groundhog alley

While on my way to Fresh Co. the other day to pick up a few things after work, I heard rustling in the tall grassy weeds that line the sidewalk in front of an abandoned warehouse building on Dundas West. It sounded like it could have be a squirrel, only bigger. I stopped briefly and watched the plants move. Then I kept going.

On my way back from the store, on the other side of the street, a man and a woman were trying to coax a groundhog off the road so he wouldn't get run over by a bus.

I can only assume it was the groundhog I'd stopped for just fifteen minutes prior. Like I said, it sounded bigger than a squirrel. While I was picking up grapeseed oil and eggs, the little fella made it all away across four lanes of traffic. He was Frogger.

I stopped to help the two coaxers get the not so little rodent onto the grass. He was so freaked out that he couldn't get his chubby body up onto the curb. But after a few scrambling attempts he managed the leap and at least we had him on the sidewalk. Poor thing was scurrying this way and that, not know where he should be. I called home and got my husband to text me the number for the Toronto Wildlife Centre which is (416) 361-0662 if this ever happens to you.

It was 5:55 p.m. and they are only open until six. I got an answering machine and pushed a few options before hanging up to give my full attention to the critter. Even though I wanted to help, it wasn't like anyone had been bit by a rabid raccoon. By this time, he had made his way down between a couple of houses and was heading for the back alley.

Then the woman said, "I'm not getting nailed for trespassing for this guy, see ya." With that, the man left too. But I followed the groundhog and watched him tuck between a garage and a fence on the other side of the alley.

He looked so mixed up. His torso waddling back and forth. Panicked. Stressed. Disoriented. He didn't know where he was and he didn't know where to turn. Maybe he was a she and she just forgot where she was supposed to be.

We've all been there.

I went home and quickly emptied my grocery bag. I took the bag, the cat carrier and an umbrella and headed to the door.

"What are you going to do, bag him?" my husband asked.

I had no idea what I was going to do.

But off we went. We found him where I'd left him. He still looked dazed and confused but it appeared that his breathing had slowed down. We stared at him and he stared at us. All of us just staring and blinking at each other, wondering what was going to happen next.

What happened next? We walked home.

The next day I looked but couldn't find him. I know this because I took the alley instead of the street. What I did find, is that the alley is a much calmer ride. It's quiet and serene and there is no one back there.

Because of a displaced (or so we assume) rodent I was taken off my usual course. I looked up at the big yellow sign that said: SLOW, and thought, why haven't I been taking this way all along?