4 am: Dog snarling at something yipping and scuffling. Get up—a raccoon. In the dining room. Now what? Call Dove Lewis; they say leave it alone. Vector Control doesn't open until 8. Do you have any experience with this? —Animal Lover

I must say, Animal, I admire your patience. It's not just anyone in this day and age whose first thought, when confronted with the immediate peril of a wild animal in the home, is to dash off a quick note to a weekly newspaper's advice column.

So, how's the standoff coming along? I assume by now either you or the raccoon has starved to death—or possibly perished of old age—thereby solving your problem. But let's try to find an answer anyway, if only for the benefit of future generations.

As it happens, I had raccoons in my attic (don't say it) a few years ago. (You can tell it's not squirrels because a raccoon actually makes the ceiling boards groan under its weight, like a fat guy carrying a piano.)

Really all you can do in this case is call a wildlife-control company. Even then, if your raccoon has already had baby raccoons, you have to LET THEM LIVE THERE FOR ANOTHER MONTH until they're big enough to follow their mom out of your attic. (This is partly to be nice and partly not to have dead baby raccoons rotting above your ceiling.)

If you merely have a childless, single raccoon freeloading on your couch, you just have to harass it until it leaves, using bright lights, loud noises, and acrid, chemical-like smells. (Many of these techniques are also effective on adult children.)

Once it's gone, go snuffling around your house on all fours to find the hole where it got in. (If you leave your windows wide open at night, frankly you were asking for it.) When you find the hole, cover it with sheet metal or half-inch wire mesh. BE SURE THERE ARE NO RACCOONS ALREADY INSIDE WHEN YOU DO THIS. Or adult children, for that matter—better safe than sorry.