I put way too much pressure on these first sentences. Particularly if I have been away for a while. I look for a succinct and poignant way to describe my absence; one that will dovetail smoothly into the epic monologue I wish to craft. Frankly, after much gnashing of teeth, I have determined said goal an impossibility at this juncture. We have all be surviving through this epic clusterfuck. You may be more familiar with it’s scientific nomenclature- a pandemic wrapped in an election. I mean no political bent by this. I don’t care which side of the isle you reside on- there is no way the experience and uncertainty of a pandemic can feel like a ship slicing through calm waters. Amidst the worries of my business, my health, and the health of my family drifts the exhaustion of decision fatigue. The whiplash of unilaterally made child visitation schedule adjustments. The fear that I am making the wrong choices. Oh, and isolation. The isolation only quarantine can bring.
Then protests. And riots. And sleep regressions. More fear. More second guessing. More insecurity of my ability to properly mother during said epic shit storm.
We have all been living these things in one form or another. So do I really need to eloquently punctuate each life altering situation of the last seven months that has eaten into the energy reserve that once fueled these words? Nope. Not necessary. The sum of it all- I’ve been too tired, too distracted, too scattered to form cohesive enough thoughts to add much to the digital world. That being said, I’m here now. Am I less frazzled? Not even a little. I’m in dire need of a haircut. An observation I am acutely aware of as I futz with my mane far more than should be acceptable while I pen this little monologue. But 2020 has brought me an experience so epic, it requires telling. I draw back the curtain, clear the cobwebs of my mind, and dust off my keys.
Hang on to your hats, folks, we are a embarking on a wild ride.
It’s a Thursday morning in early August that begins as all mornings do- with the creepy (yet so adorable) pensive leering of a four year old boy. He stands at my bedside anxiously awaiting admittance. As I allow the enjoyment of snuggles to wash over me, I remember that I have a client to see today. This means one thing- I must look presentable. I cannot stretch the minutes curled around my offspring. I must exit the euphoria and face reality.
The remainder of the morning goes predictably. Moose to the safe hands of his caregiver. I consume my apple and fantasize it is a full brunch as I make sure I break autopilot and stop by the blueprinters on my way into the office. Sitting at my desk, email is checked. Addresses to the client and their HOA scribbled onto a piece of paper. The mental (and audible) checklist diligently run through. I gather the forms my clients are to sign, a pen just in case they don’t have one, and my aforementioned addresses. Off to my chariot I stroll.
I bask in the change of routine; my music drowns out my voice as I drive down the four lane highway. In the pondering of coffee in my future, something catches my eye. In my periphery, is that…an otter? No, can’t be. Not possible. Quarantine is making me loopy. Wait a minute, does one experience the same optical trickery twice in a row? Can it be an otter? Shit, that’s an otter! This internal discourse lasts mere seconds as the reality of a hurt animal redirects the course of my day.
I immediately pull my car to the shoulder and activate my hazard lights as I dash toward the direction of a possibly injured animal. I chat with him as I chase him. I am trying to calmly let him know that the side of a highway is no place for him and I just wish to escort him to safety.
He doesn’t trust me. He runs.
I clumsily chase him. He darts toward the traffic as I attempt- albeit devoid of grace- to scoop him into my arms. I scold him, as if he is my child while flinging my body between him and the solid white line knowing he will course correct to avoid me. Clearly, this isn’t going well. I need a new plan of attack.
My brilliance knows no bounds. I jog back to my car and retrieve one the of the throw blankets I keep in the rear. I’ll just wrap him up in a blanket and console him. Because a looming creature with a blanket will seem less terrifying to him. Sure.
My calculations were unreliable, at best. It seems the fuzzy blanket I wielded to nestle this slippery mammal in did not appear comforting. He continued to allude me. Until, at last, I was able to embrace the lubricated creature. Another chasm existed in my procedure. Otters are bendy. So very bendy. Homeboy bend his body in half to reach around and bite me.
The ungrateful turd bit me. Twice! I must admit, it hurt like hell. It also fueled my determination to rescue him. I quickly reevaluated my methods. The blanket must cover his head as I continue to attempt capturing the wily beast. I cannot get bitten again.
