Saturday, September 23, 2006

Mouse House

The family I grew up in was not what you would call a Pet Family. I had a hamster as a child, and then we went through a short six-month stint with a black and white Shih-Tsu puppy that quickly received his walking papers one afternoon when he did something unspeakable with a baby’s dirty diaper. (I said it was unspeakable!)

It’s not that I didn’t care for pets, as much as they were just never really around and I was fine with that. The family I am currently leasing however is bound and determined to have animals in our house. In the past couple of years we have had several pets aboard Craig’s Ark, and most recently, mice.

Two of my sons, Garren and Connor, each wanted a mouse, so we got Jenny, a small white mouse, and Minnie, a larger, brown mouse. Both females. A week had gone by when one morning my son Garren came downstairs looking a bit despondent.

“What’s wrong, bud?”
“Oh, you’ll have to come see.”
“What is it?”
“Just come see. In my room. Jenny’s dead.”

I’ve never been a fan of mice of any kind, but as distant as my relationship was with these rodents, I felt bad for my son. He was clearly taking this death personally.

I grabbed my CSI kit, which I had purchased with $2.00 and three Lucky Charm’s box tops, and headed into the boys’ room to investigate the scene. It was quiet. Too quiet. It felt almost eerie. I knew why I was there, and I knew what had to be done, but I wasn’t prepared for the grisly sight that awaited me. There was Jenny, lying at the bottom of the mouse cage… Well, there was half of Jenny, lying at the bottom of the cage. Where was the rest of her? As unbelievable as the answer was, it was equally obvious. Sitting on top of Jenny, fat and sassy, with blood all over her hands and face, was Minnie. Minnie was eating Jenny. Before I could even look away, Minnie froze and looked up at me as if to say, “…And you’re next, jack-face!”

I escorted Garren out of the room before he could view the ugliness. I took care of Jenny’s remains and thought long and hard about turning Minnie into the authorities. What had made her turn? Did she actually kill Jenny? Were we that late with her breakfast that she thought, “Well, I guess this will teach them to be late with my meals!”

If this had been a movie, it could go three different ways from this point. One, a possessed mouse terrorizes an unassuming suburbanite family. Two, a suburbanite family’s house has been built on an ancient Indian burial ground and the wronged spirits of days of yore are seeking their vengeance on the family…and the first manifestation involves a small animal’s demeanor taking a horrible turn, foreshadowing what is to happen to the family. Or third, Stuart Little III: What Happens In Vegas Stays In Vegas, where Stuart avenges his sister, who was eaten by a brown mouse that doesn’t like her meals to be late.

Since it isn’t a movie, and Garren wasn’t amused by my ramblings, we immediately purchased another mouse. And as soon as we put New Jenny in the cage, Minnie immediately pounced on her. This was disconcerting. Now that she had the taste of blood in her mouth, she wanted more.

We made the easy decision to keep New Jenny and get rid of Minnie the Cannibal. Minnie happened to be Connor’s, so I put Minnie in a box, and off I went with Connor and Minnie back to PetCo to exchange Minnie for a less-cannibalistic mouse.

I grabbed the first pimply-faced teenage employee I saw and began my line of questioning.

“Hi, Jeremy, uhm, we adopted this mouse about a week ago, and I wanted to exchange it for another mouse that we would be happy to adopt. See, this mouse ate one of our other mice, and then attacked a second one, so….”

"Oh, yeah…. hmmm…sometimes they just do that.”

“Well, you certainly are a student of the rodent world, Jeremy. Anyway, could we exchange it?”

“Did you consider buying a separate cage and having two cages – one for each mouse.”

“Yeah, we aren’t going to do that.”

“I understand. I just have to ask because my boss will ask me if I did.”


We walked over to the cages to select our new mouse, when the manager of the store approached me.

“Hello, uhm, we cannot take that mouse back. YOU adopted it, so YOU are responsible for it. We aren’t running a shelter, you know. You should probably just buy another cage.”

“What, are you guys paid on commission? I’m not buying another cage.”

“Well, it costs me money to keep animals here. There’s food, and then payroll to have somebody take care of them…”

“How expensive could that possibly be?”

“Well, I also…maybe we shouldn’t be discussing this in front of your son.”

I looked down at Connor who had one finger inside a birdcage, and the other in his nose. “I think he’s fine.”

“Well, then ask yourself this question, how would you feel if somebody else came in to buy that mouse to feed to their snake!?”

I could sense that this man was trying to shame me into something, so I tried not to laugh or sing Lion King’s “Circle of Life.”

In my mind I pictured one of those futuristic, sci-fi machines that scans the human body for trace amounts of some chemical or someting. It was hooked up to my body, searching for one, single cell that felt the smallest degree of something resembling guilt. Nothing. The charts were coming up negative.

I was about to tell the guy, “Look, take the mouse back or I’m going out to your parking lot and letting her go.” But his comment had actually given me an idea. I knew a neighbor who had a snake and regularly fed mice to him. Problem solved. Almost. Connor still needed another mouse.

With full confidence in my new pimply underage friend and his understanding of all things mousy, we requested another small, white, female mouse – New Minnie – to cohabitate with New Jenny.

So I came home and put New Minnie in the cage with New Jenny. Then I put Old Minnie in a plastic tub on her own. Then I called my neighbor…who got rid of his snake. So now I was stuck with three mice. And not long after that, I was stuck with five mice, thanks to my friendly neighborhood PetCo employee who can’t tell a female mouse from a male. Yes, Minnie was a Mickey.

This sounds like another possible movie plot, wherein a kind, albeit slightly irrational, father blows up a PetCo.