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Unwanted guests? spoil maiden launch

As I reflect back, I missed early warning signs of infiltration in my garage. Such as: watching my dog stare at a spot behind the beer refrigerator, discovering chunks of material missing from my knee pads and dismissing droppings in the garage cupboards as black rice.

With blue skies, 70 degrees and no wind, I pulled my new kayak from the garage and decided to go kayaking with my girlfriend Nancy. Of course, I took the necessary precautions: life jackets, a bottle of wine and a cellphone. What could possibly go wrong?

Turning 60, I wanted something different, something fun, so I ordered an inflatable kayak online. My husband and I love the outdoors and needed a toy gentle on our knees and shoulders. An inflatable kayak seemed like a reasonable solution. Weighing less than 35 pounds, I could easily throw it in the back of the car. It came with a foot-powered air pump, which inflated the kayak in only eight minutes. Also included were two inflatable seats, two paddles, a repair kit and a storage bag. I thought I was prepared. Not so.

I threw all of the equipment into the trunk and proceeded to pick up my girlfriend to spend a quiet day paddling through the calm waters of Ellicott Creek Park. We pulled up, unloaded the car and reached the creek's bank. I removed the virgin kayak from its storage bag and unfolded it. "What in the XYZ?"

As I unraveled the kayak, a nest of debris appeared. Shreds of string and material from old rags encompassed the pile. Then I saw the holes. Yes, that's right, gaping holes in the bottom of my new kayak. The repair kit wasn't adequate enough to cover the wide gaps. Therefore, I literally blew up, instead of my kayak.

I had bought the kayak for $300, so I didn't think this had been a cheesy purchase. But I had guessed wrong, because some "dirty rat" ate its way through the canvas bag and through my two-week old kayak.

A lesson to be learned; I should not have stored bird or grass seed in an open, chewable container in the garage. That's an open invite to any rodent that is both hungry and looking for a warm place to bed down. This embraces every critter in the universe that isn't a pet. I might as well have put up a "welcome wagon" sign: free eats and shelter for as long as you want, compliments of an ignorant homeowner.

The good news is the perpetrators were caught. Mouse traps were purchased and the bait of cheese was set. After a few days, mommy, daddy and a close relative were — how I can put this gently? — murdered.

A few days passed and the guilt settled in. A sudden case of remorse came over me when tiny baby mice appeared out of the woodwork. I mean they were crawling around on the garage floor looking for their parents. Apparently there was a nest hidden in a corner of the garage. Mortified, I gave them cheese, peanut butter and water and placed the mice in the hollow of a tree set in the woods. If the mice decide to relocate, they will be surprised that our garage will no longer accept freeloaders.

All seeds are now stored in mouse-proof containers. I feel pretty confident, because our next kayak will be housed in a basement vault next to a kitty litter box. I guess I should hurry up and purchase the vault and the cat before the first snowfall. Sorry dog.

Karen Adragna Walsh, who lives in Orchard Park, plans to buy another kayak.