Our Weekend Chipmunk Houseguest

I was on the phone for work on Friday evening when Stewie, one of our cats, knocked the porch door open and came prancing past me in the kitchen. I was preoccupied, so I walked over to close the door, came back, and found him circling my legs. It was past dinner, so I knew he wasn’t after food, but he was being annoyingly attention-seeking and I was trying to concentrate on my call. I gave him the spousal, “just tell me what you want from me” look, and then I saw it.

As Stewie strolled away from me and down the basement stairs, I could tell he had something in his mouth. Judging by his presentation, I knew it wasn’t a rediscovered favorite toy. Now, I’m still on the phone, but I’m following him. He’s just casually looking back over his shoulder at me, so I scruff him and realize he’s holding a chipmunk. “Ok, we can figure this out,” I silently tell us. And then he drops it and it shoots off into the corners, disappearing under shelves, boxes, and everything else that populates the basement. I was pretty sure I had a new pet. Stewie gave an indifferent, “meow.”

For the next 24 hours, Stewie half-heartedly hunted the chipmunk. I, who was determined not to let the chipmunk die at the insistence of the others in my house, was on patrol. The same cat who caught the mouse on a screened-in porch and escorted it into basement custody, was now the hardened detective posted up in the neighborhood bar, no longer helping anything or anyone. All of that pride from the initial catch was now met with an indifferent tail flip and stare. Cats. I tell you.

I put down mousetraps. The humane kind, with peanut butter. Nothing. I followed the weird chirping sound chipmunks make and even saw him a couple of times, but nothing. Even with the butterfly nets I brought in from the garage to help, I was not catching this chipmunk. I labored. Stewie half watched. I had no real luck until Saturday evening when I walked down the stairs only to spot him fast asleep in the middle of one of our dog beds. The little Chip and Dale had moved in for real. I reached for the butterfly net and… trapped. Finally.

We had to fold the dog bed with him netted on top to get him up the stairs and out of the house. It was a process. But, we did it. He looked a little stunned once he was outside, but he ran up the driveway and past the trash cans, right to where our dogs normally chase him and his kind. Our 24 hours of chipmunk ownership had ended and this was all I could think of: How could I have the perfect tool to solve this very specific problem – a chipmunk catching cat – and it didn’t work? That’s our Stewie. Sigh.

Sometimes all it takes is luck. Sometimes we have to have a lot of patience to wait for luck to play out. All the perfect tools, all the traps and schemes, they still need a little dose of good, old fashioned luck to finally work. Stewie needed all of his skills plus a little luck to catch that chipmunk as much as I did. He had the speed and the claws, I had the traps and the butterfly nets. Luck was only ever hopefully going to work. It even works from the chipmunk’s perspective. This is life.

The best-laid plans of chipmunks and men often go awry. We have to have skills. We have to have sensible things to try. We also have to let luck play its role. It’s humbling, and it’s the truth. There are hands we will be dealt, and it’s up to us to figure out how to play them. If you see my chipmunk running around town, say “hi” to him for me and “meow” for Stewie. We’ve all got our game. We’ve all got our luck.

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