[HOUSE AND HOLMES] Holy Rodent Nightmare, Ratman!

Rob Loos, Ledger Columnist

I was sure our black cocker spaniel had lost his mind. He was barking at the wall in my home office. What was wrong with my wall? Maybe he didn’t like me in my super-tight tennis shorts in my freshman team photo? Maybe it was my autographed Ferris Bueller poster? But who doesn’t like Ferris? Or possibly the Internet router was sending a Close Encounters-like message with all of those blinking lights, strange beeps, and ominous cords?

I heard a faint crumbling sound behind the wall—kind of like flakes of our 80-year-old plaster wall crumbling between the studs. Now the dog was barking with all his might and holding his ground against the poor defenseless wall. I scrutinized my flat nemesis—it returned my gaze with a light blue stare.

Then the noise stopped and the dog and I stood there in silence glaring at our painted plaster adversary, until my wife came in and gave us her what-are-you-doing look. I shared with her my insightful conclusion—our house is haunted. She rolled her eyes. “Maybe it’s a mouse.”

Holy rodent nightmare, Ratman! My mind raced through my options—grab a sledgehammer and smash the plaster wall and confront the vermin! Nope, too messy, and I have no idea how to rebuild the wall. Assign the dog to 24-hour watch duty, and when the varmint comes through a mouse hole he will face a canine killer! Nah, somehow I picture a doggie version one of those 5-hour long LAPD chases through every unknown suburb of Los Angeles, where deputy dog is always ten feet behind and hoping the mouse will eventually run out of food. How about mousetraps? Rat Poison? Those sheets of sticky goo that mouse feet get stuck in? Not safe—our dog will get trapped, sick, or covered with goo. What to do?

So I did what I always do in these desperate situations, I called my super-contractor friend Dave. I reached him as he was docking his sailboat at the Marina. He quizzed me on the pertinent questions, then asked an especially probing one: “Is your crawl space vent open?”

Dave explained that every house is built on a foundation, but there is a crawl space between the ground and the floorboards of the house, big enough for someone to crawl under to repair plumbing, electrical, etc. If the vent is open, critters can get under the house and climb into the space between the walls.

Sure enough our crawl space vent had been left ajar. I took Dave’s advice and called an exterminator who came and did what vermin exorcists do, then he secured the vent. No more crazy sounds, no more wild barking, no more staring at the wall. Which once again goes to prove, it’s not of any concern that a middle-aged man has a signed poster of Ferris Beuller’s Day Off on his office wall, but even more importantly, “If I can’t figure it out—and I know that I can’t—my friend Dave can.”

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