I was sleeping lightly Tuesday morning and the shaking woke me up, but I didn't think it was an earthquake at first. I thought it was raccoons or skunks tearing up the frontyard again. I jumped off the sofa with my camera, ready to take their pictures, then realized my mistake.
Let me explain. I had been asked by an animal communicator to photograph the invaders if at all possible. Dana Miller, of the Sunland-Tujunga area, says she is better able to "connect" with animals if she's got their photos.
Yes, it's come to this. Me sleeping in my clothes with one eye open, trying to take pictures of raccoons and skunks for an animal psychic. It's crazy, I know. Combat does that to you.
Please do not -- repeat, DO NOT -- send me your advice on how to get rid of the pests. I've tried them, trust me, and they didn't work for more than a few days with this band of marauders.
I have killed worms and grubs, replaced turf with stones, soaked rags in ammonia, scattered mothballs, sprinkled coyote urine, burst hoses using motion-sensor sprinklers, and shaken out enough cayenne pepper to season all of Louisiana.
Still, raccoons and skunks tear up my yard two or three times a week. Repairing the damage has cost a small fortune the last several years, and I have nothing to show for the investment.
Trapping? Nope. They'd just send in replacements.
The only idea readers sent me that I didn't try was a 5-foot-tall, motion-activated, singing Santa. I was game, but then Walmart discontinued the product. On the Internet, I found a possible substitute -- an African American Santa who dances, sounds like James Earl Jones and sings "Jingle Bells," "Up On the Housetop" and "O Christmas Tree."
But he cost $155, and the way things have been going, the raccoons will be selling tickets to concerts in my frontyard.
I was out of options until I met up with some Laurel Canyon residents who were trying to capture a coyote, and finally did so with help from Miller. If Miller could talk to a coyote telepathically and help capture it, I asked her at the time, could she please tell my raccoons and skunks to leave me alone? Possibly, she said.
"I know you're a skeptic," Miller told me Tuesday morning when I met with her at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Montrose.
OK, so I have a little trouble believing that someone can use psychic power to find lost dogs, or speak to cats who have passed to the other side, or sit in a living room in Sunland-Tujunga and talk to raccoons and skunks in Silver Lake.
But I'm desperate, and what do any of us really know about normal? Miller's website, www.what animalstellus.com, is loaded with testimonials from satisfied customers ("Because of you, I got my sweet Lucky back," Gina of Burbank wrote about her cat).
And I must say that Miller, a former medical writer and classical musician, looked and sounded pretty normal to me. I mean, she didn't say her dog was one of the 12 disciples, or that in an earlier life her husband was a parakeet.
Miller asked me to bring pictures of the yard if I struck out photographing the animals. She must be a fortuneteller as well, because the raccoons got the best of me again Monday night.
They were wise to me lurking around the yard with a Canon Powershot and stayed away. After she looked at the photos of my yard, Miller asked me to go back through the history.
For a while, I said, the motion-sensor sprinkler got rid of the varmints. They gave me a break and began digging trenches in Daisy's yard next door. But then they came back with a vengeance, and there's no apparent reason why, in the immediate neighborhood, I'm the only one who gets hit regularly.
"There's an energy there," Miller said.
Meaning what, they don't like me personally?
I didn't get a direct answer.
There might be a witness to the nightly mayhem, I told Miller. I'm pretty sure that Teddy, my neighbor Hilda and Emil's dog, knows more than he's telling. I suspect his silence may be because of retaliation threats by the leader of the raccoon gang. Would a photo of Teddy help in her investigation?
"It might," Miller said, but she asked me not to get my hopes up.
"I can't guarantee anything," she said, explaining that her work is easier when she can focus on a single, specific animal.
If she's able to make contact with my tormentors, Miller said, she'll ask them why they're subjecting me to such suffering and whether they'd consider going elsewhere. Instead of an up-front fee, Miller asked me to consider a donation after the fact, based on the results.
I'll give it a few weeks, and if nothing has changed, I'm either selling the house or calling in the black Santa.