Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Morality of Mice and Men

I think I may have inherited (or possibly learned) an extreme phobia of rodents from my mother. She has also, apparently, passed it along to my oldest brother. Anyway, this winter I noticed the sound of scurrying little feet across the ceiling above me, but didn't think about it too much. Then, I started noticing the telltale signs of rodent presence in the apartment in the form of feces around the sink. Awesome.

Now, I have had experiences with crafty little mice before. The last apartment I lived in, my roommate had me set two traps. They were the old school, cheap, break-your-finger-off-if-you're-not-careful kind of traps. We placed them near the suspected entrance and went about our business. I had shut the lights off, and just started to drift off, when the living room lights popped on. CB did her best Roy Scheider impression when she appeared in my doorway saying, "We're gonna need more traps."

In about twenty minutes, we had snuffed out two field mice. The strangest part of that whole night was the reaction of CB's hamster. Dumbass was sitting in a corner of his cage staring out toward the kitchen (yes, she kept that stupid thing in the kitchen). He was literally sitting like a fat old man. CB thought he was scared, and proceeded to console him. I believe he lured them into the kitchen and was hoping to make new friends, only to see them murdered before his very eyes.

Fast forward a year or so to my new apartment. I feel the need to state that I do not care to see animals suffer, but my health and safety is far more important than the life of a field mouse. But I won't use a glue trap or other traps that keep the mice live because I can't handle them, for fear of being bitten. I mean, Dumbass bit, so what are the chances his country cousins aren't going to do the same? So as I shopped for new traps recently, I wanted ones that would likely kill immediately. I'd like to think the mouse is happily nibbling away at the peanut butter when - WAP! - it gets overnight-expressed to reunite with its mother in Mouse Heaven.

Another phobia I have is a phobia of pain. So I decided to avoid the old school traps this time around. When I set them previously, I actually used some small rope so my fingers were as far away as possible. Another option available was an enclosed trap, if I was willing to pay a bit more, and then there was a bit of a compromise, which I settled on. The traps I purchased were a hybrid between the aforementioned finger-killers and a plastic chip clip. I set both traps, one on the floor and the other the counter.

Later that night, I heard a thumping. It was a thumping of plastic on wood. As I listened, I also heard what can only be described as a mouse squealing and/or wheezing. I could not bring myself to get up and put the poor thing out of its misery. The next morning I found the trap wedged under the board where the mice went under the sink. I left it there, and placed the second trap on the floor, near the trash can. When I returned from work, I looked in and saw a newly deceased mouse. I felt horrible, because I like to just go about my business while God's other creatures do the same. But when God's other creatures start crapping on my plates...somebody's gotta go.

I picked up the trap and dropped it in the garbage. I didn't care about losing the trap. Finally I garnered the courage to pick up the other trap and investigate. The front had been chewed. I opened the trap but did not see anything until I looked closer at the peanut butter, and there it was - one tiny gray paw. Well, I knew what that meant. I had to check the other mouse.

Hoping against hope I had caught the most masochistic little mouse that ever was, I checked his feet. One, two, three, four. Crap. There was another mouse, or three-quarters of one, hanging out somewhere.

Well, I reset the trap, and placed it on the floor and decided to give it a few more days to see if I could put Stumpy out of its misery. One night, as I lay on the futon catching up on CSI via the internet, something catched the corner of my eye, and I spot a field mouse making its way over a pillow on the floor toward my general vicinity. I did not become my mother, screaming bloody murder and climbing to the highest point in the room. I sat up quickly, and kept an eye on it, but apparently, he did not expect me to be there because he took off. Later, I headed to the bathroom, and saw a mouse making its way to the haven under the sink. That rodent was moving way too fast to be Stumpy. Yet, the presence- or, more appropriately, "presents" - of a mouse has not been seen, so I'm not sure if he's a squatter, or just scoping out the territory.

On a more somber note, I do believe I have smelled Stumpy rotting away somewhere in the house. And that was really what I was trying to avoid by using the traps instead of poison. So yes, I fear rodents (and not to mention insects) but I also feel horrible extinguishing them because, you know, we're all just trying to get along down here.

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