Eureka! He is safely enshrouded in my blanket, my hands firmly under his arms, around his torso, my arms are outstretched. I learned from the bendy, remarkably fast, bites. I attempt to sooth him as we traverse the pavement to my car. I assure him that I will get him to somewhere safe. That the rear of my car has A/C and it really isn’t so bad. It probably matters- I drive a hatchback compact SUV.
I climb back into the driver’s seat now that my otter buddy is safely in my vehicle. I call my dad. I alert him that I am running behind and request he give the client a call on my behalf. He is rather confused- particularly when I drop the knowledge that I have an otter in my trunk that I plan to drop at a vet on my way to the client.
I do just that. I pull into a veterinary office off the main road. Due to the pandemic, they have a phone number displayed in the window with an accompanying sign that says to call for someone to come out. Unbeknownst to me, I begin a series of strange phone calls for the day with this one.
I ring them and let them know that I need assisance with getting the otter from my car into their facilities. There is a pregnant pause on the opposite end of the line. She then informs me that they only care for cats and dogs. They cannot help me. Our call politely ends. I reassure the otter that we will find where to take him. He’s safe.
I call another vet. Bust. Then the Humane Society. She can’t help me either, however so is beyond thankful that I am trying to help the fella and suggests I call the Chattahoochee Wildlife Center. The suggestion is met with enthusiastic appreciation. I google the number. As I go to hit dial, my phone begins to ring. My step-dad is calling me. Can this day get any more random? I answer his call. I must admit, I am a bit manic with adrenaline at this point. I inform him that my day has taken an odd turn with the temporary resident in my transport. He laughs at first. This appears to be the typical response my statement elicits. I assure him, I am not kidding. He dips into his knowledge of resources that my be able to assist me, as my passenger has now been with me for 30 minutes. He suggests I give the Department of Natural Resources a jingle. We end our phone call and I quickly leave a message for the Chattahoochee Wildlife Center followed by researching how I get in touch with the Department of Natural Resources. I leave yet another voicemail informing anyone that will listen that I have an otter in my truck. My delirium is mounting as my ankle and hand throb.
I have run out of options. There are no more phone calls to make. It appears, my passenger is now my coworker. One that smells of fish. I fear the smell will emanate from my window as I request admittance into my client’s gated community. The gentleman who takes my information either cannot smell my friend or he is very polite. Either way, he allows me passage through the gate.
Halfway through the winding streets of the neighborhood, my phone chatters at me. I don’t recongnize the number, but I hold out hope it is help for my buddy. Kevin calmly asks if I am the person that left a message with the Department of Natural Resources regarding an otter. I confirm, potentially too enthusiastically. We begin the quick work of discussing my location and where we may meet to do the exchange. This feel a bit like an odd drug deal as I listen to Otter man shift in his slumber behind me. Kevin asks me if it is okay that it will take him 45 minutes to get to me. I can’t help but laugh. I have AN OTTER IN MY TRUNK, where will I go? I tell him I will wait as long as necessary. He realizes the hilarity of the entire situation and laughs with me. He assures me he’s on his way and will see me as quickly as is safe. I hang up the phone, tell my otter friend that help is on the way, but we have a couple more stops on our journey.
I cautiously pull into my client’s driveway. I don’t want to startle my sleeping friend. I leave the car running, as I don’t want to terminate his air conditioning. I grab the forms needed and approach the front door. I apologize profusely for being twenty minutes late. It isn’t like us to be tardy, but I couldn’t leave the harmed little guy in a dangerous situation. Turns out, my father wasn’t able to get in touch with them. They had no idea I had a commuter. So I gave them the quick, exuberant synopsis of events. As the husband of the duo signs the paperwork, the wife retrieves Neosporin and bandages for my wounds. They are both simultaneously concerned for my lesions and in awe of my “bravery”. I identify more as frazzled than brave. Off to our next stop, the HOA. The destination Kevin and I will conduct our parking lot trade off.
I begin our travels to the next destination and call my father. He is the man that cares for me as his offspring and his business partner; I feel it my duty to inform him of the progression of the day. He is not pleased. In fact, he is downright irritated. It is frowned upon to be bitten by a wild animal during work hours or not. There is talk of a rabies shot. That my next stop may need to be an emergency room. The call ends with him thanking me for saving the critter. He loves me. His worry calms.
