming From the Basement"
Episode 319
It's at the begining of the episode...

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:53 AM  

I love that this story takes place outside, in what, really, is more the squirrel's territory than yours and everyone is Anti-Squirrel but the mere mention of laying a mousetrap in your own kitchen everyone gets upset..

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:23 AM  

Bob's baby throwing squirrel is the funniest saddest thing i've read in some time. oh crap. The squirrel is all like "What!?" "I throw my babies, I don't give a fuck"

By Blogger callmekidd, at 10:55 AM  

It is a rare moment, but some of your stories just make me laugh so hard, I cry. Your previous story about the squirrels did just that! Thanks for linking it to this one. HYSTERICAL..

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:51 PM  

Anyone who can take more squirrel? Then check this out..

By Anonymous European Dream, at 3:56 PM  

I used to write a newsletter for my company that was called Il Scoiattolo, which means "The Squirrel" in Italian. (Yeah, I know, but we had just been given grant money to be creative and shit). Shortly after the first issue, I was fired. So there.

By Blogger J-Money, at 9:22 PM  

If you think that's a badass tree rodent, then lookit this bad boy:

All those adversely affected by furry rats with testicular fortitude, avert your eyes.

I'm sorry this is my first post to you Dan, because I admire you a great deal and love planetdan.

p.s. my word verification was "xdvpurv".... coincidence? Probably.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:14 AM  

Enough with the squirrels, Dan put down the Wii and start typing. We need an update for the weekend.

By Anonymous Yolel, at 10:56 AM  

I second that Dan...your furry friend here is giving me nightmares!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:25 PM  

Dan, we need the photos of your New Year's party and drunken K-Mack. Quick! ;-)

By Anonymous georg, at 10:17 AM  

Thought ya might be interested....

By Anonymous Charlotte, at 2:28 PM

By Anonymous Lisa, at 8:48 PM  

i feel your pain! i have a mad, barking squirrel on my 4th floor balcony right NOW. It's awful. It had babies out there, too. The little ones are climbing my window screens, and they have eaten EVERYTHING out there. I set a trap, but alas... they are quite smart.

By Blogger Tiffany, at 3:10 PM  

1st time here, i was lookin around the net for possible critters that scream and came across this, i think i got a whole family of squirrels that have moved into my attic, i am afraid of everything so i won't investigate and it cost too much pay someone to get rid of them. this morning i was waken by a shrilling scream sounded like a wounded cat,frog,bird mixed but I know its the squirrels. Your story did make me laugh this morning and like someone said a bit frightened for you wondering what was going to happen next. How did you get rid of these bastards..pellet gun noted.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:14 AM  

I had it with this stupid squirrels cying in front of my balcony. I have two trees in front of me and every morning i watch and hear the same squirrels barking at me.(how do I know, am the only one they see). Am getting my self a pellet gun and joining the club as well.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:16 AM  

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