Seattle has this reputation (No, not the one about the rain) for being a green oasis of nature, wilderness, and raw beauty. Mountains and oceans and soaring vistas- this is the sort of nature that the Seattle area is known for, and it pretty much lives up to the hype. There are mountains, and hiking trails, and lakes, and the wildlife is confined to the skies (hawks, eagles, herons) or the sea (orcas, crabs, salmon). And frankly, this is pretty much how I enjoy my wildlife. OVER THERE. Majestic and stunning, yes, but best observed through a pair of binoculars- a tiny speck of an eagle soaring above the grain elevator by my old office, a startled heron taking flight as soon as he spots me on the Greenlake trail.
California, I assumed, would be more of the same- I mean, not the specific animals (I don’t think there’s a run on San Gabriel river salmon every year), but the OVER THERE-ness of the animals. I would live in this house-shaped structure and they would live somewhere ELSE, preferably nice and far away, something I’d have to make an effort to see, like driving to the zoo. I mean, Long Beach is a CITY, not the rural backwoods of BumbleFuck, so I was pretty sure I was heading into a known quantity when I moved here, vis-a-vis wild animals.
I heard somewhere that Long Beach is built on an anthill, and while I cannot locate any reference for this factoid, I am going to choose to believe it, because those tiny motherfuckers are EVERYWHERE. Mostly, their overall existence in the great out-of-doors is of no consequence to me, but when they become bound and determined to colonize the INSIDE OF MY HOUSE, I get a little testy.
We feed the cats wet food in the evenings, and in Seattle, we’d leave these dishes on the floor for them to wander by as they saw fit, and pick them up in the morning (if at all, if you want the honest truth). Why change our ways in sunny California, we figured, and placed the food bowls on the ground before heading out for dinner. When we got home, I walked by the bowls on my way to the kitchen, only to notice them VIBRATING in the dark. Convinced we’d rented a possessed house, I flipped on the light to discover ONE BAJILLION ants, squirming and swarming all over the cat food dishes. I don’t even think a bajillion is too much of an exaggeration, frankly.
If I hadn’t been so busy spraying them with bug spray and lemongrass oil (and freaking out, like I do), I might have taken the time to admire the two ruler-straight lines of ants, one going in each direction, in and out of our house via a crack in the floorboard. A precision army of ants headed in for a nibble of premium turkey cat food. The cats seemed unimpressed with our visitors, and therefore I had to start looking seriously at what it might cost to turn the three of them into fuzzy slippers.
Speaking of the bastards, we had them boarded while we went to Vancouver for the wedding. Despite the reprieve from fur tumbleweeds, persistent meowing, and claws kneading my intestines, we picked them up from the cat hospital anyways. Much cuddling ensued, and I don’t think Kokanee got into any trouble for sleeping comfortably draped around my head. Until the morning, that is, when I woke up with horribly itchy bites on my ankles. The cats, AS PER USUAL, did not seem bothered by the sudden flea infestation, so while J and I scratched furiously at tiny spots in inconvenient places, they continued on their napping-all-day ways. To add injury to injury, we had to give pills to all three cats- by the time we got to him, the third one was totally onto us, and hid under the couch until I grabbed him by the scruff and made J LIFT THE COUCH so I could put the motherfucker in a headlock.
I thought for sure we were done with pests for a little while, but rotten things come in threes, so OF COURSE, one of the cats got sprayed by a skunk two nights later. Night is too generous- I let Kokanee out at 4am, only to be startled awake 45 minutes later by the nasty odor of skunk wafting by the open window. The cat smelled like he’d been sautéed in a bushel of garlic and then roasted over smoking coals- burnt, bitter, and deeply garlicky. IT IS 4:50AM AT THIS POINT, but that smell precludes any sort of rational thought, so we were up and taking care of it pronto. Two baths, three towels, and four loads of laundry later, we left all the ceiling fans on and left for the day.
You Heard It Here First: a hydrogen peroxide and baking soda mixture with a drop or two of dish soap removes the smell pretty effectively.
Long Beach, it would appear, is the epicenter of annoying wildlife- we regularly see skunks walking through yards at dusk (they are surprisingly cute, all things considered), and yesterday we watched a car stop and wait for a possum to cross the street, IN BROAD DAYLIGHT. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bear lumbering through the backyard- they are the state animal, after all.
Short of hermetically sealing ourselves inside the house, I think the pests are here to stay. Send bug spray.