The neighbours called to say there was something odd going on.

They thought they saw someone moving around inside the house.

The old house, a dilapidated bungalow, was slated for demolition. Hoardings were up and there was no question that the place was unoccupied. Nevertheless the neighbours thought they saw light coming from inside. They thought they saw someone moving around inside the house. 

Image from paNOW

The owner of the house drove over to see what was up. There had, indeed, been someone in the house. Given the presence of stained tin foil and matches, that someone had been cooking heroin, or chasing the dragon or – beats me! – roasting marshmallows, hidden away in the recesses of the small house. They’d brought along a pet crate and the owner saw a small cat darting away from him.

They had a squatter. And the worst kind of squatter. One that liked to play with matches. While high. One that had an emaciated, antisocial cat.

What to do?

He was told to call 911 when the intruder showed up.

The owner called the non-emergency line of the police department. He was told to call 911 when the intruder showed up. He got his contractor over and they redoubled the boarding up of the house. He removed all of the squatters’ possessions to a dry area at the front door, made up a huge sign advising the squatter that the police had been notified and to, please, get out.  Oh, and the sign also said that the squatter could claim his cat at the local SPCA … although, given that the cat was not only emaciated, but also injured, fat chance he’d be getting Whiskers back anytime soon.

One of the nice things about modern life is that you can get food delivered just about anywhere. He parked his car a half block away, ordered dinner, and settled in to wait on the return of the squatter.

That was around 9 pm. At 3 pm he gave up. Whoever it was that had taken up residence in his house didn’t appear to be coming home to change the litter box.

Photo from Adobe Stock

The neighbours called to say there was something odd going on. It was mid-afternoon the following day. A back window was broken.

He’d breached the perimeter using the simplest of tools: a rock.

There are constant lessons in life.  Here’s one: someone who’s living in your house illegally isn’t going to come in through the front door.  Apparently, the squatter didn’t see the updates the owner had posted on the front door. He’d breached the perimeter using the simplest of tools: a rock.

The squatter appeared to have moved on.

The owner figured that the worst of it was behind him. The house was made more secure. The neighbours – and a wonderful bunch of neighbours they clearly are – were on high alert.

The neighbours called to say that there was something odd going on.  The owner drove over. It was a flood.  Water was flooding into the basement of the soon-to-be demolished house.  Now, this is the first house this young man will have ever owned. He has yet to learn all the exquisite, unrelenting complexities of home ownership. There are, as I’ve previously noted, constant lessons in life. Just when you think you have everything under control, someone will drop a jar of applesauce or step away from a sink that has no overflow. (Why, oh why, don’t all sinks have overflows?) But this was not an overflow problem. No. It was something far more nefarious. Some enterprising person had come in the night and removed all of the copper pipes from the basement. This enterprising person did not have the courtesy to shut off the water before doing so.

Life seemed harsh and unfair.

The owner called the contractor. The owner had his first lesson in Plumbing 101. He went home and he and his wife stared at each other, mouths agape. It had been a hard week. Life seemed harsh and unfair.

Photo from Pinterest

News flash: Life is harsh and unfair. But then there are neighbours, good neighbours, who make you feel that someone has your back. And they got to rescue a cat. That felt good. It always feels good to rescue an animal.  And that plumbing lesson, unfortunately, is going to come in handy. 

This week’s question for readers:


Now, in return, will you do something for me? Will you sign up for The Plain Jane, my newsletter? You can ignore it, if you want, when it shows up in your inbox every few weeks, but my rotten kids will think I’m a star if I have a decent subscriber list. 

Here’s further incentive to sign up: PRIZES!!!

Submissions to last week’s question:

What are your urban encounters with wildlife?

As for seeing snakes, I also hadn’t come across a snake for a number of years – except for yesterday!It’s odd that after reading your article (yesterday Saturday’s newspaper), one should suddenly make itself visible….. 

Good vibrations at work?!?!  

My wife and I were on a mini-hike on the Rotary-Nicomekl Trail in Langley, and we were about to cross the bridge over the river that leads to Heritage Park.  Just before we made our way onto the bridge, we saw a medium-size snake (likely a juvenile Garter) sunning itself on the cement pathway.  The snake saw us approaching at the same time as we saw it, and it made a bee-line for the surrounding protective grass at the side of the pathway.  Being darkish-coloured it blended in quite nicely – flicking its tail in a fond farewell, as it sped away.  So – they do exist out here after all!

