Chuck’s heightened sense of AWESOME!

Last week I posted a picture of Chuck with a round swath of soot on his forehead and explained that for the last two weeks he’s been standing with his head inside the fireplace for hours every day. But because we couldn’t hear anything or smell any rotting carcass I just assumed that it was a new habit of his, an adorable habit, and when I walked into our bedroom to find him just standing there silently, his entire head and neck disappearing inside the top of the fireplace, I was all, how cute is that dog? WHO’S A GOOD BOY WITH HIS HEAD UP THE CHIMNEY!

But many of you sent me email to urge me not to take such behavior lightly. Do not ignore your dog, you said. Your dog is trying to tell you something, you said. And then you started sending me stories about how your dog started barking at the fireplace and two days later your entire house was filled with bats. And that’s all you had to do, mention the bats, because if it could be bats then it could also be a family of squirrels. And if it could be a family of squirrels then there’s no reason it couldn’t be AN ADULT OPOSSUM. And if that was the case then I was going to call up that restaurant in Austin that puts bacon in their refried beans and order a serving for 12, because the guests at my funeral were going to be hungry after seeing the frozen look of horror on my dead face.

So Jon called a few chimney sweeps, got some bids, and scheduled someone to come out and take a look at our chimney on Friday morning. And a few hours before he showed up Chuck went from standing silently near the fireplace to growling at the fireplace, code for: I’M NOT KIDDING ABOUT THIS. Chuck only growls at Coco when she’s trying to steal a rawhide bone out of his mouth, and maybe sometimes at horses, okay definitely at horses, because there was that one time I thought it would be funny to drive slowly by a barn to see how Chuck would respond to all the animals. And he growled, all right. But he was also so scared of the horses that suddenly an inconvenient grease shot out of his butt, and because he was sitting in my lap at the time that butt grease ended up on my shirt, and in that instant I was very upset that humans were born with noses.

The chimney sweep showed up later that afternoon and found nothing in the chimney connected to the fireplace in the living room. However, when he inspected the chimney connected to the fireplace in our bedroom he let out an exclamation of excitement, ran upstairs and said, yeah. There’s a raccoon living in your chimney. And he is rather large.

Then he said that once he nudged him a bit with his tools the raccoon would either a) fall off the chimney or b) run away scared. Let’s look at these options for just a second. A) There is no way a raccoon could survive that kind of fall, and b) B doesn’t even matter when A is a possibility. So I said to the chimney sweep, look, I am not about to let you go around killing wildlife, can we just let him continue living in our chimney? All he wants is a few warm cuddles, why not leave him alone! We could adopt him and let him sleep in our bed! I’d name him Percy Twinkles Armstrong and take photos of him wearing Keds.

That’s what this family was missing! A raccoon! THAT WE COULD ANTHROPOMORPHIZE.

The chimney sweep looked at me and then looked at Jon like, ummmm… And that’s when Jon was all DO NOT PAY ANY ATTENTION TO THE INSANE WOMAN STANDING BESIDE ME.

So I guess there are all sorts of reasons you shouldn’t let a raccoon live in your chimney. Who knew? I won’t get into that long list here, but one bullet point on that list is the fact that the raccoon would use your chimney as a waste receptacle. That’s all I needed to know. If that’s not a good enough reason for you then you should probably go out right now, adopt a puppy and let her poop all over the inside of your car. That bullet point will instantly make sense.

Now, I haven’t ever been a chimney sweep, but I imagine they see all sorts of wacky things inside people’s fireplaces. Birds, nests, that uncle who went missing, so you’d think a raccoon wouldn’t be that big of a deal to him, right? WRONG. When he saw us heading outside with our camera I think he realized, dude, I never get to see the animal scurry out of the chimney. I bet it’s more awesome than NASCAR. So he went and got his camera, screwed it to a tripod and set it on our neighbor’s fence. I don’t know why that made me so happy, to see him so excited about it, maybe because a situation like this was exactly why he became a chimney sweep in the first place. Or I guess he could just be a huge fan of soot.

So he grabbed all his equipment and headed down into our bedroom while we stood out in front of our house waiting for some crazed raccoon to shoot out the top of our chimney. Five minutes later he ran out the front door, breathless, and said, “DID YOU SEE IT?”

Um. No. The invisible raccoon managed to escape unnoticed.

