the smell of my desperation has become a stench

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)

  • Lori

    2008/03/25 at 3:01 pm

    Yeah Chuck!!!

  • Chris

    2008/03/25 at 3:06 pm

    That’s awesome! Nice set of pics. Should go into the family photo album.

  • Anonymous

    2008/03/25 at 3:06 pm

    Wow! That’s amazing. Good thing you listened to Chuck.

  • Elizabeth

    2008/03/25 at 3:06 pm

    that’s AWESOME!

  • Andria

    2008/03/25 at 3:06 pm

    Why do I have Mary Poppins ditties strumming through my head after seeing the chimney sweeper?!

  • jive turkey

    2008/03/25 at 3:08 pm

    Cute…and terrifying. Perhaps this means that Chuck has officially made up for squirting butt grease on you?

    And I LOVE that you would have named your new pet raccoon Percy, because that is what my 6 year old cousin named the mouse that was terrifying my aunt in their kitchen.

  • Leslie

    2008/03/25 at 3:08 pm

    OMG– such awesome pictures!! Way to go CHUCK!! You’ve earned your keep!! 😉

  • Shannon

    2008/03/25 at 3:09 pm

    Awesome. We once had a mama raccoon take up residence in the chimney. Unfortunately she had her babies in there, brought in all sorts of garbage for them to eat, and then died. It was a messy business. Be glad you kicked Percy out before he decided to do the same.

  • Sarah

    2008/03/25 at 3:09 pm

    Only a photo of the raccoon balanced on top of Chuck’s head would have made this more fantastic.

  • BethanyWD

    2008/03/25 at 3:10 pm

    The photos TOTALLY made this post.

    GOOOOOOO Chuck!

  • Valerie

    2008/03/25 at 3:10 pm

    Wow! What a great story. All those bat people were right!

  • Liv

    2008/03/25 at 3:10 pm

    Way to go Chuck!

    The photos are fab, and whilst Percy was pretty cute looking… waste receptacle? I think you made the right decision.

  • Em

    2008/03/25 at 3:10 pm

    How do you know the raccoon won’t come back and try to reclaim his home?

  • Someone Being Me

    2008/03/25 at 3:11 pm

    That is hilarious. Scary but hilarious. I have been thinking about getting my chimney cleaned for awhile now. You have just upped the ante.

  • Val

    2008/03/25 at 3:11 pm

    That’s animals for you – they will warn you of problems if you listen. I woke one morning to my cat growling at my window. Yep – someone was trying to open the window from the outside. Good Sammy – Good Chuck!

  • Tara's Mom

    2008/03/25 at 3:11 pm

    Chucks a HERO!

  • Angela

    2008/03/25 at 3:12 pm

    Good boy, Chuck… Good Boy!

  • dooce

    2008/03/25 at 3:12 pm

    Em, we paid to have the chimney sweep install protective caps around the top of the chimney, so the raccoon can’t get back in.

  • helena

    2008/03/25 at 3:13 pm

    I went to college at UC Santa Barbara, a campus that is OVERRUN with raccoons thrice the size of Chuck, and bigger. Their BABIES weigh 20 lbs, and several anorexic students were mauled by angry mama raccoons twice their weight.

    And the raccoons would fornicate loudly in the trees, a sound that very much resembled a torture victim.

    It was NOT awesome.

  • Em

    2008/03/25 at 3:15 pm

    Ahhh, protective grates – smart.

    Very cute story — Good boy, Chuck!

  • saucygrrl

    2008/03/25 at 3:15 pm

    Oh. My. God. That has got to be one of the best told raccoon stories ever!

  • Melissa

    2008/03/25 at 3:15 pm

    Just goes to show you that dogs and the internet are smarter than you and me.

    Guess Coco has a thing or two to learn yet.

  • alissa

    2008/03/25 at 3:15 pm

    okay, I know it’s just evergreens.. which I think the name implies, are green.. for ever.. but it sure does look green where you guys live! it totally got my hopes up that green will be coming my way in canada. but I have a feeling that won’t be the case.

  • alice q. foodie

    2008/03/25 at 3:16 pm

    so it says zero comments but it lies! I’ll be like 20th by the time I get this tapped out on the iphone! 🙂 what great photos and I’m glad the (not so) little bugger lived!

  • Amy

    2008/03/25 at 3:16 pm

    Hysterical. Absolutely hysterical.

  • molly

    2008/03/25 at 3:16 pm

    It’s great to have a camera for completely whack events like that. We’ve had a variety of animals stuck in our house, and all we have to show for it is the scratches on the floor and the bird poop on the wall. Not nearly as nice as a photo essay.

  • Em

    2008/03/25 at 3:16 pm

    Oh, Chuck. Thank God for Chuck.

    The bat thing. Oh, the bat thing. Attach wings to a rodent and you reach a whole different level of disgusting. The fact that twice now they have flown into my parents’ house during different family parties is nothing but an unfortunate, spine-chilling coincidence.