Linda and Ken Johnson

I was working in the garden one summer afternoon a few years ago when I felt an animal brush  the back of my leg. I hastily turned around to see a coyote standing right next to me.He quickly  grabbed our elderly Jack Russell terrier and  ran off with her into the street.I was shocked but I chased him about three blocks down the street and into a small Vancouver park.  I did not even realise that I had somehow  jumped over a stone wall in my haste. The coyote ran off and after a visit to the vet, our  beloved dog lived to tell the tale.

Aline D.

A few years ago I was on the walkway through Arbutus Village. A few people were walking by and, undeterred, a light brown coyote just yards away was eyeing a nearby squirrel. I felt I should interfere. So I picked up a pine cone and threw it at the squirrel to get its attention. It got the message and the hunt was off. Then two days later I was waiting for a bus on Macdonald Avenue at King Edward when the same coyote came trotting north down Macdonald, in the middle of the road with cars whizzing by in both directions. Had I thrown the pine cone at the coyote I doubt if he would have even blinked an eye. 

Peter Niblock

We were fortunate to live in a neighbourhood in North Vancouver within a short walk to the mountains. Our street connected with a forested pathway to the elementary school. One spring morning, popping out to gather my morning paper, I noticed a large black bear napping high in the branches of the large cypress tree in our front yard. Rather than wake the bear, I was advised by a local conservation officer to just let it finish its sleep. I monitored the situation from my inside my front window, anxiously watching school children and parents trundle by, oblivious to the snoozing bruin. Later that day, the rested bear descended and headed back into the woods.  

Sharon Lee Mitchell

A family of skunks unceremoniously ensconced themselves into the tiniest of spaces under my cement deck and stubbornly refused to leave. When I mentioned my dilemma to a neighbour he happily volunteered that skunks are repelled by urine. What he neglected to mention was that it was dog urine and not human so not surprisingly my surreptitious forays under the cover of darkness did not bear fruit. Next I tried ammonia, another supposed skunk repellent but the only thing that I repelled was my family. Finally I pushed a small bag of mothballs attached to a long pole into the small cavity beneath my deck and after a few days voila–the sweet smell of success!

Avrum Miller

We live in a small town and have the privilege of viewing not encountering some wildlife.  This past winter, the motion lights came on in the back yard so I went to the window and behold the most beautiful 2 point buck. While I looked at him he looked at me. I didn’t care if he ate all the bird seed. Also, we have had a family of raccoons scavenging the lawn in search of grubs.  They worked as a unit and methodically covered the lawn. And then there are the moles that tirelessly dig up the lawn area. We are so blessed in many ways to see these creatures alive and well living their lives.

Sharlene Bennett

It was 6:30 am and I was walking Sid, our 13 year old Golden Lab, up a back alley in Nelson. Suddenly a skunk appeared at the end of the alley, and Sid was off like a shot. The skunk wasn’t perturbed; he just raised his tail and sprayed. Unbeknownst to the skunk, however, Sid had completely lost his sense of smell. He grabbed that skunk by the scruff of the neck and hoisted him into the air. Indignant, the skunk wheeled on Sid and sunk his teeth into Sid’s lip. Then a second skunk appeared from under a garage and both skunks were spraying while snarling, in tune with Sid howling over his bit lip, with blood everywhere. Then the baby skunks joined in from the garage and it was cacophony. I had to teach that day and wasn’t going near them. Instead I made a snowball and hit Sid on the side of the head. He dropped the skunk and both skunks ran off to their garage. A year later Sid still stunk when it rained.

Patrick O’Neil

One of my wildlife encounters many years ago was in Stanley Park where I enjoyed walking near the rose garden with peanuts in my pocket to nibble on. Once, when I stopped to chat with a friend, two aggressive squirrels with a great sense of smell, climbed up my legs to access the peanuts for them to nibble on without my permission! Annoying!

Another time, in early spring, while waiting for painting friends near the southside of the pond at Jericho Park, I encountered a coyote on the lower, less used path. We had a stand-off, staring at each other for the longest time until I began to shout. I was not going to turn my back with food in my pocket! 

Enda Bardell

We have a fairly large piece of property; the back area is planted in trees and bushes. Before Maple Ridge became so populated, we had pheasants living in that area; we named them Frank and Francine.  At lunch one day, my young son was finishing his sandwich, all except the crusts.  When told to finish all his lunch, he declared he was saving the crusts for Frank!  Yeah, right.

Catherine Ward

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