Ralph, our dog, was sniffing and jumping and barking at the door to the garage. His tail beat back and forth. The dog was elated. This meant one thing… RATS.
Okay, mice. My husband, Henry, insists they’re mice. Tiny, furry, very clean field mice. They like our garage. Because we live in the country, we’re their favorite hotel.
Mice flock to our house in times of drought, or when it’s winter, or just because they like us.
I don’t like them. Never have. You see… I am a city girl who moved to the country because I fell in love. I discovered the rats when I got here. Henry never said a word when we were courting.
Which, I think, was dishonest.
Henry doesn’t. He says all ranches have field mice. They come with the land. So, you don’t have to declare them. Besides, he says, “They are not rats. They are field mice.”
Well I’m against all members of the rat family. Big or small. They all come with revolting snake tails, leave black poop balls everywhere and come scurrying out at the most unfortunate times. (During romantic moments, or when sitting on the toilet, or barefoot.)
So, for years we fought them with traps. Henry would set the mouse snappers, turn out the lights, and close the garage door. Within seconds, we’d hear “Pop, Pop, Pop.”
All the traps were full.
It was Henry’s job to reset them.
“Pop, Pop, Pop.”
Rats twitching everywhere.
After every slaughter, you have to take the dead out of the traps.
So, after Henry asked me to help (Imagine my horror) I bought rat poison. Mice were supposed to eat it, then crawl away and die. Where you never see them. I’d placed the poison all over the garage.
I thought the mice were all dead. But Ralph was signaling that those little devils were back.
I cracked the door. Ralph raced through it. After just a few seconds of dashing and crashing, Ralph pranced up with a big, fat mouse in his mouth.
Chomp. Chomp. And, it was gone. He grinned.
I felt an odd mix of glee and horror and disgust.
“Good Dog! Good Dog!”
Then, I heard the tiniest of squeaks.
I froze. And listened. Ralph did too. Then, he raced to the east corner of the garage barking wildly. I followed, weeding my way through the clutter of paint cans and cardboard boxes until I stumbled upon a bucket and discovered, to my dismay, four tiny, hairless mouse babies shivering and crying inside.
Their eyes weren’t even open yet.
Guilt swallowed me. I had allowed Ralph to kill their mother. I had even cheered. Now, these babies were going to die. Unless I saved them.
I had to save them.
I was not a monster. I didn’t kill mothers and children. I was a good person. God liked me.
I could not stand by and let babies die.
I jumped into action. I raced straight to my closet, taking the bucket and babies with me. I pulled out my newest Christian Louboutins, and tossed them on the ground. I grabbed the shoebox and a box of tissues, and built a soft bed for the babies.
Then, with all the tenderness and love I could muster, I picked up those hairless creatures (Yes, I touched them) and placed them oh-so-carefully into their new bed.
I swear, one of these teeny-tiny, helpless creations of God smiled at me.
Some of the terrible guilt lifted. They liked their new bed.
Proud, I carried them back out to the garage. First problem solved. (Magnificently, if I do say so myself!)
Now, how to feed them?
I picked up the phone and dialed my veterinarian.
“You want to save the babies of the mother you killed?” He asked, sounding incredulous.
“You know they will grow up to be mice. Right?”
I hesitated. I squirmed and glanced at the babies. They were helpless orphans. Guilt ripped through me anew.
“But—” My voice cracked. “I killed their mother.”
Somehow, his exasperation managed to radiate through the phone. He thought I was silly. Trying to save something I would have destroyed, if it were grown.
Which was kind-of true.
Except I killed their mother.
The vet exhaled. “Well, if you are determined, get some wet cat food and see if you can get them to eat—”
I dashed to the store. Bought kitty food and rushed to the garage. I picked one tiny little cherub up, and with a toothpick, spooned a little cat food into its mouth.
To my alarm, it began to convulse and died right in my hand.
I screamed in horror and flung the baby in the trashcan.
After a few calming breaths, it dawned on me that the mom must have eaten the poison and then nursed her babies before she had died.
All of the babies were poisoned.
I rushed inside to call the vet. After an inordinate amount of time, he came to the phone.
“What now?” The vet sounded totally un-thrilled.
“Doctor, all the little babies… They’re poisoned.” I gasped. “How do we save them?”
I heard him exhale. One of those long, slow exhales that arrogant people do to let you know they think you’re stupid. When you’re not.
Then, there was a long silence.
Finally, he spoke. “I doubt if you can. But, if you insist on trying, you might try putting kitty formula into an eye dropper and—”
His voice reeked of annoyance. Like baby mice weren’t important. Or worth saving.
Tears blurred my vision. I grabbed my keys. I was determined to save those motherless orphans.
I dashed out the door and grabbed their little bed, intending to take them with me. But, the box was empty.
There stood Ralph.
Then, he grinned.
Here’s the rest of the story…
*** When I called the Vet again, he said Henry had probably not ingested enough poison to injure him.
***** I held a funeral the next day and buried the mice’s empty shoe box.