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)

  • kate

    Dude, it is YOU who has a heightened sense of awesome! Those pictures are super megatron awesome. I am jealous. I want a raccoon in my chimney now. (That sounds dirty.)

  • Tana

    Raccoons are murderous little bastards and would have no problem killing or taking at very least a good swipe ANY of your pooches. My cat is a bruiser at 14lbs and I wouldn’t want one of them anywhere near him as they would kill him.

    I heard a story from a lady once who kept rabbits. Raccoons would watch her whenever she went to open the hutch to feed them. One day, she came out only to find they had figured out how to open the hatch and then ripped the rabbits head’s off. They didn’t eat the rabbits but just left them for dead. Yup, that’s murder kids.

    We had a pair scrapping outside our boat the other night. I honestly thought someone was being murdered in the float house next to us but it was just two raccoons having a battle royal.Much blood was spilled.

    Good dog that Chuck.

  • shanna murray

    chuck so earned a heaping serving of bacon. you all did great, and it looks like the sun is finally shining in your neighborhood. maybe you could have a bacon picnic, and invite the chimney sweep along!

    three cheers for something working out the easy way!

  • allison

    I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of years and this is by far my favorite post. Hilarious and adorable. I super-love the great photo of your chimney sweep.

  • heighlo

    AWESOME shots of the action.

    I had similar situation last year with my dog except it was a possum under my house…who was finally trapped on Easter Sunday (my cat Newman was trapped twice and once with marshmellows – now there is a party getting marshmellows out of a long hair tom-cat’s fur!). I was lucky to find a company in ATL that ‘relocated’ my Easter possum to a place the welcomes possums. I learned to listen to my dog too.

  • Shannon

    THAT is most definitely the best story I’ve heard in a long time.

  • Jessica

    Ah, the destructive power of the raccoon. My step-uncle had a summer house on the Lake of the Ozarks, which kind of went fallow after his divorce. In that time, a family of raccoons invaded one winter and took up shelter. By the time they were done with their winter vacation, the house was trashed beyond reasonable repair. It had to be taken down to the studs it was so badly damaged and in the end, he just had it razed as it was cheaper to do that then repair it all.

  • Mental P Mama

    Chuck needs a raise. To think, he has been handling his baby sister Coco and raccoon-scouting simultaneously. Good boy!

  • Meegan

    Holy shit. My 18 month old toddler weighs a whopping 21 pounds. That is one BIG raccoon! Way to save the day, Chuck.

  • Amanda

    What a great story! I think racoons are scary…have you seen their claws? Good thing you got rid of it before it decided to play the Grinch next year at Christmas and take all the goodies.

  • Amber

    Just wanted to say I LOVE you blog!! And those are some amazing pictures!! You always manage to brighten my day. Thanks!

  • J.

    Too cute! The pics totally make the story. Raccoon AND a super-smart Chuckles, what a fantastic post.

  • DesignGirl

    Ha! That’s awesome!
    For our 1st wedding anniversary, I bought my husband a cement gargoyle — the “winged dog”. Weighs about 60 pounds. He used it to hold down the board that covers the top of our chimney (our fireplace has been deemed “unusable” due to some issue regarding it’s lining, and hey, here in FLA, like we have ONE cold day a year that might be fun to use the fireplace.)

    So now, we (1) don’t have RATS coming into our house via the chimney anymore, (2) have an easy way to tell new friends how to find our house (“look for the bungalow with the glowing gargoyle on the chimney”) — yes, my husband the electrician actually installed solar lights on the roof that illuminate him, and best of all, (3) it scares off those pesky Jehovah’s Witnesses that LOVE to come knocking on our door at 8am on weekends. Ahhh, after years trying to come up with some fool-proof way to ward off those briefcase-and-umbrella, tract-carrying, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer folks, we’ve FOUND it!!! No longer do we need to answer the door in our birthday suits … they look up, see the gargoyle and scurry past our house!

    Are there JW’s in Utah? Or do the Mormon’s like have street fights with them ’cause it’s their turf? :o )

  • Ava

    Now, how am I supposed to sleep until our chimney gets swept? I’ve heard of birds and squirrels, but never a raccoon.

  • Liz

    Chuck is a modern day hero like Lance Armstrong. Also, your Chimney Sweep looks like Val Kilmer. I love him already.

  • Jessica

    That’s one of my biggest fears. We have been at our house for four years now, and have yet to install a chimney cap. I think it might be time; I don’t think my two 10lb midget cats could take one of those suckers. PS: Great photos. :)

  • The Domestic Goddess

    Thank goodness for the Internets. I mean, how else would you have known to check the inside of your chimney for vermin? You may have found out the hard way, like my neighbors. As in, they lit a fire and ended up with cooked squirrel.
    Good boy, Chuckles!

  • megan

    that guy’s a goober.

  • Jessica

    It’s quiet in the reference dept tonight, so I am sure everyone was wondering just why the Hell I was pointing, laughing, and gasping at my computer. That first photo of the raccoon footie just about did me in. Glad Percy made it out safely, glad he didn’t poop on Chuck’s head. Chuck Rocks – as you well know.

  • Kerry

    O.M.G. that was fun to read and the pics were awesome. Even more awesome would be BATS flying out of the chimney. So “The Munsters”.

  • Joe Crawford

    Animal Sleuth starring Chuck(R) of Dooce(R)!

    I promise to watch once it hits Animal Planet.

