Even the kindest houseguest can wear out welcome

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 29, 2005

About four years ago, my family and I received the company of a visitor who seemed to like our humble surroundings so well he decided to never leave.

He did not request the use of our guest bedroom, never asked for an open pass to the fridge, nor required lavatory facilities. He simply burrowed an abode underneath one of our outbuildings and seemed quite delighted.

My youngest daughter seemed to really enjoy him, watching from afar as he sauntered throughout the safe confines of our backyard, which was nicely barricaded for him with a privacy fence.

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Aside from his dietary habits, which included chomping freely at many of my wife’s flower gardens, along with a fervent desire to sample the many culinary cuisines of our vegetable garden, he was truly no problem.

A simple rabbit fence encircling the garden area, and my wife occasionally opening the back door and yelling at him, he would scurry back into his lair and await future opportunity to feast.

He was joined this year by another of his kind.

Again, my 8-year-old daughter enjoyed the magic of viewing their freeloading.

Her eyes would actually twinkle, along with grins of pleasure when she would capture glimpses of these two renegades in action.

Two scruffy fellows romping about, two muskrats or groundhogs.

The arrival of a 6-week-old Dachshund caused obvious concern. With the number of entrance holes to our backyard friend’s lair, it would only be a matter of time before an inquisitive little puppy had to explore.

The results would probably be lethal for the puppy, crushing the daughters heart. So, daddy’s choice became clear - the old friends had to go.

Garnering a Daniel Boone type enthusiasm and becoming the great hunter was not really an option.

The proximity of neighbors would not allow for a safe shooting range, and I had no desire to allow my daughter to witness.

Web sites suggested gassing or poisoning, two options which I also find deplorable, so I was left with only one true choice - relocate our friends to the wild.

This seemed to be a more appealing approach anyway - it was humane - and it really wasn’t the pets fault that they had become pests.

Off to the hardware store we went!

Armed with a newly purchased box-trap, a sense of adventure filled our home.

Even our daughter became enthused.

Awakening in the morning required a rush to the backdoor window for a viewing of our would-be prey.

Broccoli, carrots, strawberries, even lettuce all proved to be fruitless as lure.

Finally, it was the succulent allure of a natural food to which they had became accustomed that proved to be their bane - Dahlia, a simple flower from one of my wife’s gardens that they had loved to chomp on.

We camouflaged the trap and I laced the stems through the trap. Two mornings later. I received a phone voice message at work which held all of the magic of a little girl’s voice of Christmas morning, "Daddy, we got one!"

Off to a new home in the woods he went, along with a few days later his "partner in grime." And then, much to our surprise, even another!

All told, we have extricated three full grown groundhogs, one full grown Opossum and two baby Opossums.

Our puppy, "Mister Swoovie," is enjoying fun romps throughout the safe confines of the backyard.

We all feel good about our approach, being both humane to our old guests as well as showing Mother Nature the courtesy and respect she deserves.

We also have taught our daughter lessons in humanity, environment

and a heartfelt respect for wildlife.

The traps are still set and we will provide any new guests, as well as ourselves the opportunity to co-habitat.

Ralph E. Ison is a 47-year-old resident of Franklin Furnace. Ison is a Green High School graduate. He and wife Linda have two daughters. He can be reached by e-mail at rocknroll1@adelphia.net.