Announcing a New Member of the Family: Reg


Reginald, or "Reg," our groundhog.

Reginald, or “Reg,” our groundhog.

by Keith Yancy

Meet Reg.

“Reg” is a groundhog.  Not “just” a groundhog, or any random groundhog.  Reg is the adopted, “Yancy family” groundhog.

“Reg” has been living with us longer than he’s had his name, actually.  For whatever reason, it took my wife, kids and I collectively a year or so to realize that Reg has been living quite contentedly under our backyard deck.  One day I noticed a fat, jiggling rat-like creature running through our yard and making straight for our house.  He ran without breaking stride right under the deck, and after watching our frustrated dog bark at him helplessly for a while, I realized that all the clues of Reg’s living arrangements were right in front of me the whole time.

For instance:

  1. Our dog would constantly check the basement window wells next to our deck, looking for something (I knew not what at the time).  She never, ever let the chance go by without checking these openings, and in retrospect, I now know that Reg uses them as both escape hatches and doors from his house under the deck into our (his) yard.
  2. Once when I was working in the basement, I heard a strange scratching sound over my head.  I looked up and out the window, only to find Reg plastered against the window, right where the deck meets the window well.  Reg’s two large front teeth were in full view, and we peered at each other for a surprisingly long time until Reg ambled off to do whatever it is groundhogs do under people’s decks.  I have to admit, I think Reg looked utterly ridiculous plastered against the glass, and I somehow suspect Reg felt ridiculous too.
  3. My daughter talked once about her “fat squirrel” in the backyard.  We all thought she was talking about an actual squirrel until one day, a fuzzy head peeked above the steps on the deck, and we decided that an animal with a head that large was too big to be a squirrel.  The big fuzzy head looked around, noticed the dog going nuts behind the glass doorwall (he was not scared and definitely not impressed), and eventually disappeared.
Reg likes to poke about in the yard, which he thinks is HIS yard.

Reg likes to poke about in the yard, which he thinks is HIS yard.

It was only after we pieced together all these events and started seeing this groundhog more often that we decided to give him a name.  It didn’t take us long.  I asked my daughters what we should name it, and after a couple of suggestions (I vetoed “Bubbles,” for the record) we decided on Reginald.  Reginald was soon downgraded to “Reggie” and, not long afterward, just “Reg.”  Reg has been making fairly regular appearances around our home ever since. 

Even though I killed thousands of bees, I can’t find it in my heart to try to get rid of Reg.  For one thing, Reg isn’t living IN my house.  For another, he’s never stung me, or chased me around the yard, or shown up in my basement, or master bedroom, or any of the other places that the bees would make their appearance.  I’ve never tried (or had the inclination to try) to vacuum Reg with my Shop-Vac, like I did with the bees.  Reg seems quite content to live under the deck outside, and while I suspect he thinks it’s HIS deck and HIS house, we manage to co-exist pretty nicely together.

Reg, walking around on the deck like he owns the place.

Reg, walking around on the deck like he owns the place.

As a neighbor, I have to confess that I find Reg somehow comforting.  Reg never demands anything from me.  He’s not looking for the next innovative strategy, or reminding me of a deadline, or presenting me with a bill to pay; Reg barely makes any noise or fuss at all.  He wanders about the yard virtually every day, doing his groundhog thing.  Occasionally, he’ll walk around ON my deck, but he’s quiet, and doesn’t do any damage. 

My daughter took this photo of Reg staring at me through my dining room window.

My daughter took this photo of Reg staring at me through my dining room window.

One Saturday a few weeks ago, as I was painting my dining room (part of yet another “never-ending project”), I got a strange feeling and looked out the window.  There was Reg… staring blankly up at me from the deck.  Once again, I found myself face-to-face with this groundhog, with only a single pane of glass and about four feet between us.  And once again, we made eye contact and stared at each other for a surprisingly long time.  This time, Reg had much more dignity than when he was pressed up against my basement window.  It may sound crazy, but this time, Reg seemed almost thoughtful.  We watched each other for several moments, while I whispered to my daughter to get me my phone, trying not to move or otherwise scare Reg away.  It didn’t work.  Reg is notoriously “camera shy,” and by the time my phone (and the camera inside it) got to me, he had dashed off.  I still think we shared a brief moment, though.

Not a great shot, but this is Reg standing on his hind legs.  He looks pretty silly, but appearances matter little to Reg.

Not a great shot, but this is Reg standing on his hind legs. He looks pretty silly, but appearances matter little to Reg.

Anyhow, I find myself looking for Reg, and finding him in the yard is now a source of entertainment for our family.  Reg seems very busy.  He’s always rooting around for food, I suppose, or looking around for predators.  There doesn’t seem to be any real predators anywhere (my dog is the closest thing Reg has to an “enemy,” and she can’t catch him).  Reg has taught my family a lot about groundhogs, as we Google up groundhog facts quite often when we see him.  The literature on groundhogs is not terribly interesting or exhaustive, and we learn a lot more just seeing Reg in action.  Though he looks fat, he moves astonishingly fast, and can get out of Dodge in a big, big hurry when properly motivated.  He’s got some courage, too, as I’ve seen him crossing our street more than once.  Reg will occasionally stand up on his hind legs when the mood strikes him, and while he gives up that “dignified look” I mentioned earlier, stands over a foot tall when he’s on his hind legs, which I find pretty impressive.

So, once again, I find myself living in close proximity to wildlife.  And, as long as Reg stays OUTSIDE my house, I’m waving the flag of truce.  Reg is a rather comforting tenant to have around, and if he eats a flower or two, I’ll overlook it.  I just hope he stays single, and doesn’t start a family… my dog will never be able to relax, and I’ll waste too much time trying to take photos of all the groundhogs.

Until next time… 🙂

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