  • Lori

    This is a great story! Way to go Chuck!

  • Jen

    Is it me or is that chimney sweep just a bit too excited about his job?

    Chuck rocks!

  • Nancy R

    Man, and I almost left a lame comment that day about him keeping an eye on the Flue Network like in the Harry Potter books and maybe Chuck is really a wizard.

    My brother had a pet raccoon that he adopted as a baby – it’s mother had been hit by a car. The pads on their hands are very soft and they’re so gentle when they’re feeling things to discover what they are.

    If he’d been tame you ABSOLUTELY could have had a new cuddle buddy.

  • Enjolie

    haha, delightful story and lovely photographs.

    but don’t underestimate the raccoons! i lived in berkeley for a while and dear lord those things are terrifying. a small pack of three could easily take down an adult female human.

    in fact, even just one on one i found myself often running For My Life. i could see it in their eyes; they spotted me and thought “dinner?”

  • Susan

    Not only did I read this story twice, but passed DOOCE along to everyone I can think of. I love you guys!

  • EvilScienceChick

    YAY CHUCK! He’s the hero of the week! You should rent him out to people to see if they have creepy things tucked up in hard to reach crevices. Like ovarian cancer!

  • MFC

    Once my husband and I went camping and we forgot to put our cooler in the car before going to sleep. Racoons opened the cooler, all the tupperware containers and ate all the food and left the containers spotlessly clean. For the next two nights I didn’t sleep at all, as I could hear them prowling around our tent, ugh!!!

  • Inothernews

    OMG! The Internetz were right about something? Does this mean you should start believing you are a bad parent? This sets a whole precedent I am not yet ready to accept.

  • Tara

    I have an absolute terror of raccoons. I think if one was found in my house I’d have to move. Or possibly raze the house and rebuild.

    Good for Chuck, saving all of your lives before the raccoon could give you rabies in the night!

  • Lisa

    I should keep an LOL-meter when I read your stuff. I thank you for that–you make me healthier with the guffaws you give me. I’ve preordered your book and am anxious for its arrival. Two words to sum you up: you ROCK.

  • Right Brained Gal

    We had a raccoon in our attic who let herself in by making a hole in our roof. By the time we realized it, she had given birth to a whole litter of baby raccoons. Apparently they go to a warm place in early spring to give birth. You are lucky you didn’t have baby raccoons falling into your bedroom. It was a mess getting rid of them as they were starting make themselves at home.

  • Anna Sayre

    Best. Chuck. Story. Ever.

    Do you think these insane things happen because you blog, or do you blog because of the insanity?

  • jen

    thank you. reading your story (with bonus picture of the chimney sweep!) has been the best part of my day. and week.

  • Heather

    YAY! Chuck is a hero!

  • George

    This made my afternoon. Thanks for the great story, Heather. And the pics are the icing on the cake.


  • John

    So are you going to treat Chuck to some type of doggy spa for his bravery? Some sort of treat?

    I think a day of pampering is in order.

  • Samantha

    BEST.POST.EVER. The pics are fantastic – and Chuck is AWESOME.

  • Teri

    Hey Dooce… you are TOO COOL!!! Love the story! Love ALL your stories and the Blog!!


  • Cashmere Addict

    I’m in California and tell my husband all the time, if one of the dogs goes absolutely crazy over nothing, I’m running out of the house before the Earthquake hits.

    Glad you were able to get rid of your raccoon so easily… Chuck is awesome!

  • tami

    Did the sweep put a chimney cap on?

  • Green Panther

    I’m too ADHD to read all these comments, so this might be a repeat question … but do you really call them “O-possum” in your neck of the woods?

    Granted, I don’t hail from a cosmopolitan area. But opossum sounds so formal and hifalutin’ for an animal that dances an O-so-thin line between repugnant mammal and cold-blooded rodent.

    Just sayin …

  • girlwiththemask

    I hope you have rewarded your pooch accordingly!

    G.I.M x

  • Moda di Magno

    Chuck is the awesomest former senator ever.

    Please, PLEASE do a post of nasty comments along the line of “What idiot doesn’t have a screen on top of their chimney?” or “Did you put raccoon chow in your fireplace?” or the usual brand of crazy that writes.

    Oh wait, I’m writing. But I do not accuse! Actually, I’m pretty sure my husband just went out to feed the squirrels because he loves all animals. It’s the humans he struggles with. See him here:

    Happy the fireplace is safe to use again.

  • Undomestic Diva

    If you think a skunk smells bad, [shutter] you don’t want a raccoon nesting anywhere near you. They’re cute, yes, but smelly little flea-infested nightmares.

  • Anne

    Awesome, indeed! (Big ‘ole racoon! Your Tennessee cousins would have put him in a pot, but sending him hither was probably a good option. Leta would probably never eat stewed coon.)

    Who’s a sooty good boy?

    Thanks for the second by second coverage, Jon!

    I’ll bet the chimney sweep gets lots of jobs from this!

    What a great day at Chez Dooce!

  • Terry

    Yeah Chuck! Saved the family from Rocky Racoon!!!
    Good Boy!

  • Connie

    Chuck’s all, “So I get no raccoon for dinner? I did all this work for nothing? Great.”

  • DiaryofWhy

    Coolest. Thing. Ever!! Great pictures, too.

  • tanyakristine

    aack! that is awesome! and thank you for being so concerned with the raccoon. I think i have rats and my Kody is not willing to point them out like Chuck probably would.