No matter what I do, I just can’t keep mice from taking up lodgings in our shed. Even the stem-to-stern cleaning two summers ago couldn’t keep them out forever. And can you blame the little buggers? Why tough it out in the cruel and frigid wild when there’s a dry and relatively warm shed at their disposal? From December to April, that shed is a strictly human-free zone – the perfect place for a young, ambitious rodent family to try to gain a foothold on life and get ahead in this callous and uncaring world.
But unlike, say, California, where squatters have more rights than landowners, the rodents that occupy my shed do not enjoy such governmental protections. Come springtime, the Eviction Squad (that’d be me) moves in and eradicates the vermin with remorseless efficiency. What was once a quiet paradise for the squeaky little nibblers becomes the Hotel Snappy-Snap.
Oh look, cheese…
Problem solved in one or two nights.
This year, the Eviction Squad got a late start. Over the weekend, I set traps in all the rodent hot spots in the shed. In two nights, I had dispatched two mice. The traps have lain unsprung ever since.
Yesterday afternoon, I went into the shed to return some tools I’d been using to plant hostas around the pool. As I was putting my gloves away on the far wall, I thought I heard a little squeak.
Could it be..?
Nah, probably just a bird outside the shed.
I placed the gloves in the glove bin and turned back towards the door. I took two steps, and then my eye caught a little shape in the threshold between the two rooms of the shed.
It was a small mouse. Why was he out here in the open in the daylight?
I froze, so he wouldn’t get spooked. I approached slowly, and again stopped as I hovered over him.
He stood stock-still, perhaps hoping that I wouldn’t notice him.
I wasn’t fooled by his ploy. This wasn’t the first time I’d been in a standoff with a mouse.
The other times ended badly.
The mice always got the jump on me and skedaddled before I had a chance to get my wits about me and take offensive actions.
Perhaps not this time, though. Perhaps this time I’d get my
I stooped over ever-so-slowly, closing the distance between us.
He remained still, rooted in place.
He faced away from me, so I lowered my right hand towards him from behind. I extended my left hand in front of him to keep him distracted as my right hand closed in for the capture.
Mere centimeters away, and still he stood. My fingers wrapped around his tiny body and lifted him up.
It was too easy! He made no effort to escape! BAH! No matter – I have him!
I walked out of the shed and called to Handan, “Hey babes, I caught him with my bare hands!” I flashed my prize and flexed my muscles for her.
I’m quite sure she was overcome with pride and overjoyed that she had married such a fine specimen of a man.
Though I may be a mouse-catching superstar, I had to draw the line at taking its life at this point. It’s a fine line, I know, and some may not see the distinction, but there’s a big difference between killing them in traps and doing them in with my bare hands.
Besides, this one was so small. He wasn’t a newborn, but neither was he an adult.
“I’m going to take him out to the wood pile and let him go.” I said to Handan.
She agreed. She hates the little things far more than I do (at least in the abstract sense, as they are filthy vermin that have no place in or around a home), but neither can she just wantonly kill them.
I carried him outside the fence and made my way to a big pile of uncut logs that sits on the edge of our property. I figured there’d be plenty of little crevices for him to start a new life.
Up until this point, I had him cradled in my right hand and covered with my left so he wouldn’t escape. As I placed him on the log, I got my first really good look at him.
He clung to the log, but didn’t move.
He didn’t run.
He didn’t hide.
He wavered back and forth, and his eyes closed.
It was just then that an idea…
rose up in the back of my mind and exploded to the front with the fury of a thousand suns.
out in the daylight…
didn’t try to run…
two mice killed over the weekend…
I understood just then that I had killed this wretched thing’s parents a few days ago, and it had been living alone in the shed since then, wondering what the hell had happened to its world. Hunger and fear must have finally driven it from its warm and cozy nest. Perhaps the sounds of my rustling had lured it out in the hopes that it would be his parents.
I felt like I’d been punched in the gut by a wrecking ball.
I picked him up, cradled him against my shirt and walked back into the yard.
The guilt at what I’d done was pounding me like storm-driven waves against an unprotected shore.
My vision blurred as water filled my eyes.
I walked towards Handan.
She turned to me and saw the look on my face.
“My babes, what’s wrong?” She said. She was worried.
But I couldn’t speak. I tried to get the words out, but they wouldn’t come.
When I was finally able to push them out of my mouth, tears erupted down my cheeks.
“I know why he was there.” I said. “I know why he didn’t run.”
I was blubbering like a baby then, as the understanding really hit home. “I killed his parents.”
Good lord, I was inconsolable. Over a stupid mouse! This wasn’t a reaction I had anticipated or planned for.
Handan couldn’t bear to see me in such a state.
“My babes, my babes, it’s okay! We’ll keep him. We’ll take care of him, okay?” She said, hugging me.
“Okay, my babes. Thank you.”
We brought the little creature inside, and Handan raced to the basement to find the terrarium that she had picked up at Put & Take last year. She also found a huge bag of pine shavings that she had found at Put & Take three years ago. She put some pine shavings in the terrarium, and we put the mouse inside.
I filled a jar cap with cream and a little bowl with water and placed them inside. I also put a little hunk of cheese in there, in case he wanted something a little more substantial.
As he explored his new environment, Handan named him.
“I want to call him, Milo.” She said. “That was Jim Carey’s dog in The Mask.”
I barely remember watching that movie a long long time ago, so I certainly didn’t remember the dog, but the name was good and it fits the mouse.
“Milo, it is, my babes. It’s an excellent name.”
We covered the terrarium with a bath towel, figuring that Milo was used to darker environs.
A little later in the evening, we found Milo slurping away at the cream. That’s when we knew he’d be okay.
A note about hentavirus.
Though not common in this part of the country, hantavirus is still a risk and must be considered. Hantavirus is a deadly rodent-borne virus that is transmitted through mouse droppings, urine and saliva. The pictures of me holding Milo with bare hands were followed by deep washing and disinfecting. From today on, I wear latex gloves when handling him. I’ll also be finding a vet or other agency that can test Milo for hantavirus. Until then, we will keep our precautions up, even though the risk is minuscule.