Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Totally Disgusting Mouse Story

WARNING: Those hearing this story have either laughed very hard or gotten totally disgusted. Proceed at your own risk.

Over the years, I have had to deal with mice on several occasions and in several different contexts. One of my professors is fond of reminding us of the importance of context, so permit me to elaborate: there is a huge difference between a mouse in the wild, a mouse in a laboratory, a mouse in a pet store, and a mouse running wild through my house. The first three I leave alone . . . the last is an open declaration of war.

My roommate, however, is a kind and compassionate soul who wouldn't hurt a . . . well, a mouse. So when she saw one sitting on the hearth in her office, she went out and bought half a dozen catch-and-release traps. "What are you going to do when you catch the mouse?" I asked her.

"Call my friend Phil to come over and get rid of it," she answered pragmatically.

Good, I was thinking, because I don't do wild mice. I've been bitten by pet store mice, and that's bad enough.

"Or maybe I'll keep it in a cage and see how many mice we're dealing with."

Not so good.  "I have a friend who's looking for a home for his rat snake," I volunteered, but she was less than enthusiastic about the idea of a snake loose in the house, so we went with Plan A.  Over the course of a week, several of the traps were sprung (and Phil was summoned across town to dispose of the vermin), but the traps were empty: no mice were captured.

Then we discovered that Mr. Mouse had scurried right past the traps, taken up residence in our cabinets, and was using our cookie sheets as a restroom. Not cool. "We need better traps," I said.


We couldn't agree, though, on the best way to capture the home invaders. I voted for quick-kill traps; my roommate still favored catching them alive. So she went shopping and came home with a variety of devices, everything from the sticky pads to the old-fashioned wooden things you see in cartoons. Following the advice of another friend, we baited the traps with peanut butter and gummy bears, and then set them strategically throughout the house. "But the kind that kill the mice are going in your rooms," she insisted. "I don't want to deal with blood and stuff."

Personally, I didn't want to deal with live rodents, so that arrangement was fine with me.

A day went by, and then another, and the only mice we were catching were dust mice. A week passed, and still no mice. So much for gummy bears. But then, on Thursday, I wandered into the kitchen at 6:30 in the morning, heard a commotion behind the refrigerator, and turned on the light. There, wedged between the fridge and the wall, was a little brown mouse with his back feet stuck in a sticky-trap. He was trying to hide, but the trap was too wide for the crevice. I called my roommate: "We got one!" Thinking fast, she grabbed a tupperware bowl with a lid and scraped the angry rodent into it. "Now what?" I asked.

Turns out, neither of us had really thought that far ahead. "I thought it would be dead," she confessed. "My friend who used these things told me that the mice she found trapped in them were always dead." Since it was a bit early in the day to call Phil, she brought the mouse outside and tried to shake it off the trap. No way was it coming unstuck.

"It could be hours, or even days, before it dies," I said.  (I did not tack on an I told you so.) "Tell you what, put it behind my back tire and when I leave for school, I'll give it a quick death."

"Eewww." But since she didn't want the poor thing to suffer any more, she got a shovel and went outside again. I heard the sound of the shovel scraping on the concrete a few times, and then she came back in. "No good. It keeps dragging the trap into the grass."

"Well, I'm late. Gotta go. See you later."  As I backed out of the carport, I thought I saw the mouse in the grass, so I veered toward it, but when I got to the street the small brown hump was still in the grass, though it was difficult to make out clearly in the early dawn light.

I drove the seven miles to school to drop off my son and then returned home. Suddenly it hit me: we had a beautiful red-shouldered hawk that often perched in our back yard. If it saw the mouse and tried to eat it . . . the image of the bird covered in sticky-trap goo was hard to shake. Parking the car, I ran around the yard looking for the mouse, but didn't see it. (The lump I'd seen earlier turned out to be nothing more than a friendly deposit from the neighbor's dog.)

"Did you throw the mouse in the dumpster?" I asked my roommate, sharing my concern about the hawk.

"Oh, I hadn't thought of that! You're right, let me get a bag and I'll put it in the trash can where it can't hurt any other animals." Out she went, shovel in one hand and trash bag in the other. Five minutes later, she was back, frowning. "No sign of the mouse anywhere."

And that's when it hit me.

[Yes, you probably figured it out a long time ago, but it was early in the morning and no one at our house had consumed any caffeine.]

"I have a feeling we don't need to worry about it. Come with me." I led her to the car port and we examined my back tire. Sure enough, a large portion of it was coated with sticky goo, grass, dirt, and little bits of asphalt. Fourteen miles worth of it, in fact.  No mouse trap, no mouse . . . a plastic mousetrap is not designed to take the full weight of a Ford minivan traveling 55 mph down the highway . . . nor is a mouse, I'm afraid.

At least now we know what to do if we catch another one.

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