Over the years, living in a basement apartment has meant that a lot of critters have found their way into my living space; we’ve had mice, I found a dead vole near our feeders, and Lord only knows how many bugs, spiders and ants have thought they had the right to come inside. Despite that, nothing could have ever prepared me for what happened last night. Around 11:00 we were getting ready for bed and I was taking a towel out of the dryer when I looked up and saw a fuzzy face coming toward me from the top of the dryer. I screamed bloody murder (sorry neighbors!), and after some colorful language about what I thought was a rat, I calmed down and climbed up on a chair to take a peek. Sure enough, on the top of the dryer, cowering in the far back corner was a fuzzy creature about the size of a chipmunk, but I could tell right away it wasn’t a chipmunk because the coloring was all wrong and the head wasn’t the right shape. I assumed it was a baby squirrel and decided to let it stay where it was — it had curled up in a little ball and wrapped its tail around its head, so I thought it would stay put. I thought I would call maintenance this morning and they’d take care of it for me, and I was fine with that…until I thought about how maintenance would probably “take care” of it. Then I got upset. I didn’t think we should have tried to handle it because I didn’t want either of us to get bitten – you never know what kinds of diseases you can get from an animal bite, and I didn’t want to scare it so that it urinated or pooped all over the place, either. Still, I couldn’t bear the thought of it getting killed just because it was looking for a warm place to spend the night. I told Bill I’d call in late to work and stay until maintenance could come over so that I could help them humanely get it back outside, and then we went to bed. The little bugger was on an escape mission that made Shawshank look like amateur hour — we hadn’t been in bed but about a half hour when we heard a loud thump followed by squeaking– when we turned on the light, we didn’t see it at first, but we found it trapped in the top of our (broken) closet door. At that point, we decided to just try to capture it and release it, but it shot back into the closet before we could do so. Our washer/dryer was replaced last year and maintenance had to rewire the apartment; in doing so, they left a massive hole between the closet and washer/dryer, so that is how the poor thing ended up in our bedroom. It wasn’t until a half hour after that that we heard it again and found it perched on the top of the door hinge. Bill got my silicone oven mitt and a towel and I emptied a storage container and stood at the ready; Bill jumped up on a chair and with lightening fast reflexes, caught it and put it in the box. Thankfully it had a hinged lid that I slammed shut, and I ran upstairs, the squirrel frantically trying to escape its plastic prison the whole time. I gently put the box down on our sidewalk, flipped open the lid and in a flash, the poor baby was up the closest tree and vanished into the night. This morning, I did a Google search and learned that we were paid a visit by a Southern Flying Squirrel, so I named him Nutsy, in honor of the Richmond Flying Squirrels baseball team mascot. I had no idea, but flying squirrels are common in the eastern third of the country, and some people keep them as pets. I can see why – they’re so adorable if they aren’t sneak attacking you in the middle of the night. They live about six to seven years in the wild and can live to be 13 years old when kept as pets. I assume it came in through the dryer vent since it’s just a gaping hole in the back of the building, and as nasty as the weather was the past few days, I can see why it was seeking shelter. Can’t fault a critter for wanting to stay dry and warm. I wonder if I’ll ever see Nutsy again and if I do, I hope for both our sakes that it’s outdoors in its natural habitat. I could never do harm to one of God’s creatures, but I’d prefer not to lose five years off of my life because of them, either.