Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Of mice and men...

As I live and breathe...

The clacking sound of my computer keys is being accompanied by the scratching and skirmishing of a mouse trapped inside our kitchen trash can.

Right now. This very minute.

I'm making a decision to just sit still. To not run from the room frantically. To not wield a rolling pin, present a death warrant and start a bloody battle.

No. I'm just going to sit here, carrying on with my typing. With a dog, the moment he knows that his choice of activity - like sifting through a kitchen trash can - can dictate the actions of another, he knows he is the Boss. Maybe mice are like dogs that way?

Okay. Five minutes just lapsed. I'm still here. I'm fine. The mouse is right over there. And presumably, he is fine.

We're aaaaalllllll juuuuusssssttttt fine. Taking things niiiiicccccceeee and sllllloooowwwwww.

By all intents, we are effectively co-existing in a small room. It's probably to both of our advantages that I can't actually SEE him. I just hear him digging around in last night's dinner.

Were I to actually see him, or (heaven forbid) FEEL his tiny little mouse feet run over any part of my body, I just might croak. Seriously. So this "no see" policy is a good one.

What is this, this funny relationship we have with mice? It's a strange emotional hot dish of disgust, adoration and - of all things - fear! How do us big huge humans get so tweaked by a being that weighs less than a Rice Krispy bar?

I had a solid conversation with a couple of girlfriends about this recently, as we shared our mouse stories. Living in buildings that are, in many cases, hundreds of years old often means there are mice running around. And for every house mouse, there are at least twenty tales to be told.

We discussed at length varying theories of what is the best way to deal with these critters.

Traps. ("Works every time." "Yeah, but they can get the cheese without setting the trap.")

Poison. ("Never works." "Really? It worked in our house.")

Steel wool. ("Shove it in the holes around your house so they can't get through." "But that won't last through the winter.")

Liquid foam. ("Best for sealing the hard-to-reach holes." "I still think you should try steel wool.")

Cats. ("I heard that cats emit a scent that actually REPELS mice. And of course, if the scent doesn't get 'em, the claws will!")

The last argument seems most compelling, as it has been reputed by numerous long-term Amsterdam dwellers. And since it has been made abundantly clear that Shetland Herders are useless mouse hunters, I've considered borrowing a cat for a weekend. Just to test the theory.

As for who in this house does plays Animal Hunter, I hate to say it, but I have definitely played the Girl Card. When it comes to the mice, Dave is the perennial man's man, taking full responsibility for all mouse-related situations.

In true Dave fashion, he has named a few of his favorites. At the top of the list...Leonard. Or The Fat One, as he was called in the two weeks leading up to his trap-enforced death. Yes, there have been a few middle of the night rendezvous between Dave and his four-legged friends.

On a few occasions, I have wondered about the mice living in our 400-year old house. Think of the possibilities of their heritage. What if these creatures have lineage that stretch back to Napoleonic days? What if we are cutting off a long line of robust animals who managed to survive wars and famines JUST so they could live long enough to create more strong offspring?

And what about those empathetic hard-working little guys who gave their all for Cinderellie to get to the ball? Those guys had SWEET sewing skills, to be able to pull off a multi-layered chiffon gown in an afternoon. All while singing back-ups.

And Mighty Mouse and all of his testosterone-driven quests for Good?

And Jerry...Now THERE's a clever mouse. Cat scent was no deterrent for HIM.

And if it weren't for Mickey, where would Goofy and Donald Duck be? Really? They would be lost somewhere in some stupidly-conceived canine scenario that they couldn't get out of, because no one could understand what the F@#$ the duck dressed in a sailor suit was talking about.

Maybe...just maybe...we NEED mice. And if all they want to do is live in peace....and...every once in a while...raid our trash...how can we, in good consciousness, off the little fellas?!

Okay...the clicking and scratching have subsided. I think I saw something move out of the corner of my eye, but I'm just going to pretend I didn't see anything.

Live and let live.

At least for now.

I'm off to the hardware store to buy the next round of death traps.

What? You think that contradicts my growing affection for house mice?...

Never you mind. A guy got to sometimes.


David Sheldon said...

science has spoken, lynn.....love those little bastards...

Female house mice have an estrous cycle that is 4-6 days long, with estrus itself lasting less than a day. If several females are held together under crowded conditions, they will often not have an estrus at all; if they are then exposed to male urine, they will become estrous after 72 hours.
Male house mice court females by emitting characteristic ultrasonic calls in the 30 kHz - 110kHz range. The calls are most frequent during courtship when the male is sniffing and following the female. However, the calls continue after mating has begun at which time the calls are coincident with mounting behaviour. Males can be induced to emit these calls by female pheromones. The vocalizations appear to be different in different individuals and have been compared to birdsongs because of their complexity.[13] While females have the capability to produce ultrasonic calls, they typically do not do so during mating behaviour.
Following copulation, female mice will normally develop a vaginal plug which prevents further copulation. This plug stays in place for some 24 hours. The gestation period is about 19-21 days, and they give birth to a litter of 3-14 young (average 6-8). One female can have some 5-10 litters per year, so their population can increase very quickly. Breeding occurs throughout the year (however, animals living in the wild don't reproduce in the colder months, even though they don't hibernate). The newborn are blind and furless. Fur starts to grow some three days after birth and the eyes open one to two weeks after birth. Females reach sexual maturity at about 6 weeks and males at about 8 weeks, but both can breed as early as five weeks.
House mice usually live under a year in the wild, because of a high level of predation and exposure to harsh environments. In protected environments, however, they often live two to three years. The Methuselah Mouse Prize is a competition to breed or engineer extremely long-lived laboratory mice. As of 2005, the record holder was a genetically engineered mouse that lived for 1819 days; nearly 5 years. Another record holder that was kept in a stimulating environment but did not receive any genetic, pharmacological or dietary treatment lived for 1551 days; over 4 years.

BauerHouse said...

Come across any that cook yet?

Absolute score! if you do.