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Curiosity and Construction

A row of nails point fiercely at my eye as I peer down a darkened wall to a narrow space below. I’m wedged between a dusty shelf full of rusty hedge clippers and random pieces of plywood. If it were nearer to Halloween I’d suspect I was in a makeshift haunted house. If I were in Hollywood I’d suspect I was on the scene of the next Hostel movie. But neither of those is true. It’s springtime, and I’m in someone’s plain old shed in plain old Phoenix. And at the bottom of the crack into which I stare are two young kittens, trapped after falling down a few days ago. As long as I remember to stay on my tip toes, I manage to keep my eye just above the nails thrusting through the wall and threatening tetanus. And so, handicapped by space issues created by unthinking humans, I begin the task of rescuing animals from another human mess.

I am not an architect, engineer, professional organizer, or landscaper. But I have learned a little about those professions over the years of rescuing animals.

I have learned that attics are not segregated rooms above our ceilings. Rather they’re a continuation of the spaces between walls. And they’re not often sealed from the outside. To an outdoor cat, attics look like an ideal place to give birth to a litter of kittens. They’re quiet. They’re protected. They’re filled with fluffy insulation that makes a fantastic bed. But cats aren’t blessed with the concept of forethought. Attics make great nurseries until the kittens are old enough to start toddering around on unsteady legs. With heads equal in weight to the rest of their bodies and a line of site that doesn’t extend over the top of the insulation, newly walking kittens walk themselves right off the support beams and plunge down inside the walls of the house, unable to climb back out.

Chimneys, storm drains, irrigation tunnels. These are all similar versions of the same story. Fantastic hiding places for cats until… One wrong step as a cat excitedly chases a bug/bird/lizard and loses track of the gaping hole beneath them, and voilá, they’re stuck.

Dogs aren’t much better. Though less likely to pick a hiding spot due to safety reasons, dogs often let their curiosity get the better of them. In an attempt to see what’s happening on the other side of the block wall, dogs jam their heads through the tiny openings in the drainage block at the base of the fence, and then can’t get back out. Caught early enough, this is a fairly easy situation to correct, involving the strategic scrunching of skin and ears to slide them back through. But left for long and heads and necks begin to swell, and I have to chisel the dog out of the fence.

Like so many of the problems I face every day, these rescue scenarios are so easily avoidable. Chicken wire. Yep, simple chicken wire will prevent you from wondering if you’re losing your mind when you hear an animal crying from inside your walls or chimney. Chicken wire over the top of your chimney and over the access points to your attic. Chicken wire over your drainage blocks. No airflow is prevented or light diminished. But this simple pattern of honeycombed wire is just the right size and strength to keep animals out of places they’d rather not be.

Any time I move into a new home, I search the property for potential animal traps. And I do everything I can to fix those and prevent causing new ones. The last thing I want to discover is a cat/dog/bird/other in a place it doesn’t belong. Because I’d have no one to call for help but myself.

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