Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Of Mice and Us. Take Two

thatI once owned a mouse in Vancouver. She was actually a gerbil accused of unprovoked violence by her previous owners, cute and beady-eyed like any respectable rodent. She became the object of my compassion after I saw her gnaw at the metal bars of her cage with the desperation of the unfairly incarcerated. I said yes to host her for two weeks and then made her ours. A case of falling for a mouse.

I remember driving all the way to Surrey to get her a glass tank where she could play gerbil and hide in tunnels she could change the orientation of as she saw fit. I also looked far and wide for the proper bedding material.

Alas, that home was only her occasional residence. She found her way outside the tank one sunny afternoon and after that I figured we could have her as our free-range rodent as long as she would go in her quarters every now and then.

It worked, save for a few minor instances of mouse-wary friends screaming bloody murder as they saw her run across the kitchen floor. No need for a conversation starter as you can imagine.

She would come when I offered her food. Talk about bridging the species gap. We had good communication and, though she was a rodent (according to the Smithsonian’s Natural History Guide, a Mongolian jird, to be precise) I never associated her with… well, mice.

She had raised herself above the condition of a mere mouse by the virtue of responding when called upon and extending her little front paw to grab food as it was offered to her.

Fast-forward five years and I find myself owning mice again. Not by volition mind you, but by circumstance. We live in the shadows of two pine trees and near some wild tall grasses that hide small openings in the ground. Mice live there, little boy informed me one day. He found evidence to back up the occasional sightings: a mini skull, well preserved and interesting to look at.

Someone said ‘Be careful so they won’t come inside.’ I gave the thought some possibility but employed a plump supply of denial and optimism to get myself to ‘Nah!’ in no time. I stayed there in my cozy little denial corner until a gaze thrown lazily one morning into the cutlery drawer revealed the telltale signs of mouse invasion. The horror!

According to a charming book that used to be the boys’ favourite, ‘Little Mouse on the Prairie’ by Stephen Cosgrove, field mice resent the cold weather. Once you get past the cuteness of the big eyes (eye lashes included), you are presented with the reality of how much mice steer clear of the jolly season.

Yes, according to many sources, plus evidence at hand, field mice resent the cold weather and they try their best to escape it. A warm kitchen usually solves the chagrin. Ours in this case.

With evidence staring me in the face (yes, it did, from the jar lids drawer), denial withered and made room for panic and disgust. Lots of room, that is. Except that though we had a few rough murine encounters in our previous abode, compassion gets the best of me and once again I found myself searching for ‘humane removal of mice.’

Peppermint essential oil garnered a lot of support. Twelve dollars later, every drawer and surface in the kitchen smelled like a candy cane. ‘Tis the season indeed.

For two nights and days, order was restored and humans reigned supreme in their own kitchen, touching surfaces without any mousey afterthought and thinking ‘How amazing!’

Then, everything came to a halt in a most atrocious manner. I discovered a mouse in a bottle that once had maple syrup. An artsy glass contraption that little boy liked and made it his. Until a particularly curious mouse met its untimely end in the very bottle. This is our second mouse mummy. With Halloween approaching I could see some practical applications, given the nature of the specimen, but that is not of importance now.

We parted with the bottle in sheer disgust but considered the incident a sign from above. Bottles, humane trapping, happy ending without suffering… Right. Well, I am here to inform you that no bottle did it anymore. The sheer mechanics of their escape from the bottle is mind-boggling.

Mouse Olympics or not, our mice are badass when it comes to jumping out of bottles: tall, short, wide or narrow opening-bottles, nothing prevents them from getting the bait and jumping out like the victors that they are.

More peppermint, more minty whiffs as I open the drawers and navigate through the kitchen. No, I do not particularly like candy cane and I have the feeling that mint tea will take the way of the dodo. The mouse accents are just too strong.

I bathed the house in essential oils, peppermint and tea tree. But more is not always better. The mouse (mice) must’ve found a way. Once again, back to the drawing board. This time, murine compassion was left at the door like a wet umbrella. Really, what do you do when negotiations fail miserably? I am one step away from hearing chewing sounds around the house. Wait, I am already there. Never mind.

We used Balderson’s for bait. It worked. We might just win. We have, after all, not only home advantage but also a big supply of cheese and peanut butter. We will not be defeated. Or have our cutlery stepped on again.

In retrospect, I really wanted this to be peaceful. I do not believe in violence. Then again, how much peppermint can you drop around the house without getting dizzy? Half a bottle’s worth will do nothing. The mice will poop on it. Literally. This is no Hollywood. Happy ending in this case is where man and beast part ways. Garbage day is on Monday. Farewell.


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  1. Delia

    Your talent as a writer is overwhelming. Such a mundane topic converted into art. P.S. I feel for your “mouse-wary friends”

    • Thank you Delia :-). A house with mice really draws some stories out, what can I say… As for the mouse-wary friends, they are now, once again, welcome to enjoy our murine-free abode 🙂

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