He scratched his chin, said he’d go back down and nudge him a little harder, and thirty seconds later we saw a foot:

And then another foot:

And then the whole raccoon emerged. Indeed, he was rather large:

I held my breath waiting for him to fall to his death, but he just sat there and peered at us over the top of the chimney:

This went on for what seemed like hours but was actually only a few minutes, the raccoon sitting calmly on the chimney. I wished so badly that I knew what he was thinking and came to the conclusion that he was assessing whether or not he could take us. Should he climb down and find another place to live, or would it be worth it to jump off like a flying squirrel into my face, just to watch me die from shock. He was weighing his options.

And then without provocation he turned and slowly scaled the chimney down to the roof and off into someone else’s life:

The chimney sweep estimated that the raccoon weighed anywhere from 15-20 pounds. That’s bigger than Coco. That’s bigger than some toddlers. Internet, I think the lesson we can all learn from this is TAKE YOUR DOG SERIOUSLY.

(all photos taken by Jon with our telephoto lens)

  • Leonie

    thank you for this post, I laughed so hard i cried a little.

    and I’m glad Percy’s gone.

  • JennB

    That alone should get Chuck at least a pound of bacon and a day off from his modeling session.
    What a good boy.
    I’m glad you didn’t find out about the raccoon by having it snuggle up with you in the deepest darkest night. Ick.

  • Anonymousss

    I am such a bad blog reader, I read that post and said “heh, theyve got a racoon in their chimney” Then moved on.
    I will find a suitable punishment. Maybe leave the sugar off the top of my muffins or something.

  • Kelly

    Well, if I ever doubted your many posts of Chuck’s awesomeness this post now makes me a believer that he is a super hero dog! Way to go Chuck!

    LOVED this post!

  • Carrie Jo

    I love the 6th pic with the raccoon just peering over the edge of the chimney. It looks like he’s saying, “Well jeez, you didn’t have to be so rude about it!”

  • Liz

    Go Chuck! I am so glad you photographed the entire thing. Aren’t dogs great?

    I want to be friends with your chimney sweep. He looks so happy!

  • sikantis

    Animals could get the same esteem as we human beings get.

  • Zenmomma

    Chuck is too cool for words! We’re buying a 100+ year old house. Could I borrow Chuck to go check the place out? It seems way more reliable than a home inspection.

    Oh and this post proves that you deserve every award you are ever given. Your story telling is just perfect. I hereby crown you Queen of the Blogoverse.


  • Laura

    That Chuck, he just slays me every time.

    If he ever starts staring at the toilet bowl, ya’ll better call in a snake handler. ;)

  • Anonymous

    I just read Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring. She writes about the first discovery of carcinogens, which was when a British doctor in the 18th century made the connection between soot and the TESTICULAR TUMORS that chimney sweeps were having.

    That raccoon totally is totally going to be riddled with testicular tumors thanks to the soot. — That’s my contribution to the world for the day.

  • Captain

    You are far braver than I…

  • Heather

    I would have wanted to try to adopt the raccoon, too.
    We used to live near a lake, and our back yard was full of trees. One summer a family of raccoons decided to spend a lot of time on the patio, and many nights I would look at the big picture window and see one of them just standing and looking in from outside while I was watching TV. Of course I wanted to invite them in, but my hubby wasn’t keen on that idea.
    Probably didn’t help that I fed them on a regular basis…it got to the point where they wouldn’t even run away when we were out there, and one night we were eating at the picnic table and they sat about 2 feet away just staring at us like, “Hey, why weren’t we invited.”

  • Kate

    There is so much awesome and funny in this post I don’t even know where to start. I can only imagine Leta’s horror when she realized there was yet ANOTHER furry creature living in her house.

  • leila

    Wow. Love the pictures. Further proof that Chuck is the awesomest. Like you needed it.

  • Diana

    I agree with everybody else: fantastic pics! Kudos to Jon for those.

    I also never realized the climbing ability of raccoons. I think perhaps Percy is a Spider Raccoon. Doing whatever a Spider Raccoon does. Including scaling your house.

  • Shannon

    I love every single thing about this post. Almost my favorite is the first picture of the raccoon sticking a leg out the chimney. But what trumps that is the chimney sweep. I could look at that awesome smiling man all day. I agree that he looks a bit like Val Kilmer.

    Does he know that he’s achieved internet stardom? I foresee a reality show in his near future. The Chimney Sweep Chronicles or something equally awesome.

  • Aimee Greeblemonkey

    I’d be looking for a new house right now.

