Have you ever encountered something, someone or some situation that challenges you to the point where you feel as though you are going to lose your mind? But…when it’s all over you smile and think, ” Well, that takes the cake!” I think we can all say yes to this but did your challenge actually take the cake? Mine did, it took the cake, the coffee pods, the Kentucky Fried Chicken and more. Let me explain.
Last summer our school was undergoing some renovations, new flooring, a new roof many more things were being done by various contractors to help keep our 50+ year old school looking good. With all of this movement of people and construction materials in and out of the building, a little friend decided it would be a great time to move in and make himself at home. Now you may think I’m talking about a mouse but no…Fred (as students affectionately came to know him) is a squirrel.
At first we did think we had a mouse. The evidence indicated we had a rodent for sure but the droppings that were left behind were different. Throughout this experience I am sad to say that I have become somewhat of an expert at identifying the difference between mouse and squirrel droppings. Let’s add that to my list of skills for my resume. As the summer went on we saw fewer pieces of evidence that Fred was still in school so we assumed that he had moved on, or so we hoped.
By the time school started up in September we had forgotten all about the squirrel. Things were very busy and he was the last thing on my mind. Until…I get a call from an education assistant, asking me to come to one the classrooms because she needed me to see something. Off I went and when I got there she showed me the droppings. At first I thought that maybe these had been there since the summer, surely the squirrel was gone by now. After all, there was no one in the school for the past month leaving any food for him so why would he stay? I told her how we would have the mess cleaned up right away and to let me know if she saw any other evidence.
Turns out Fred had not left at all. Maybe he had gone on the occasional excursion outside but he was definitely a resident. The maintenance department was notified and they tried to catch Fred. As a school we can’t put out poison, we can’t have traps that could potentially harm children and traps cannot be placed where children can get at them. The professional pest control company was called and they made several visits to the school, setting up traps in the ceiling after school hours and collecting them in the early morning before students arrived but…no luck. ( It should also be noted that the traps were live traps, after all we didn’t want Fred dead at this point, we just wanted to evict him)
As time went on, Fred was becoming more accustomed to people and was clearly a very clever squirrel. He was going to school everyday! He was stealing the used Keurig pods from the trash, scurrying out from under bookshelves to visit students during classes, running along the ceilings while teachers were trying to teach, and if you left any food in the trash he would scoot in and grab it and be off in the blink of an eye. Needless to say, this was not at all distracting for students! Each day I would get squirrel updates. One particular evening, one of the custodians was very upset. She had brought left over KFC for her evening snack and when she went to get it she found that her lunch bag had been chewed all around the zipper and all of her chicken was gone. Fred was very clever indeed and heaven knows where will find the chicken bones one day! Another day, one of our teachers went to work on a Saturday morning to do some prepping and Fred just didn’t want to get off her desk. She had to move to another room! Her entire class had to be moved to a new room that Monday because Fred was just not interested in leaving. Now this all may sound silly but it was exceedingly frustrating for the adults. I was in constant contact with maintenance. Each morning they would check to see if Fred had been caught and report to me the bad news. I remember one morning at 7:30am sitting in my office with the maintenance supervisor having a conversation about a squirrel that sounded eerily like a mafia hit was about to go down. He was telling me he could “take of the squirrel” and I replied with ” At this point I don’t care how it’s done, I just need it taken care of.”
This seemed to be never ending. Fellow administrators would call to touch base, as we often do, and they would talk about the challenges they were facing in their schools. When they were done I would say, “Yes, but do you have a squirrel?”
Everyone was doing their best to cope with the frustrations of Fred. Lysol wipes were put to good use cleaning down surfaces that he may have run across, students had pictures of Fred on their cellphones and even wrote stories about him. Teachers were sending each other gifs about squirrels titled ” I wonder what Fred is doing tonight?” He was becoming a legend.
We located his favourite hiding spot, complete with partially eaten Keurig pods, no wonder he was so fast, he was hopped up on caffeine! Teachers and students came up with ideas about how to catch him. Plans were hatched, “What if I stand here with a garbage can and you chase him towards it…” all the while Fred became more brave and more clever. He would get into the live trap, steal the food and leave without a hitch. Easy peasy!
One day a grandparent of one of our students showed up at school with his homemade “live squirrel trap”. Now you have to picture this, an older German gentleman shows up in the office with this huge trap says “This will catch the squirrel.” By this time we have had pest control in many times, there was practically an army of people trying to solve the squirrel problem, I had even been on the phone with the Secretary Treasurer trying to come up with a plan. But believe me, we were giving this trap a try, after all we had nothing to lose. So we set up the trap.
The next morning at 7:10am I received a text from the maintenance supervisor. It was a photo, no caption, none needed. In the photo was the trap and inside the trap was Fred. It was finally over. I was so excited, but not quite as excited as the maintenance supervisor. Lol. Right away I texted my friend who is the daughter in law to the gentleman who brought us the trap and I told her to thank him! A little later, the maintenance supervisor showed up and we chatted about the squirrel. I asked where the squirrel was now and he said that one of the other maintenance workers had brought him to “Squirrel Park” which I took as code for, squirrel heaven. But…turns out this is actually place by the river where locals and tourists have put up squirrel houses and signs and called it “Squirrel Park”…I’ve lived here for 25 years and this was the first I’d heard of it. Guess you learn something new each day.
I posted a graphic of a cartoon squirrel in a cage on the staff room door to share the good news. The caption was ” We caught him but don’t worry he’s alive, just relocated!” At Christmas time the EA that had first pointed out the evidence gave several teachers and myself squirrel ornaments to commemorate the events.
Fred taught us all so much. Challenges bring people together, never give up and no matter how bad your day is, be thankful you don’t have a clever squirrel living in the ceiling!