It was the first week of the New Year. The Christmas tree was still up, and the manger awaited the arrival of The Three Kings on Epiphany.
Unbeknownst to us, another visitor would be lodging at our house for the next three days.
Similar to the fantastic journey Alice experienced in Wonderland – falling down a well into a strange country – a chipmunk romping on our snow-covered roof fell into our chimney.
Landing in the fireplace, the rodent thought he had died and gone to heaven. There in the middle of the room stood a pine tree sparkling with ethereal light. The bitter cold had vanished, and instead the air was as comfortable as a spring day. Best of all, two bowls brimming with fresh water and Purina dog chow waited nearby.
Yet it wasn’t long before he regretted his fall from grace.
Immediately sensing the intruder, the dog chased the chipmunk down the hallway and into a closet.
Hearing the commotion, I was sure a field mouse was in the house, not an uncommon occurrence when you live in the woods in the country. I also knew from past experience that it would find its way out again or die trying.
However, we closed the bedroom door that night and went to bed with a false sense of security.
The next day after work, I wrapped myself in a soft blanket and began to read. Dozing off for a while, I awoke still in a dream.
Across from me on the side of the television, a chipmunk stared at me while he crunched on a Purina dog chow nugget he had snatched from the dog’s dish.
It was about nine inches long and four inches tall with reddish brown above and a gray strip from its crown to back. Its sides had a whitish stripe edged with black, and its belly was white. Its tail was long and fluffy.
Half asleep, I addressed the rodent.
“I know you like it here,” I said, while it stared at me and daintily nibbled. “These are nice digs, but you can’t stay. Chipmunks hibernate in winter.”
Then the dog awoke, picked up the scent and, barking furiously, chased the chipmunk under the couch. Slipping by the dog, the rodent ran down the stairs and disappeared under the door into the basement.
For the second night, we closed our bedroom door.
The next day I was about to start the vacuum cleaner when the chipmunk ran past me. I screamed, and my husband, who was outside on the deck with the dog, came to my rescue.
With the dog in hot pursuit, the chipmunk circled the dining room table. I ran down the hall, closing my office door, bedroom and bathroom doors. I screamed as they flew past me. But this time the chipmunk was cornered.
Buddy was growling inches from the rodent’s head, and I kept screaming – perhaps irrationally – “Don’t hurt it!” After all, this was one of God's tiny helpless creatures.
My husband put on his gloves and grabbed the chipmunk, which was intent on biting his captor. Running onto the deck, he opened the door and threw his tiny quarry into the snow. The chipmunk was stunned for a few minutes, then ran off, leaving tracks in the snow.
We slept with the bedroom door open.