This is hardly a surprise. We’re surrounded by both woods and and open fields. The winter has been, by turns, bitterly cold and brutally snowy, so anything that might’ve wanted to make its way indoors had extra incentive. And, of course, we live in a wee tilty house with plenty of places where critters can sneak inside. All manner of critters. Mice. Shrews. Horrifying numbers of monster-crickets. Garter snakes. Chipmunks.*
But back to the mice. A few weeks ago, I woke in the wee hours to the sound of growling beneath the bed. Now Handsome Tom has, as you may recall, a history of bullying the older girls should they venture outside of their respective closet hidey-holes; it was a natural assumption that he’d cornered one of them. A quick glance confirmed he was not in his usual place at our feet. I rolled over and hissed, “Tom! Knock. It. Off,” as if that would have any effect. Hey, it was three in the morning. Best my brain was going to offer. The growling continued. I slid out of from beneath the covers, flailed around until I found the flashlight and peered beneath the bed. Much to my surprise, there was Esme. She and Tom get along well; when he plays too rough she simply bails. Here, though, she was hunched over, growling with increased ferocity, as HT stared at her from a good two feet away.
By this time, Don had stirred. “whassgoinnonn.”
I opened my mouth to say, “Tom is bothering Esme,” but at that very moment, she turned her head toward me. Her strange, puffy-wriggly mouthed alien head. I blinked my sleepy eyes, willing them to focus. Her mouth wasn’t puffed out. It was full. It was full of, “Mouse. It’s a mouse. Don. Don, she has a mouse.”
Don stumbled out of bed as I flicked on the light. “getttthhheccup” he said, but I was already on my way. Esme’s growling had ceased. Her tail was flicking back and forth.
“Tell her she’s a good girl!” I called over my shoulder, bare feet slapping against the cool wood floor. The cup and cardboard - my go to implements of catch-and-release - were on the kitchen counter. I grabbed them and made my way back to the bedroom in time to see a tiny gray form dart beneath my night stand. Esme leapt out, hard on its heels. HT remained where he was, eyes fixed beneath the bed. The mouse ran along the back wall, then raced past the doors that lead to my office. Esme bounced over the bed to light down just ahead of the racing mouse. She casually reached out a single paw, pinning the mouse once more. I plopped the cup over the mouse, slid the cardboard underneath, and carried it outside.
Back in the bedroom, Esme was prancing around, tail puffed out, ready for praise. HT continued to stare underneath the bed.
We’d hoped this was the end of it, but a couple of days later, Esme once again bounded into our bedroom with a tiny grey creature in her mouth: a baby, this time. Seems her first capture had been Mama Mouse, and her eviction had left the babies orphaned and alone.
Esme, keen hunter that she is, felt no remorse.
Don and I tried to locate the nest. We could hear chirping when we stood in the basement, but wherever the babies were, we couldn’t reach them. Esme, though, was focused. She was relentless.
Since the initial capture, there have been several others. One she brought back to the bedroom, another to the top of the water heater. Neither of these had a reasonable prognosis of recovery. The baby she brought into my office seemed undamaged, but there was a trace of blood on the cardboard, and it was cold and rainy when I released it outside. It might have been kinder to smash it under my heel, but... I couldn’t. Can’t. Just... no. Then tonight Esme pranced about with a wee, dark grey baby in her mouth. I praised my one-eyed kitty for her hunting prowess even as I took the tiny body from her, picked it up by the tail and threw it into the woods. And then I burst into tears, because I am a bleeding heart idiot. When I came back in, Esme snuggled her head beneath my chin, purring and proud and doing her best, as she always does, to cheer me up when I am sad.
I know mice are vermin, and I really do NOT want them living in my house, but it breaks my heart a bit each time I have to dispatch one that is dead or - worse yet - dying. It doesn’t help that as I was looking for images to include in this post, I chanced upon some lovely NIMH art .
Guh. I can't even begin to grasp how I'm going to deal with the looming squirrel troubles.
*Did I not tell you about this? It happened last summer, and it was the stuff of situation comedies. Suffice it to say Don and I had warring ideas as to how to liberate the chipmunk that had made its way into his closet. Things grew tense. Shoes were flung about, though not at one another. We discovered that closing the bedroom door would do nothing for stopping anything smaller than a whistle pig. HT thought he had it under control (he did not; he spent a good twenty minutes staring at the kindling box after the chipmunk was back outside) and Esme was a veritable guided missile, though she was very put out when we did not let her keep her prey.