  • Nate

    This post quite possibly makes me happier and more laughy than any post on your blog ever, ever has. Way to go, Chuck!

  • Paula

    Too freaking funny! Raccoons are cute, but destructive. We waged war with them for years, until we finally had to get an electric fence because we were tired of funding their sushi habit (pond+fish+raccoons=no fish, no sleep) They are furry stomachs with opposable thumbs and will investigate any food-based opportunity! I have seen them use doggie doors if they know food is inside.

    Unfortunately they can be really dangerous to people and pets and frequently carry rabies and distemper. If he shows up again I would have someone (do you have a Critter Getter in Utah?) come out and remove him.

  • Jannie Sue

    Funny, Funny, Funny!

  • Tim

    Funny you mention this. We’ve been having a similar problem lately. My dog does not normally sleep with us. Except when it is cold. Or when we are weak.

    We also just moved into a new house that doesn’t have blinds on the floor-to-ceiling windows in our bedroom. Because, we have no neighbors. And it rocks.

    So she had become a bit of a persona-non-grata because she started waking up at 4am and barking her head off at the windows. I figured it was one of the 1001 stray cats in the neighborhood. So I would shush her, and stuff her under the blankets until she shut up (she’s a dachschund and likes to burrow, she likes it!). I should mention that I have horrible vision at night, and I sometimes walk around with my eyes closed. Because there’s not a lot of difference.

    So one night, she was spending the night in her crate. I got up in the early morning to go to the bathroom, and I noticed a figure at the window. I figured it was a particularly brazen cat, but as I acme close it began shambling off. Not moving like a cat at all. It glanced over its shoulder with a look on its face that can only be described as shame, and I caught a look at its beady little eyes. It was a huge possum. Although, it was kind of cute in how ashamed it looked to have been caught looking in our windows.

    Lucy and I saw it a few more times at 4am, meandering through the yard. My wife did not, as she would probably also have died.

    Lucy found it one day under the stage in our backyard, and proceeded to bark at it a lot. But unfortunately the possum’s habit of playing dead is a particularly good defense against dogs. My dog won’t attack dead things, and so she just barked. Not able to completely believe it was dead, but also not able to attack it because it seemed so dead.

    My mother decided she wanted to see the possum when she came to visit, but alas the possum appears to have shambled off to a better place to live.

  • Rose

    That has got to be one of the greatest blog entries of all time. Those photos (of the raccoon, not the chimney sweep. He’s not nearly as exciting) were fantastic.

    This is why *I* want a dog :(

  • Denise Vita

    first a beach towel, now a raccoon. i wonder what you guys will find hidden in your next home if you should ever move again.

  • Gertie

    I was totally riveted by this story!!! It was like a thriller or something! At the end, when I saw that picture of Chuck, I jumped up out of my chair and chanted “CHUCK! CHUCK! CHUCK!” my eyes welling up with tears like one might cheer on a war hero or a fireman or something.

  • Kristin

    chuck = teh awesome

  • Sundee

    That stuff that came out of Chucks butt is his Anal Glands. I am an Animal Nurse and almost every dog wakes up from surgery and looses their anal glands, even after I have released the anal glands prior to the surgery.(nasty job) It is one of the most horrifying smells, especially when it ends up in your hair…and 6 showers later you can still smell it!

    Crazy story! Great dog!

  • doggie anonymous

    Dear #101,

    Butt grease is not poo… it is anal fluid from the anal glands. They are two small glands located on either side of your dog’s rectal opening. Each gland holds a small amount of a noxious smelling liquid brown substance that your pet uses as something of a doggie calling card every time he potties. Squeezing a little every time he potties… thus saying… Fido was here.

    Sometimes the glands do not “express” themselves properly and can lead to a huge build up of fluids. Unfortunately, dogs can “express” the glands quite in appropriately… like when scared.

    And stink…. yeah… its bad.

  • Rachael

    Our dog started growling at our chimney once, and it turned out there were squirrels living in it. But squirrels are nowhere near as awesome as a raccoon!

  • Natalie

    Wait, is that chimney sweep dude for real?

    Love the pictures, what a cute little fluffball you had living up in your chimney. My mom and dad had a pet raccoon when I was just eensy beensy and it kept stealing the silverware and putting it behind the oven.

    Of course, they didn’t find out where it had all gone until the oven broke.

    Little rascals.

