A MOUSE IN THE HOUSE! Fortunately, we don’t have to confront an issue that tests our ethical compass on a daily basis, but when we do, we can learn a lot about ourselves.
In this spirit, and as a New York City native, I have often wondered what I would do if a mouse turned up in my apartment. When I was married and we rented summer homes, I had to test my mettle when, on two separate occasions, a field mouse wound up indoors instead of out.
First Mouse Sighting:
The first time took place during the night and our cat was making a terrible commotion in the living room. Turned out he almost, operative word – “almost,” caught the mouse, but I got in the way and the mouse escaped.
Second Mouse Sighting:
The second time I got up during the night and passed the kitchen only to see a white and black mouse perched on the counter nibbling at something between its paws. The next night I left a tiny piece of bread for it. The following day, my husband went ballistic!!!
Dog and Mouse:
So, fast forward to the present. I had heard that some tenants in my pre-war building had been having an issue with mice, but I was exempt. Until this spring! I woke up to find my dog scrambling wildly under my computer desk. He was so excited.
I feared the worst, a giant NYC water bug (if you’re not familiar, imagine a cockroach on steroids). However, as I caught a glimpse of it, I saw a tail and a little brown furry body, trying desperately to hide between all the cables and wires and my computer tower, Wi-Fi router, modem, and boxes of envelopes and paper.
My dog was almost hysterical by now, barking at it and completely frenzied! I was trying to catch it in my hands. Turns out I am not afraid of mice! Who knew?
In my past, in elementary school, we had a class mascot, a little white mouse named Inky and every weekend a student had to take him home. My mother was not thrilled, but nevertheless, Inky became a regular visitor and I became used to handling mice.
A Mouse in the House!
This present-day mouse, however, did not want to be caught. My dog walker showed up around the same time as the mouse and once the dog was gone, the mouse made a beeline for the kitchen.
Completely unaware of its new location, my dog rapidly lost interest upon return from his walk. However, throughout the day and into the night, I watched as the mouse popped out and then scurried back around the refrigerator.
I thought it was pretty safe back there, but there were glue traps and poison under my stove and behind the sink for water bugs and I worried about what would happen if the mouse ventured there.
That evening, I watched as it did, indeed, scoot under the stove and I feared for its little life. But, it came and went with such ease that I thought perhaps it was learning to navigate the perils. I promptly went online and ordered some humane traps and watched videos about how to set them up.
I was obsessed and kept sneaking looks into the kitchen, almost always catching it out and about. It looked around with curiosity at its new surroundings and wandered around though I could tell it was on high alert.
I know that some of you reading this will think I am certifiable or at the very least, completely nuts, but I realized something I have always suspected about myself, I have a very great reverence for life.
How do I reconcile this with leaving poison down for water bugs? The answer is, I can’t.
The mouse is an animal, a mammal at that. The water bug is an overgrown version of a bug and feels very much like an invader.
I take absolutely no pleasure in killing it, but we cannot reside in the same space. Interesting how my ethical compass shifts to accommodate my aversions. Sad, but interesting.
The Next Day:
The following day I woke up to check the kitchen and the mouse was nowhere to be seen. I hadn’t slept well, not knowing if it would try to return to the bedroom during the night, but I didn’t see it there either.
Importantly, I didn’t hear it. I feared if it got stuck on a glue trap it would start squealing and I wouldn’t be able to help it.
My dog went out and when he returned he did come into the kitchen and sat patiently waiting for food, next to my recycle bin. I turned to look at him and he looked in the bin, then back at me, then in the bin and again at me, as if to say, “Hey, dummy, look!”
So I looked and there next to the only item in the bin, an empty can of dog food, was the little mouse curled up in a ball.
I barely moved, but neither did the mouse. For all its darting about the night before, I tried to figure out if it was sleeping or perhaps, dead from the poison after all.
As I debated this, I understood one thing clearly, it needed to be far away from my dog who might try to catch it and get poisoned as well. Priorities. So, I grabbed a garbage bag, threw it over the bin and fastened it.
Now I was suffocating it!
I thought….and then I made a mad dash to the basement of my building. Beside the garbage cans, I deposited my bag and ripped a huge hole in it so the mouse had a chance of escaping if it could. I returned to my apartment shaking.
So much drama for this little being. I felt very helpless and very sad.
A Test of Beliefs:
We often don’t know exactly who we are or what we believe until we’ve been tested.
For me, this small creature was a litmus test of how I feel about life and the decisions I make. True, I choose one and not the other. I need to reconcile that, but I am glad I couldn’t take the mouse’s life.
I hope it survived.
Editor’s Note: A big thanks to author Suzanne Lane for this advicesisters.com feature. Suzanne is the founder and president of The Lane Communications Group. She is also the author of a touching book about her dog Sammy.