Murder in the Morning

Anyone who knows me understands that I’m the sort of person you can text at 1 a.m. and usually not worry about waking. In fact, there are nights—more than I’d like to number—where I’m still wide awake at 4 a.m. even when I know I have to be up at some ungodly hour like 7.

Such was not the case last night. (Well, technically this morning.) I didn’t have any place to be at an early hour, and so I felt no compunctions about staying up until 4:30 reading. All I needed to do to get my seven or eight hours of beauty rest was simply sleep in. And I was so looking forward to it until…

Thump! Clank! Clank!

I rolled over groggily and checked my phone for the time. 7:21 a.m. What the actual fignewton was going on? (I’m going to replace f-bombs with fignewton because Fig Newtons are tasty and reasonably high in fiber.)

I got up, peed (thank the gods for master bathrooms), and went back to bed, but I was now alert for strange noises and couldn’t relax. That’s when my shiba inu, Toshi, barked excitedly from downstairs.

My house is an 1890 country Victorian. Aside from all the squeaky floorboards and other quirks, it has an old iron grate that sits above the wood stove. Once, the vent’s primary function was to allow heat to travel to the upstairs.  Now, it’s merely an amplifier for every single sound my pets or family members make, especially while I’m trying to sleep.

Clank! Clank!

Cheesus cripes! (I’m really trying to cut down on the cursing. It’s bad enough that knitting has induced so many expletives without me adding to them during the non-knitting moments.) I was certain neither my son nor daughter (also night owls and late sleepers) were up yet, so I figured it had to be the dog making the clattering noises. Toshi is normally quiet in the morning; it’s rare for him to wake me.

Another bark. Some more clattering. I determined that he must be pawing at the floor of his crate. Although he’s in it very rarely, we do put his food bowl in there. Maybe he was trying to tell me he was hungry. If so, this was a new twist.

“Toshi!” I scolded through the grate. “Knock it off.”

There was silence for a while, and then clank!

Well, for fuck’s sake! (Sorry.)

I got up, put on a robe and slippers and trudged downstairs, now fully awake and fully irritated. When I got downstairs I found Toshi excitedly peering into his crate at… the cat. Kasumi was, in turn, excitedly peering at something… apparently invisible.

“What are you doing?” I asked, as though they might answer.

Kasumi the cat

Kasumi isn’t always this lazy. Also, she has no idea how to sit like a lady.

They both looked at me briefly, and then returned their interest to the crate. This could only mean one thing—something was under there. I sighed, swallowed hard, and lifted the front of the crate off the hardwood floor. Kasumi excitedly scampered around the inside, but I couldn’t yet see what was holding her rapt attention. I lifted the crate higher, and there it was—a little gray mouse with a white belly scurried along the floor board, looking for a place to hide. Kasumi darted out of the crate in pursuit, and Toshi was right there as well, but the mouse was clever and zipped behind a wooden container meant to hold kindling for the fireplace.

“Okay, okay,” I said. “I see what you’re after.” The animals looked at me expectantly, and then at the container. It’s not heavy, so I moved it, and there went the mouse again… right back under the crate.

We lathered, rinsed and repeated these steps for a while. By now, I was determined to help my little predators catch their prey. I think mice are cute and all, and I’m not squeamish about them, but they’re filthy little pee and defecation machines and I don’t want them in my home. If they opt to come in, they should be warned that our house is patrolled by a cat and a shiba, and both are quick and deadly.

Finally, the mouse gave up on both the crate and the wooden container, deciding that those were no longer secure places to hide. It made a break for the little parlor that I’ve turned into a spare room. The room is afforded some privacy by curtains that span the doorway.

Today is the day I learned just how well mice can climb. I mean, I know they’re nimble little fuckers (Gah! Sorry again) that can squeeze into tight spaces and scale things with ease, but I had never seen a firsthand demonstration. That mouse shinnied up the curtain like all hell had been loosed upon it.

Now there was a mouse in my curtains. This really wouldn’t do. Mice pee everywhere. They carry diseases. I’ll repeat again that although I’m not fond of killing them, I don’t want them in my house and I have no problem with letting natural predators like my cat and dog do what predators do—catch prey. In fact, I also have no problem enabling them. To me, death by predator is better than death by strychnine, not to mention a lot more natural.

I gave the curtain a shake. The mouse tumbled down and… climbed right back up. (Hickory, dickory dock!) Kasumi and Toshi were still looking for it on the ground, so I called their attention to the curtain and gave it another shake. The mouse fell to the floor and made a break for the living room.

Toshi the shiba inu

This is Toshi. He’s looking pretty smug, isn’t he?

Well, shit. That’s really not where I wanted the little f- — the mouse to go.

But I needn’t worry. Toshi darted after the rodent and before I could even blink I saw that he had it there on the living room floor. By the time I got to him, in mere seconds, it was dead.

Very, very dead.

“Good boy,” I told Toshi. “It’s dead. I mean, dude, it is so dead.”

Fortunately, Toshi responds well to the command “leave it.” So he left it, and I took care of business with a plastic bag, a catcher’s-mitt-sized gob of paper towel, and a lot of disinfectant.

Since Kasumi the cat joined our family about a year-and-a-half ago she has killed one mouse and mercilessly toyed with another until it got away. In that same time, Toshi the shiba inu has taken out 5, although most of those were outside before they got into the house, and were politely deposited on the back porch. Kasu needs to step up her game if she doesn’t want to end up in the Cat Hall of Shame, bested by a dog.

I don’t like murder in the morning, but the truth is, I have an old house, and critters like mice (and even a vole, once, which was odd because they prefer to stay outside) seem to find access points. I’m grateful for my two little hunters, who do a good job patrolling the premises and keeping it vermin-free.

May I go back to sleep now?


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