Sometimes I think a Doogan can’t leave the house without rescuing an animal. Cases in point: this week I got a text message from my dad, photo attached, about the the turtle he removed from the middle of the highway. Just yesterday, my mom and sister were unreachable while they figured out a shelter for a lost baby bird. A few weeks ago, my sister and I got the local authorities involved when some wild turkeys insisted on landing in the middle of an archery range. (It was the day before open season on turkeys started. I’ve heard that wild turkeys have a reputation for being wily, but I think that kind of a risk is just foolhardy. There are other ways to get thrills, turkeys.)
I say this so you understand that I love animals. I was raised to believe that it is my job to protect and save as many as possible. I say this so that when I make the confession I am about to make, you will understand that it pains me to do so.
I have a mouse problem.
I do not mean that I have mice invading my home, although I have that too. What I mean is that I don’t like mice. Can’t stand ‘em. They are, to me, what water is to chocolate or what snakes are to Indiana Jones.
My issue with mice began late in my undergrad career when a mouse was spotted in my dorm. The mouse was named Edgar and his stories are legend. There was the Friday night when five or six girls attempted to catch him using only cardboard boxes and high-pitched shrieks. He stole food from the kitchen and ran from dorm room to dorm room like a Scooby-Doo monster. But Edgar’s most thrilling escapade was a trip into my room and into my bed while I was sleeping. I woke to see a tiny pile of mouse droppings cozied next to me.
Maybe it was a gift. Maybe he just wanted to be loved. If Edgar meant to be kind by that small surprise, I did not take it that way. It was a violation of my personal space that did nothing but prepare me in the worst way for what I was to experience as an apartment dweller.
My life was moving along quite smoothly. Work was good. I was feeling more connected to my community. I was at that sweet spot in my Doctor Who-watching where I was far enough in to love the characters, but comfortably far from the end of the available episodes. Life was good.
I rushed into my apartment one day, chatting on the phone with my mom, and went directly to the large closet where I store my food. I threw open the door just in time to see a pair of tiny pink feet dangling from a hole about three feet from the ground. The feet wriggled as they tried to make traction in the air. Somehow, the tiny body disappeared through the little doorway, followed by a grey tale. It was simultaneously the cutest and most terrifying thing I had ever seen.
Mom: Jesse! What happened!
Me: THERE’S A MOUSE. IN MY CLOSET. A MOUSE. MOM.
Mom: Jesse, calm down. They’re very gentle creatures. They’re much more afraid of you than you are of them.
Me: YOU’VE OBVIOUSLY NEVER READ REDWALL!
So ended my peaceful life. I started researching safe ways of repelling mice. (I did not want to deal with traps and couldn’t justify killing anything. See first paragraph.) Peppermint oil is supposedly an excellent deterrent. I diffused it on cotton-balls and my apartment smelled like a Christmas wonderland. I refused to enter the closet without kicking my pantry shelf and yelling threats at the mice. I’m coming in and I’m bigger than you!
The mice showed excellent taste. They ate an entire bag of macadamia nuts, but seemed to especially enjoy shredded coconut.
I avoided being home alone in the evenings. When I was, I would talk to myself or clear my throat, just to make sure the mice knew I was around. On one occasion when I could not avoid being both alone and quiet, a mouse ran across my living room. I was forced to climb over furniture, keep-off-the-lava-style, in order to open the door and let him back in the closet.
This was the end. I would no longer be a prisoner in my own home. I would no longer budget food for 100 tiny mouths. I found the humane traps my mom sent me and talked my sister into coming over to wait with me. We caught three mice over the course of about three hours. Each time we caught a mouse, we’d walk them to the park to release them.
As we walked, our conversation went something like this:
Melissa: Don’t you think we should release them closer to home? They’re never going to find their family again.
Me: That’s kind of the point.
Melissa: What should we name him?
Me: We are not naming the mice.
Melissa: Chester. You know you were thinking he looks like a Chester.
One morning as I was leaving for work, I found a baby mouse in the kitchen. He had fallen down a stair and was unconscious. I scooped him up in a cracker box and put him back in my closet. I figured the mice and I were even.
Finally, I put my food in plastic tubs. That night, when I went to bed, I heard a thud from the closet, then a metallic PR-RI-NNNNNG! The mice had hired raccoon heavies and they were going to take my pantry shelves down, I was sure. When looked for damage the next morning the tubs were knocked a little cockeyed and there were teethmarks in the jar of the peanut butter lid, but otherwise, all was well. I had won.
It was peace time. There had been several weeks without a sign of mice. No stolen food, no need for traps. If I went to bed without washing dishes, the only consequences were tough grease stains.
My little sister came to visit, bringing me her leftover Easter candy. With the innocence of someone who has never lived without cats, she put the chocolate in the pantry closet. Within hours, the tail had been eaten off the chocolate bunny.
I have been warned.
These are the mouse traps I used. For extra humane-ness, add peanut butter.
Artist’s rendition of terrifying/adorable mouse feet doodled in Paper for iPad.
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