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October 30, 2005

Zeke, a mouse

Our attached garage is off the kitchen, through a firedoor and down a couple of steps. One of the tasks still remaining in the kitchen remodel is replacing the firedoor. The kitchen is open to the garage, a hole of frame and plaster between the two.

I was getting ready tonight to fix the the feet on the god damned wobbly washing machine - again - when I looked at the spot on the floor where I was about to lie down with the wrench. A mouse lay there, dead on its side.

It's been a few years since we've had a mouse in the house. We set out snap traps and warfarin - I think the person who invented sticky traps for mice should be tossed onto a ping-pong table thickly spread with that horrible adhesive - and I sealed the entrances to our crawl space with galvanized mesh. That solved the problem for a few years, and the mice were restricted to the compost pile.

In our last place, there were dozens of mice. Hundreds. An elderly man a couple houses down moved to a convalescent home, and his granddaughter called the contractors in to renovate the house. I'd always heard that mice and rats refused to live in the same house at the same time: Mr. Connor's house disproved that rumor. All those rodents were displaced. They had to go somewhere.

When Zeke first came to live with us we had pet rats, whom he loved as pals. It was surprising to me, therefore, to see the ruthlessness with which he set to killing Mr. Connor's rats. Within three or four days he had killed half a dozen, jumping on them and snapping their necks then bringing me to the scene of the kill. The rest of the rats made themselves scarce.

But the mice were more persistent. Over the next few months Zeke spent a lot of time in our old garage, hunting. One day early on Becky came home and found the garage torn apart, stacked cardboard and paper recycling strewn all over. She punished Zeke. The next day she saw Zeke near the recycling, delivering a stiff-legged pounce to a suddenly dead mouse. He killed probably twenty mice in the next month, as many as we did wiith traps. For several years I could not turn the compost without Zeke jumping between the pile and the fork, excited at what game I might turn up.

Of course that was years ago, when Zeke was still agile and energetic. Tonight, I looked the mouse over. It seemed intact, as if it had died in its sleep. In the kitchen, Becky and I wondered what had done it in: a stash of warfarin left over? One of the neighborhood cats, sneaking in while I had the garage door open? A mystery. I heard footsteps come through the living room. Zeke wandered into the kitchen still yawning from his nap.

"Hey Zekie," I said, "where's the mousie?"

Zeke finished yawning, then looked at the garage door.

Posted by Chris Clarke at October 30, 2005 07:35 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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Having spent much of my own life near the bottom of the food chain, I have a rather special place in my heart for mice. My wildlife biologists friends tend to look at them as convenient little packettes of protein, but I find them endearing. Into the walls of my home each winter a few deer mice come in from the cold. Yes, I know about Haunta virus, but New York has never had a case, and so far they have limited themselves to the furnace room and one particular bag of birdseed near the cellar door.

Each morning I used to hear his vain attempts to jump back out of the bag of sunflower seeds after spending most of the night inside stuffing himself; athletic little bastard, his vertical leap is amazing. I say used to because now he just sits there and waits until I scoop up seed to fill the feeders. He (having handled him, I know he’s a he) hitches a ride on the scoop and lets me walk him out to the old tool shed where, as is our morning ritual, I “release him to the not so wild”…again. One of us has a learning disability.

Posted by: OGeorge at October 31, 2005 08:01 AM
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Uh-oh, Zekie, whadja do with mousie mouse?

My cats have never had the pleasure of meeting mice. They seem so docile, until they find spiders or moths. Then they become killing automatons (or automata, depending on the ending you prefer).

More dog blogging, please! Zeke needs his own channel. Streaming video, or a 24-hour loop.

Posted by: SneakySnu at October 31, 2005 08:26 AM
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Ah, mice. My parents' place is surrounded by them, as they live in the midst of woods and meadows. Most of the time they stay out of the house proper (though my mother still gets the shudders remembering the naked baby mice in the underwear drawer, and she's not the shuddering type), but they cause considerable damage and annoyance in the garage. The Big Black Truck (a horrifically ugly thing used to haul garbage and manure and loads of rock) has been permanently tainted with the scent of mouse piss, another car turned into a mouse-cuisenart when a one tried to make a home in the engine, and one summer I left my car there only to discover not one but two nests in the inside, lovingly crafted out of the insides of a toy bear, upon my return. They also sneak into the garage, gnaw their way into boxes, and trap themselves there, where they die and grow quite smelly.

We're not fond of mice in our family. We think of them as pests, cat toys, and snake food. Pet rats are okay, though.

Posted by: Rana at October 31, 2005 10:41 AM
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With you on the glue traps, Chris. I like mice, so if they've got to go, it's the old-fashioned snap method for me.

That Zeke, though, he's something.

Posted by: beth at October 31, 2005 01:41 PM
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I detest glue traps. How can people possibly think them more humane? I also became incensed when I saw, just this past week, a television commercial for a D-Con trap with some attention grabbing name I have nevertheless forgotten. The "new design" is touted as a "no see, no touch" option. The mouse walks in and dies without you having to see it or, God forbid!, touch it. I feel everyone should confront the dead mouse and deal with the reality of the killing.

I don't have any mice in my New York apartment these days, excepting those I bring home for my snakes. My cat, Mr. Misi, will contemplate the rustling box for long hours until the snakes have finished their meals. (I prefer to feed the snakes pre-killed rats, but two of them are rather stubborn and sometimes need to be tricked into feeding by first hunting and consuming a live mouse.) I wonder if Mr. Misi recalls the days of wine and roses, when I had tanks of mice in my college apartments or when we later moved to a Brooklyn basement which was nightly invaded by Norway rats in search of food. I remember one night in particular, when Mr. Misi and I lay in bed staring up at a medium-sized rat that surveyed the bedroom from a ceiling I-beam. I prayed that the rat wouldn't think of jumping down onto my bed but Mr. Misi, eyes unblinking and claws at the ready, surely hoped it would.

Posted by: Hun at October 31, 2005 02:22 PM
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We had a pet rat. He didn't get a long with my husband, and I later learned two males in the same household didn't work, but my husband refused to leave.

I loved that little guy, and cried buckets when he died. It was during Poetry month, and my daughter, in the 6th grade at the time, wrote lots of poetry about it. Very cathartic for her.

Funny, I dreamed about a large rodent last night, one I was desperate not to lose.

Posted by: KathyF at November 1, 2005 01:49 AM
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I would avoid warfarin. Secondary poisoning can occur if the rodent who consumed the warfarin is in turn consumed. Sounds like Zeke wouldn't eat a mouse, but local wildlife or pets belonging to neighbors might.

Posted by: kabbage at November 1, 2005 12:40 PM
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That is a consideration, kabbage, to be sure. But it's unlikely that the mouse in our refrigerator will be consumed by a hawk.

I do, however, have a list of neighbors' pets I might consider ... naw.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at November 1, 2005 01:00 PM
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