Chipmunks cute … until they got fleas

Published 1:07 am Saturday, December 10, 2016

Did you know that chipmunks and dogs have something in common?

It has been a while since I noticed a chipmunk scurrying around in my back yard. Ever since I saw one scooping up birdseed and filling its jaws until they bulged years ago, the little rodents have fascinated me. So many lived in the back yard that I watched them as much as I did the birds showing up at our feeders.

You probably know that chipmunks stuff as much food as they can in their jaws, then rush off with it to store in their underground burrows. While I always found it amusing that you could almost set your watch by their departing underground and returning to the same feeding ground, my husband did not. He said our house was in danger from all those burrows they built underground.”One day, the house just might cave in,” he warned. Thankfully, the number of chipmunks appearing has diminished, and that has not happened.

Because of a story a reader sent me, I learned that chipmunks get fleas just like dogs. She said that she and her husband once lived in Canada where they noticed lots of chipmunks in their yard. Apparently, they put out peanuts for them. The chippies got so bold they actually climbed on peoples’ laps to snatch peanuts out of their pockets. One day their neighbor appeared wearing a housedress with big pockets that she had stuffed with peanuts. It was not long until a chipmunk appeared and crawled on her lap. Two baby chippies followed. They, too, went straight for her pockets. Suddenly she stripped off her dress with the chipmunks still in the pockets and rushed to her house. By the time she reached her door, she had shed her clothes down to her underwear and headed lickety-split to the bathroom to turn on the shower.

No longer were the chippies cute to her. All of them were covered with fleas. Their contact with her warm human body was an invitation to the fleas to a better feeding ground. The reader told me she and her husband laughed so hard they couldn’t help their neighbor.

I am thankful that I can give my dog a monthly pill to protect her from fleas. However, that was not always the case. One morning my husband discovered that someone had tied a young Cocker Spaniel to the handrail at the church he served. We already had two spoiled, pampered dogs at our house. We did not need or want another. We quickly got the word out, but nobody came to rescue the dog that night. We bedded it in our garage. The next morning I went to the garage with a bowl of food for it. Suddenly I was covered with fleas—lot and lots of fleas. I, too, went flying to the shower.

I know chippies and dogs can be cute and fun, except when they share their fleas with humans.


Nina Keenam is retired from the newspaper business. Her column appears on Saturdays.