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What’s it like getting a dead raccoon from a crawl space? Nasty, very nasty.  

A customer called me, saying, “Mike, there’s a horrendous odor in my home. Help!” I jumped in my truck, dreading what I’d find. Arriving at the cabin, I saw the crawl space door hanging loosely by one hinge. Well, so much for all those articles I’ve written imploring people to check for openings around their home’s foundation. I put on a respirator, grabbed a flashlight, plastic trash bag and a small shovel, and headed into the crawl space.

Lying on my belly, I twisted and contorted my way into the low labyrinth of heating ducts and big rocks, kicking up dust in my wake. Halfway through, I slipped off my respirator and sniffed the air. The smell was stronger. I lifted my head to put the respirator back on and impaled my skull on a nail sticking through the subfloor. Ouch! Good thing my tetanus shots are up to date. Inching to the farthest corner of the crawl space—thanks, Murphy’s Law—I finally saw it. Lady luck was on my side. In some sense.

But the dead animal, host to hundreds of maggots, wasn’t leaving without a fight. Still lying on my belly, I used my left hand for balance while I used my right to shovel the decaying animal into the plastic bag. That’s harder than it sounds, but maybe that sounds hard enough. As I got the corpse on the shovel, even wearing my respirator, the stench was intense. Miraculously, I managed to wedge the animal into the bag. Mission accomplished! I would have breathed a sigh of relief, but I was holding my breath.

Ten grueling minutes later, dragging my prize behind, I crawled back into the California sunshine. Thankfully, no one saw me gagging and coughing up dust. I was just doing my job, defending homes from Mother Nature’s army of furry invaders. I was just a professional exterminator.

That’s a good thing to be.

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