Most crimes occur in places you least expect them to. Take my backyard for instance. We have a large screened in porch nestled among shady hardwoods on an acre of lush green grass. The birds sing their songs flitting from tree to tree as the squirrels skip through the leaves to find a hidden nut. Our dogs frolic in the grass as the cats bathe in the sun.
But dig a little deeper and you will see the seedy underbelly this serene picture hides. Hoodlums lurk in dark corners, waiting for cover of night to strike.
CASE 141: STOLEN CAT FOOD SUSPECT: STRAY CAT
When leaving for overnight trips, I leave a bowl of water and food out for our cats ( the dogs go to their “grandparents” as they are more high maintenance). I started leaving a larger bowl of food due to a stray cat that periodically stops in for a bite. However, I noticed an excessive amount of food was gone the next day. At first, I figured the cats to be furry piglets. The second time it occurred I thought the stray was bringing his kitty cronies for a free meal. A week later, I walked in on the masked bandit. I happened to come home near midnight- prime time for all nocturnal criminals. I opened the back door to see my two cats hanging out on the deck. I called for them to come inside. They sat still, feline bookends on either side of the screened in porch door. Then, as fat as you please, a raccoon strolled out of the porch. Stunned, I was frozen where I stood. He paused to look up at me with a cocky “ What?” expression. This gluttonous raccoon looked as if he had swallowed a basketball. Mystery solved! The stray cat was not the culprit after all.
Taking his time, he wobbled past me and down the stairs, pausing one more time as if to say “ Peace out peeps” then disappeared into the night. My mouth agape, I turned my attention to the cats, which were now fired from back yard security duty. I mocked them for not keeping the riffraff out, but they looked at me like, “ Did you see the size of that thing?” I guess I couldn’t blame them. From the looks of him, he may have eaten the stray cat.
CASE 142: PROPERTY DAMAGE SUSPECT: GLUTTONOUS RACCOON
Since I was leaving for several days, I had a friend feed the cats for me. I forewarned her about the furry fat thief and instructed to keep tabs on how fast the food was being consumed and adjust accordingly. For extra security, I put the dry cat food in a small plastic garbage can, with a lid complete with two lock-down handles. Each time my friend returned, the can had been tipped over, lid unsnapped and food eaten. She took to wedging the can under a tier of small end tables, but would return to find the can un-wedged, lid unsnapped and food eaten. I suspected raccoon foul play all along, but the claw marks on the lid and paw prints on the table confirmed my suspicions. Case closed.
Since I can’t charge or arrest a raccoon, I decided to eradicate the problem. I kept the cats indoors and removed all food from the porch. I left the plastic can (now empty) wedged under the tables, planning to wash it later. Happy with my problem solving brilliance, I went to bed. The next morning, I realized I was in the midst of a master criminal. The best way to describe the porch/scene of the crime was a “message” had been sent. The tables (yes, plural) had been moved aside. The can pulled out and tipped over. The lid ripped off and tossed aside. The raccoon, whom I now refer to as “ Fredo”, realized his food well had run dry. I’m assuming in anger, knocked over my begonia. Grabbed the plant by the stem and drug it around the porch, leaving a trail of vengeful potting soil. The message being “Next time, there better be food- or it will get ugly.”
Around midnight, I heard him rummaging in search of something to pilfer. I’ve found multiple lunar moths separated from their wings at my back door. Coincidence? I think not. I’m waiting to find a bird head lying on the dog bed. I kept the cats and food on lock down ever since I recognized I was dealing with a Mafioso raccoon. Maybe he’ll leave and take up residence at my evil next-door neighbor’s home, mess with her ductwork a little? One can dream.
CASE 143: LOITERING SUSPECTS: CREEPY SPIDERS
Having a wooded property is beautiful and the shade in the summer is greatly appreciated. Although, the eight-legged visitors that come with that beauty are not appreciated. They take up residence, loiter and bring their friends and their friends delinquent cousins. Large and intimidating, they are skilled at creating expansive webs to entangle homeowners. I imagine if they could speak, they would have deep raspy voices from the numerous packs of cigs they smoke on my deck.
Fearing the day I would find a cat wound up in one like a cocoon, I went out to the porch armed with a broom. It was eviction time. I swept down the first web, and as God as my witness, I heard the not so little spider hit the porch. The stout brave person that I am, I responded by squealing, throwing the broom and retreating into the house. All in that order.
Though I may not be the bravest, I am determined. The following day, I decided to annihilate my unwelcome guests by spraying them with insecticide. Imagine how bummed I was to find out I didn’t possess any spider killing spray. Calling on my problem solving brilliance again, I equipped myself with a bevy of household cleaners. Surely, one of those would neutralize the creepy arachnids.
Feeling like a ghost buster, armed with my proton pack and neutron wand, I slowly approached the spider. Once in position, I thrust my Lysol can forward and doused the beady eyed sucker. Instead of falling to the ground and flailing about, it stood its webby ground. I think it liked the stuff. I swear I heard a smoker’s laugh followed by a raspy “ You got any more, baby?” Of course, it could have been a reaction to the cloud of chemicals floating around my head. I left my neutralization kit and sequestered myself back in the house.
In conclusion to reviewing to these cases, I have decided that being outdoors is overrated. I’m safer looking at my “serene” backyard through the window.