the smell of my desperation has become a stench

I rented a zoo

One night last week I was sleeping soundly when something started clawing its way across the roof over my bedroom. I say “clawing” because that was the sound that woke me up, a scraping so loud that I was certain a bear had mistaken the top of my house for a clearing in the forest. That’s where my sleepy brain went first: BEAR. Not a squirrel or a mouse. No. I thought it was a bear. Because when they are not hunting for food or fiercely protecting their young, bears are known to late-night roof hop in urban Salt Lake City.

Back in March when I walked through the house before signing the lease, the landlady said that she had once had a very unfortunate run-in with a raccoon in one of the chimneys, and that after they finally got rid of him she had all the openings capped. I nodded, remembered the fun that it was to host a raccoon, and made a mental note: CHIMNEYS CAPPED. Pun intended.

Two nights later I was in my room watching TV while Leta was reading herself to sleep. Suddenly she was running through my door, terror all over her face.

“There’s something in my fireplace! I can hear it!” she screamed.

I paused what I was watching and then closed my eyes to gather strength because WHAT. No. No no no. She said that the chimneys were capped. She SAID so. And if someone says something it’s always true.

I walked with her back to her room, sat on her hearth and told her to be calm for a minute. I tucked my head up underneath the flue and a few seconds later heard digging and scurrying and a tape recording of “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” on repeat.

Just to make sure that I was hearing what I thought I was hearing I decided to go get Chuck and gauge his response. He’s not normally allowed upstairs, a rule I instated in this house after he burrowed on every single bed and destroyed every single sheet set at the old one. So when I coaxed him upstairs he followed me very reluctantly, like maybe I was tricking him, like maybe I was going to get him up there and lock him in a room with Katy Perry.

That is, until he heard the noise for himself. Then he charged across her room to the fireplace and went bonkers, pacing in and out of it, pressing his nose to the flue. I had to shush his growling a few times because I thought it would wake up Marlo, but there we had it. SOMETHING was in that chimney. Something had knocked off that chimney cap and was scrambling around in the space beneath it. I should win some award for not immediately yelling OH MY GOD THERE’S A BEAR IN YOUR CHIMNEY.



Leta asked what we were going to do, and I told her that she’d need to try to ignore it. There was nothing we cold do until the following day, and whatever it was wouldn’t be able to get into the house because the flue was shut. Whatever it was and it most certainly wasn’t A BEAR.

“A BEAR! I can’t ignore that!” she said, pointing anxiously at the sound coming out of the fireplace.

“Well, you’re not sleeping with me!” I said while shuddering at the memory. “You can sleep in the guest room tonight. How about that?”

Hoo boy! The novelty! She instantly forgot that I even mentioned a dangerous, 1,400-lb woodland animal that could at this moment be living in our house. Now I’m getting Leta two things for Christmas: an ice machine from a hotel and another night in the guest room.

So, guess what, you guys:


Yeah. No caps. Not a single one. The chimneys were never capped. How can dooce live in a house with no caps?

Also, I’m surprised you can’t hear my heart racing in this photo. I’m terrified of heights. Also terrified of rodents with claws who can jump. Tyrant, however, is afraid of neither:


Both he and Dane spent over an hour up there and then inside the house next to the fireplaces figuring out which chute belonged to which fireplace and whether or not they could find any animals. Fortunately they found no bears. Unfortunately, they found no bears! Universe, if you’re going to keep sending these animals into my life can’t it be something exotic? Like a koala! SEND ME A KOALA. Just throw it on down that chimney. I’ll catch him in my loving embrace. And then I’ll lick my index finger and wipe the soot off of his forehead.

They didn’t find anything, in fact, and so to deter whatever it was that was in Leta’s chimney from coming back until a professional could make it out to the house, they improvised:


Dane and Tyrant need their own DIY blog. That photo has got PINTEREST written all over it.

(Before you go nuts saying that they trapped the animal inside, the professional came out today. He didn’t find a koala either DAMMIT.)

(Also, my gut tells me that this story isn’t over just yet.)

(Also, Universe. If you’re going to send me a koala, don’t be an asshole and shove it down the chimney. My address is clearly written out on my contact page.)

  • That Melanie Girl

    2013/06/10 at 4:40 pm

    Ya know nibblers – like bears, say – will go through that duct tape in less than a minute flat. Go to Loews or Home Depot and get them for about $30. Better, make the landlady do it. Ew.

  • Kristy Phillips Merrill

    2013/06/10 at 4:42 pm

    Heh heh – good of you to clarify about the koala being delivered via chimney. I’ll send him to your P.O. box instead…

  • shanparker

    2013/06/10 at 4:43 pm

    Well if it is a raccoon, that tape will last about 7 seconds. Had to deal with raccoons myself. I’m fully aware of the terror that rips through your heart when you wake up at 3am to one clawing inside of your walls/roof. I’ve trapped them in my yard before and left unattended will destroy any and everything they can reach. Hopefully the professionals got your fixed up quickly.