  • Jill

    Delurking to say:

    1. That is an amazing story… one to tell the grandkids!

    2. And an AMAZING set of pics to go with it!

    3. Chuck rules, and

    4. Jon’s new lens is FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC!!!!! Such amazing detail, I am really impressed.

    5. I can’t believe you deep-etched out the background of the first few pics. :-)

  • K


  • Cate

    That is AWESOME! I have a similar story – every time we went over to our friends house, my dog would stare relentlesly at the bottom of their outdoor fridge. She would pace around all 2 sides of it, sniff really loudly underneath it, and just stare for hours at it. We never saw anything for weeks! Finally, one day, our dog was sniffing around and all of a sudden, a HUGE squirrel came barelling out from under the fridge! I screamed like a little girl, almost spilled my cocktail and jumped up on the outdoor couch. Those dogs are amazing creatures!

  • abbersnail

    Great story! I want to name my future dog Percy.

    Helena’s comment regarding the mating raccoons was pretty awesome, too.

  • Marce

    That is fucking hilarious! I can’t believe how that racoon climbed down.

  • Michelle

    Wow. Chuck. Is. Awesome.

    That Coco fella he might be adorable but Chuck is truly Awesome.

    p.s. what a great story

  • Are

    I’m surprised he doesn’t give GEORGE! the same treatment.

  • [michele]

    This post made my day.

    And this:

    “My tear-away pants got snagged on my Union Jack thong and basically the funeral went downhill from there.”

    made my week.

  • BigSkyMum

    Our cat Mitsou got stuck in the ductwork of our new house and we called the furnace people. When I told them we had a cat stuck in the ductwork, they asked ‘Is the cat dead or alive?’ I told them she was alive and the furnace guy came right over and got her out. But I still wonder, why did they need to know? Is there a live animal guy and a dead animal guy? Does is cost more to remove a live or a dead animal? Do they remove the live animals before lunch and remove the dead ones after lunch? I still can’t figure it out.

    Anyway, good for Chuck, the jolly chimney sweep, and the protective caps.

  • jonesie

    The furry creature is awesome…
    But seriously the photo that sticks with me is that chimney sweep.
    A more excited chimney sweep I have not seen.
    Makes me consider a change of career!

  • Big Mama

    This entire story had me laughing and clapping my hands. But the part about the chimney sweep getting out his camera and tripod? SOLID GOLD.

  • Aisha

    What a great story!

  • Heide

    great story… great pictures… great Chuck!

    extra bacon for you sir!

  • Di

    This is why I read you…you left me breathless anticipating the denouement of the racoon adventure. I just hope you don’t get a bunch of comments telling you how you were somehow cruel and disrespectful of this creature (who, it seems, was cruel and disrespectful of Chuck!)

  • Linda

    You are so funny, love your stories! You know, I feel like I’m guarenteed a really good laugh every time I visit your website. Thanks :)

  • Lisa

    who needs tv…..the Armstrong’s had a raccoon in their chimney and Chuck the wonder dog was on the case the entire time. Luckily, the paparazzi was there to catch it all. You all have all the fun. No more Princess outfits for Chuck. He has earned more manly attire.

  • Lullaby

    Does this mean I should be worrying about what my cat is trying to say-she’s been sitting in front of the dishwasher for two days now. And she does read over my shoulder when I’m on the computer. Hmmm, maybe Chuck has taught her something!

  • Vanes

    wow! I like how u wrote in detail about how the raccoon popped up, it just makes it look cute!

    aww poor raccoon

  • Nancy

    Ahhh, critters in the chimney…I harken back several years ago on Christmas Eve when we attempted to light our fireplace for the first time that winter. My husband, I, and two children were planning to spend a Norman Rockwell-ian evening in front of the fire eating Christmas treats while watching a Christmas movie. Suddenly, hundreds…no thousands….no GABILLIONS of hornets came pouring out of the fireplace! It was like a scene from Jumanji. We screamed for the kids to run upstairs into a bedroom and close the door, as hubby and I armed ourselves with tennis rackets and rolled up newspapers. We swatted and smashed for a good 45 minutes before they were all dead. (We didn’t even consider naming them and keeping them as pets.) The charm of our Christmas Eve setting just wasn’t the same when our children came back downstairs to survey the little carcasses lying on just about every surface imaginable. The chimneysweep the next week was money well spent. (Although I was quite disappointed that he didn’t even wear a top hat….)

  • Suebob

    What a GOOD boy.

  • Anonymous

    hilarious post heather. thanks