Groundhog Days

While I am generally happy with my apartment in Boulder, Colorado, I’ve never had an abundance of love for my patio area. In the past I’ve commented on how it directly faces one of the busiest roads in the city and does its best to not foster any type of a social environment. Sure, it’s a good place to keep my barbecue grill, but that’s about it. The other day, however, I found a completely new and unexpected use for this architectural monstrosity. For better or worse, I can use my patio to trap local wildlife.

This whole situation started, like so many of my stories, with me innocently sitting on my couch watching television. Right in the middle of a rerun of “Family Ties” I heard a strange scurrying noise near my patio. The fun part of living in an apartment involves putting up with everyone else’s noises. Over the past two years I have been able to completely tune out the normal noises of traffic, the lawn getting mowed, and the woman in the apartment above me hosting weekly square dancing competitions. Aside from my Thursday night dreams containing a higher percentage of serenading and “do-si-do”ing than during the rest of the week, these noises do not seem to have a large impact on my life.

But this sound did not register in my brain as one of the typical apartment sounds. I jumped to the conclusion that a small furry animal was scurrying around near my patio. I stood up and looked outside to see my initial guess was exactly correct. A ground hog was sitting on the concrete barrier of my patio. I’m not sure exactly what he found so interesting about my patio. For a few minutes we just stood there looking at each other. I was thinking to myself, “I hope he doesn’t fall off the concrete ledge and get trapped on my patio.” He was thinking, “I wonder what happened before the Big Bang? Was there just nothingness or did the cosmos exist… OOOOOOOO CRAPPPPPP!!!”

The next thing I knew the groundhog population of my patio had suddenly increased by one. I have no idea why he decided to make the four foot vertical plunge onto my patio, but it quickly became clear that he was not equipped to make a four foot vertical jump to escape. After recovering from the fall, he ran around in a big circle a few times and then decided the best course of action was to hide in the corner under my barbecue grill.

I like to think of myself as a pro-animal person. Especially the cute little furry ones. I briefly thought about keeping him as a pet. But then I remembered how they instinctively burrow tunnels for their homes. I looked around my apartment and decided I would probably be better off without having small mammals running around inside my upholstered furniture.

I wasn’t really sure what to do at this point. The one thing I was sure of was that the groundhog was either unable or unwilling to get out of my porch without some form of outside assistance. I didn’t have any little groundhog sized ladders I could set up to help the poor guy out. Instead I opened up my patio and front door a few inches. I moved my coffee table over to form a path way for the groundhog to get away through my front door.

I tried gesturing to the animal that it was in its best interest to follow the path I had just constructed. I don’t think I would make a very good professional mime– the groundhog just sat motionless under the grill, oblivious to my frantic pointing towards the door. I decided a more proactive approach was needed. So I moved the grill out from the corner of the porch and tossed a few rocks around him in the hopes of getting him in motion. After about five or six attempts, it became clear that 1) I throw like a girl and 2) the groundhog realized this and didn’t feel any particular reason to move out of the way from these incoming projectiles.

My attempts were finally successful when I went inside and got the broom out. I knew there was a reason why I bought it years ago. After a few gentle nudges with the broom, the animal finally went into motion. He quickly located the escape route I created for him and scurried out the front door. Problem solved. I’m not sure what exactly I have learned from this experience. I suppose the moral of this story is that groundhogs are not very smart. The odds of them suddenly progressing through an evolutionary advancement and enslaving humanity do not seem to be very good at this point.