I’ve always been a “dog person,” not a “cat person.” It’s a genetic thing. For three generations, there have been no cats in my family. My father raised Labrador retrievers when I was a child; my mother had two very spoiled terrier mixes; my grandparents had various kid-friendly mutt-dogs. I bought with me three Spaniels and a Border collie mix when my two young daughters and I moved into our new house in the “hollers” of eastern Kentucky.
The house had stood vacant for almost two years before I bought it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite empty. Not long after we moved in, I discovered that we had “uninvited house guests” of the four-legged, rodent variety.
I had never dealt with mice. I tend to be softhearted (some might say softheaded) when it comes to critters. I couldn’t face the thoughts of buying a snap-trap and waking up some morning to mouse guts splattered across the walls. So I decided to do the “humane” thing and buy a sticky-trap. That way, when I caught the mouse, I could just roll it up, freeze it, dispose of it in the trash, and all would be well.
I laid out the stick-traps that evening. Next morning, I discovered I had caught mouse fur. No mouse, just its fur. My daughters were fascinated. “Look! Mouse fur!” they marveled. I decided sticky-traps were useless as pest-control devices and made a mental note to throw them away. Of course, this was during the moving-in chaos, so I promptly forgot.
The next morning, I was sound asleep. Giselle, my eight-year-old daughter, woke up early and did a beeline to the kitchen to check the sticky-trap I forgot to throw away. I awoke to excited shouts of “A Mouse! A Mouse!” I bolted out of bed, ran to the kitchen, and sure enough, there was a small brown mouse stuck to the sticky-trap.
“What are you going to do with it?” my daughter asked.
“Well,” I explained in my most patient mom-voice, “I’m going to free it, so it will die relatively painlessly, and then I’m going to throw it away.”
“NOOOO!! You can’t kill our mouse!” she wailed. Our mouse? It’s not a pet; it’s a rodent. They carry diseases. I’m going to free it, throw it away, and go on with my day.
I gingerly picked up the mouse-cum-sticky-pad and deposited it in a metal bowl to put in the freezer. Giselle went berserk, grabbed the bowl, and took off running with the mouse. I wearily decided that if I am going to battle my daughter to the death-of-a-mouse, I’d better be properly dressed.
By the time I got my clothes on and my eyes opened, my daughter decided to name her new pet “Fluffy” and has recruited her five-year-old sister, Arabella, to the cause. I attempt to do the “Mom” thing, and calmly explained to them that I will kill the cute, fuzzy mouse with the big, button eyes. This tactic is a total failure. I decided I am on a losing streak and grabbed the phone to call my husband, Victor, for back up.
Victor is six-foot-two, a truck driver, and, unlike me, is not afraid of mice. I explained the situation to him. He started laughing so hard he actually had to pull over to the side of the highway because he couldn’t see to drive. Once he caught his breath, he told me to put on my big-girl panties and deal with the situation.
“Take something, whack the mouse over the head, end of problem,” he advised.
What does one use to whack a mouse? I rummaged through the moving boxes stacked in the kitchen and decided on a metal spatula. At this point, Giselle (still dressed in her nightgown) bolted out the front door with the mouse (still in its bowl) and took off running down the hill toward our creek. I bolted after her, with the spatula in one hand and the phone in the other.
Halfway down the hill, her long hair caught on the sticky-trap along with the mouse. She dropped the bowl in panic and began running in circles around the backfield, hair flying, the sticky-trap firmly attached to her hair, and the mouse dangling by one leg from the sticky-trap. As she ran, she yelled at the top of her lungs, “Don’t kill Fluffy! Don’t kill Fluffy!”
Arabella had joined us in the yard by this time and had turned on the tears, sobbing, “Mommy is going to kill Fluffy!”
I vainly tried to catch Giselle, all the while waving a spatula in one hand and the phone in the other hand. Victor was no help; he was still on the phone, but he was laughing so hard listening to us, he couldn’t speak.
Right about then, my next-door neighbor stepped out on his back porch to smoke his morning cigarette.
The one thing I was so anxious to do was to make a good impression on the neighbors. My new house was his original family house, hand-built by his father in the 1930’s. I didn’t want him to think, “There goes the neighborhood,” when we moved in. Yet, here we were, tearing around the backfield at daybreak, yelling, crying, brandishing kitchen utensils, with mouse waving in the morning breeze.
I redoubled my efforts to catch Giselle. I dropped the spatula and the phone and grabbed her as she tore past me. I removed the sticky-tray (and mouse) from her hair, retrieved the metal bowl from the lawn, returned the mouse to the bowl and tried to coax the girls back into the house. They wouldn’t budge.
It took almost five minutes of tense negotiations, in the yard, with the neighbor listening bemusedly the whole time, to get my daughters to agree to let me dispose of the mouse.
We finally agreed upon the following terms:
The first term was that Fluffy-the-mouse got a state funeral down by the creek. The second was that I was to get rid of all the mousetraps. But the last agreed-upon term was one that made me swallow the hardest and grit my teeth: They demanded that I buy each one of them a kitten.
Arabella named her kitten “Fluffy.”