  • rebecca

    2013/06/10 at 4:48 pm

    ,,,duck tape. a brilliant solution. people make prom and wedding dresses with it why not guard our homes with the tape. did anyone, the next morning, share the good news with marlo? i would have given anything to be a fly on the fireplace to see her reaction. that she slept through lions and tigers and bears and did you say a raccoon?,,,

  • rebecca

    2013/06/10 at 4:58 pm

    ,,,oh and what is to the left of Chuck on the floor of the fireplace in the ziplock bag? legos? pink plastic barbie shoes? sparkly wind up toys? the bears love that shit. like honey. perhaps you could use the incident of last night as a segway to getting rid of all the plastic crap. tell marlo and leta it attracts anything that has lots of hair on it. (smile),,,

  • kmpinkel

    2013/06/10 at 5:06 pm

    what is the freaking deal with you and animals in your houses? You are like a magnet. Too bad you can’t get a giraffe to show up. That would be awesome.

  • joan newcomb

    2013/06/10 at 5:39 pm

    Koalas have super long claws, you wouldn’t want ’em either. The duct tape was a joke, wasn’t it? ‘Cause raccoons, squirrels, bats, rats, birds, by now they’ve all gotten into your chimneys. Hope the pros cap them soon!

  • Beffgus

    2013/06/10 at 5:44 pm

    Koalas, while adorable, can be mean motherfuckers when they want to. Which is why they are my spirit animal.

  • Short and Feisty

    2013/06/10 at 6:04 pm

    I know I sound like a bigot, but this is why I am not ok with men being gay–because all of the good ones are NOT available for me me ME!! He’s got impeccable style, he’s handy around the house, keeps you organized, is not afraid of heights, and is pretty darn attractive. All of the gay male friends I have, which is a lot considering I live in LA, are freakishly fantastic men…that I can’t ever be with. Where is the justice for single women all around the world?!

  • Aberrussel

    2013/06/10 at 7:03 pm

    No, no you don’t want a koala. They can be very mean and bite! Also, as I was told at a Sanctuary in Melbourne, koalas have chlamydia. OY

  • Manz

    2013/06/10 at 9:07 pm

    So, why is nobody discussing the fact that the landlady lied to your face!? Could you video it when you call her out on that?

  • Carla King

    2013/06/10 at 10:00 pm

    I wonder how many hits you just got on your contact page. 🙂

  • Teal

    2013/06/10 at 10:46 pm

    Two thoughts: Leta has her own fireplace? Wow! And: Couldn’t small rodents still get between the strips of duct tape?

    How dare that meanie landlady lie to you. What a poopie-head!

  • Sin City Cowgirl

    2013/06/10 at 11:05 pm

    Sorry, Short and Fiesty,
    But Gay men rock – and how can you NOT be OK with good looking, handy, sensitive, stylish GAY MEN in our lives?? They make my world go round! Tyrant and Dane, you can come to my house anytime and cap my capless chimney – I will give you my cowboy hats to wear to keep the sun off of your beautiful faces!!

  • Short and Feisty

    2013/06/10 at 11:13 pm

    That’s my point–sorry if my sarcasm didn’t come through!

  • Sin City Cowgirl

    2013/06/10 at 11:27 pm

    No – I get it! I wish my boyfriend was just a little bit gay!! 🙂

  • eiyan

    2013/06/11 at 12:08 am

    Yeah, I agree with the others who suggest that you might not want a koala in your chimney. Have you heard of drop bears?

  • Stephanie Reidy

    2013/06/11 at 6:21 am

    Where were the safety harnesses?!? Sorry, just my crazy gut reaction to that photo. 🙂

  • Guest

    2013/06/11 at 8:02 am

    I speak from experience when I say: Duct tape will not stop a raccoon or squirrel or bear. You need iron bars. That landlord either got bamboozled or lied. Either way, she needs to fix it.

  • allconsuming

    2013/06/12 at 6:02 am

    Upside of koalas – they sleep a LOT. Downside – they’re cranky motherfuckers. Also: ticks. But if it’s Antipodean animals you’re after how about a possum? Those shits eat anything and everything to a stump and if you do anything to deter them they get all MALIGNANT and BITTER at you by pissing over every outdoor surface IN EXISTENCE. Also: ticks. How about bandicoots? They’re pretty cute, not to big but they will dig up your lawn in random spots creating nice divets for you to roll your ankle in. Often. Also: ticks. I’d advise a platypus – shy, difficult to find and only one poison spur. I’m not sure about their tick status.

  • allconsuming

    2013/06/12 at 6:03 am

    And also, still no hippo? TRY HARDER HEATHER, TRY HARDER.

  • Erin Gill

    2013/06/13 at 8:00 am

    Koalas can be really mean and scratchy, but they’re mostly cool. They just eat Eucalyptus and chillax. They wouldn’t go down your chimney, they’re not dicks like that.

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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