  • Jen

    2008/03/25 at 3:16 pm

    Go Chuck! As your reward, I hope your parents let you eat whatever you want for dinner – like bacon or peanut butter or ice cream!!! Or all three mixed together in a delicious doggy shake! MMmmmMMMmmm.

    I love dogs.

  • LilSass

    2008/03/25 at 3:18 pm

    So I don’t know if this means Chuck should be taken seriously or if listening to your readers pays off…I guess this means you should stop feeding Leta all that meth 😉
    These pics are AWESOME! Had another raccoon found out this one’s hiding spot, a fight would have ensued and I can attest (from my PTSD) that hearing/witnessing a raccoon fight is the scariest shit ON.THE.PLANET! They can also be rabid so I am VERY glad you called the sweep. And on that note … how many times do you think this man has heard customers hum “Chim Chiminy Chim Chiminy Chim Chim Charoo”?

  • hotpants1019

    2008/03/25 at 3:18 pm

    this has to be one of the best stories ever told.

    the look on the chimney sweeper’s face is priceless.

  • Angela Bryant

    2008/03/25 at 3:20 pm

    Good job, Chuck! He WAS trying to tell you something. Love your blog, your stories, your photos, and your beautiful dogs and child! I look forward to my daily dooce. You are an incredibly talented, amazing lady. Keep on keeping on.

  • Kim

    2008/03/25 at 3:20 pm

    I had a bird in my wall last month and while it was thumping and scratching in the wall right above my dog’s bowls, my dog kept eating like nothing was going on. But yet the dog barked its damn head off when it heard the critter control guy outside. I have a dumb dog.

  • Nicole

    2008/03/25 at 3:21 pm

    This was damn hilarious. <3 I also very much hope that someone out there is a chimney sweeper just because they love soot.

  • chuk

    2008/03/25 at 3:23 pm

    When we first moved to SLC, we lived in the Avenues, near the graveyard, which is filled with bats, foxes and raccoons (my father, a vet, refers to these as the rabies triumverate).

    Anyway, some of the local raccoons decided that it would be better to live in our neighbor’s roof than in the wilds of the Mormon Pioneer burial grounds, so Mama and her 4 babies moved in.

    There is nothing cuter than 4 cavorting raccoon babies playing on your neighbor’s roof. All of the Disney-esque action, and we didn’t have to deal with the poop.

  • Melly

    2008/03/25 at 3:24 pm

    I want to see the photo of Chuck’s face when he said “I told you so!”

  • rebecca

    2008/03/25 at 3:24 pm

    Chuck rocks! And I’m glad Mr. Racoon was not harmed 🙂

  • Sarah

    2008/03/25 at 3:25 pm

    That Raccoon is like Spiderman, the way he’s scaling that chimney!

  • Amyd

    2008/03/25 at 3:26 pm

    Yay, go Chuck!

  • Jebbica

    2008/03/25 at 3:26 pm

    How cute is that? I would have wanted to adopt the raccoon, too. Our dog warns us of possible robbers lurking outside our apartment, then lets us know that if we will just let him out, he will ATTACK those robbers for us, by jumping on them and licking them to death! Maltese are vicious that way.

  • margiesbooboo

    2008/03/25 at 3:26 pm

    what a good dog!! those raccoons are very cute viscous sharp toothed demons and vector rabies and and all kind of nasties. chuck is such a good boy!

  • HDC

    2008/03/25 at 3:26 pm

    Now if it weren’t for Coco, Chuck could relax. Relatively speaking of course.

  • Rochelle

    2008/03/25 at 3:26 pm

    The foot in the air is so cartoonish… love it.
    Nice job removing the background.

  • Anonymous

    2008/03/25 at 3:26 pm

    Good boy, Chuck! I think you deserve some bacon for that.

  • BridgetSoup

    2008/03/25 at 3:28 pm

    Always listen to your pets! Like during the tsunami, animals ran to safety well before anyone knew what was happening.

    Animals are smart! I’m glad you listened to Chuck, I bet he’s pretty proud of himself.

  • ɹǝƃƃolquǝʞoʇ

    2008/03/25 at 3:29 pm

    Good for Chuck’s insistent staying power. Dogs are just awesome, yup?

    We had a big raccoon on our back porch a couple of years ago so I can understand the excitement of seeing such a big one.

    Also, I was gonna comment on the exclamation post about comment from the guy who wrote something like you make your living off Leta and that is why you want to have another child, but I was too late.

    What a doof.

    Everyone knows you make a living off your writing!

  • J. Bo

    2008/03/25 at 3:29 pm

    It is clear that Chuck is no mortal dog. Both he and the chimney sweep deserve extra treats.

  • Steph

    2008/03/25 at 3:29 pm

    ok, girl, butt grease – HAHAHAHAHAHA!

  • Colleeen Schmitt

    2008/03/25 at 3:29 pm

    This story was awesome. way to go Chuck!

  • the mighty jimbo

    2008/03/25 at 3:30 pm

    chuck totally deserves a steak and a beer.

  • Brat

    2008/03/25 at 3:31 pm

    Yay, Chuck!

    Just one more reason to love him!

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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