He brings up a good point. Rabies hadn’t entered my mind.
Alas, that isn’t a nugget I can stew upon. I must complete my journey. I take the forms and house plans to the HOA for submission of approval. I chat with the kind woman I have been corresponding with via email for several weeks. We exchange pleasantries and a review of our submission, confirming I have everything we need. I do. I begin to exit the office, she bids me an exciting day. I chuckle. I need no more excitement. This dovetails into another brief tale of my day. She begs to walk out with me and take a gander at the otter in my trunk. I permit her viewing but assure her I will not allow him a chance at escape, so the hatch stays securely closed. She agrees. She can smell him through the glass. He now smells of fish and poop.
The wait for Kevin begins. I utilize the time to begin a new series of calls I never anticipated to experience. I start to call doctors to see about the process of getting a rabies shot. Turns out, getting a rabies shot is about as easy as finding a safe haven for an injured otter. I call two doctors. I am then sent to an organization that does vaccinations for travel. This is not helpful during the time of a pandemic where travel is halted. They have closed until January of 2021. Their voicemail urges me to call the Department of Health for any questions regarding vaccinations. I leave yet another voicemail detailing my very strange day.
Kevin arrives precisely when he said he would. He then lets me know that otters are his absolute favorite and only the second he has assisted with in his entire career. Turns out, he pulled rank to score this pickup. He also informed me that he would rather attempt to catch an alligator than an otter. They are tough, to say the least. He is so impressed with my wrangling skills that he offers me a job. Catching an otter with nothing but a blanket is noteworthy, as it turns out.
After he transfers the otter from my trunk to a large crate for his safe transport, Kevin begins the calls he is obligated to make. First, his own call to the department of health. They will tell him where to take the animal. If he must first be evaluated there or if he can drive directly to south Georgia where a rescue is waiting. He must also photograph my injuries and get all of my contact information, just in case I need a rabies shot. This solves that mystery. Second, he calls his boss. His boss also offers me a job. I am now something of a legend. And I did it all in a dress.
One would think that this is where the tale ends. Oh no, it is not! I receive a call from the Department of Health. I must fill out a report due to my bite. The lovely woman that called me is taken aback that my bite was not administered by a dog. She didn’t know what an otter is. I had to spell it. She googled it. Her fascination bloomed upon seeing the picture of the cute otter. “He bit you?!” Why yes, he did. Twice. I cannot make this shit up.
My dad cleans and dresses my wounds. He is comforted with the low risk of rabies. He can now clearly express his appreciation of the fact that I am a complete bleeding heart. The jokes begin. My new title at work is the Otter Whisperer. I wince whenever I need to utilize my right hand or walk. This does not assist in me attempting to look tough.
I get another call from an epidemiologist. She received a voicemail earlier in the day about an otter bite and she wanted to give me a call back. I assure her that the otter is in safe hands and I have been assisted and filled out my incident report. She notifies me that the otter bite news has rippled through the office and she is aware of the situation. She wanted to insure that there hadn’t been two otter bites in one day. That would be a weirdness she wasn’t prepared for. She promises to keep me updated on the status of the Otter. Moose’s godmother and I named him Oswald- how he will be referred to henceforth.
My evening, post Oswald ride, required a complete scrubbing and sanitizing of my trunk and everything in it. Even so, it took two days to get the smell of fish and otter poop out of the air. Moose found the whole affair a delightful adventure.
Unfortunately, this is where the tale breaks my heart. Oswald had been hit by a car, which is why I observed the initial difficulty in his movement as he attempted to escape my grasp. He didn’t survive the damage. I cried when they told me the week following his heroic rescue. I had bonded with the violent mammal. I accidentally penned a rather emo Facebook post and worried a few of my loved ones. But I was truly heartbroken over Oswald, my otter hitchhiker.
So now, I posses an epic odyssey involving a cute- yet fierce- animal. A scar on my hand and a wound on my ankle that is still healing ten weeks later. I also have a formal letter from the county of Dekalb documenting that I did not, in fact, contract rabies from an otter.