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Home Inspectors and Animal Houses

Home inspectors interact with not a few animals during the course of their day-to-day work.  It comes with the job. Probably half of American households include pets some of which can present challenges. 

Non-domesticated animals can likewise give the most intrepid home inspector some memorable moments, as do skunks and snakes in crawlspaces and raccoons raising their young in the fireplace smoke-chamber.  In the attic of an old carriage house, I was once surprised, putting it mildly, to encounter two very large vultures building a huge nest up there.

The Mouse

On another occasion, I feared a female client was going to go into cardiac arrest when I opened up an electrical service panel and a mommy mouse leaped from inside of same onto her leaving several little baby suckling mice in her hair and on her blouse.  Mice love to build nests in electrical services panels. It’s cozy and warm in there as long as they don’t make inadvertent hot-to-neutral contact thereby becoming a crispy critter (more common than one might suppose).

According to Mark Twain, “Man is the only animal that blushes – or needs to.” Based upon experience, I respectfully disagree. Some animals really do need to blush on the basis of their demonstrated behavior and lack of grace. What follows is my account of two such animal encounters.

The Hog

As I walked around the outside of the house on a wintery morning, I heard what proved to be two large dogs barking at me from inside the dwelling. No problem. I am good with dogs and I always keep a supply of dog biscuits in my vehicle as peace offerings. I put several in my pockets before entering the house.

The two big dogs, Labradors, were easy. We became buddies in short order.  Labradors are the natural hand-shaking politicians of the dog world. They tend to eagerly network and they are in constant campaign for any and all constituents. 

What I didn’t anticipate was a very large, sleepy eyed pig resting near a wood-stove. The pig was not of the rather diminutive Vietnamese pot-bellied species but several hundred pounds of the common barnyard hog persuasion. It proved to be a politician too, but of the classic, heavier handed Chicago political tradition.

As I learned later, the homeowners had adopted this animal when it was a small, presumably more charming, orphaned piglet.  The owners had house-trained it as a household pet. It did its business, like a cat would, in a big litter-box but pardon the expression, it’s a waste of time to put lipstick on a pig. It stunk big-time inside the house.  Pig doo-doo is powerfully smelly stuff.

The pig had observed my propensity for dog biscuit dispensation from across the room and decided to get up, belch and then shake me down for mandatory protection payments.  It did so by herding me into a corner of the family room where it demonstrated a philosophy at odds with that of dogs. Dogs beg. Hogs hog. Hogs are bigger, pushier and less diplomatic than dogs. Further, this pig did not respond well to my attempts at petting it. Neither did I. It was like petting the business side of a wire brush.

The lady of the house did eventually come to my rescue but not before the pig wiped me out of all my dog biscuits. She soundly whacked the animal across its nose and called it a “bad pig”. In the end, it was a zero sum game. The pig not only won the game, I swear it gloated. It should have blushed.

The Dog

In the interest of full disclosure, this did not happen to me. It is the memorable account of an old friend and home inspector colleague we will identify only as Charlie.

Charlie arrived at a house and began his inspection with an examination of the grounds and exterior features of the dwelling in company with his client and two real estate agents. A highly excited dog was running around within the fenced-in yard of the property. The dog, a rather large mixed breed male, posed no threat to the people in the party but it was highly agitated and deliriously focused upon the scent of an in-heat female dog in a neighboring property. 

Charlie goes about his business and soon comes upon a small, short exterior door leading to a crawlspace under the house. Flashlight in hand, he opens the door and gets down on his hands and knees to enter the crawlspace. Half way through the door, our hapless hero, Charlie presents a supine aspect that is apparently alluring to the deranged dog.  

Charlie tries to back out of the crawlspace. Bad tactical move. He should have continued into the crawlspace. The dog, mistaking Charlie’s backward movement as evidence of possible reciprocal ardor, redoubles its amorous, misplaced canine expressions of passion.

Meanwhile, the client and the two real estate agents, horrified by the spectacle unfolding before them, affected an interest in anything and everything except Charlie and the dog. They quickly tracked off onto other features of the house and went elsewhere leaving Charlie and the dog to disengage without a shred of dignity remaining between either of them. Charlie blushed to a deep red, as should have the dog. 

As I said, Mr. Twain was wrong. Certain animals other than humans need to blush.