Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Me against the mouse

I had woken up to him twice.

The first time, it was a combination of squeaking coming from the kitchen and the sound of something scurrying around. It was the middle of the night. I closed my bedroom door and told myself I was imagining things.

A few days later, I opened the door to the pantry to retrieve the dog food, and pieces kept falling out of the bag onto the floor. Very intelligently, I ignored this.

Soon thereafter, I was again woken up in the middle of the night. It sounded like someone had broken in and was sitting at my desk, ferociously typing away on my laptop. I grabbed the phone and prepared to dial 9-1-1. But I emerged from my bedroom to find, of course, that no one was at the computer and that the sound wasn't typing; it was the pitter patter of not so welcome little feet somewhere in the apartment. Once again, I closed the door to the kitchen, and this time, put music on to drown out the sound. 

It hadn't yet occurred to me at this point not to leave food accessible. When I got more dog food from the bag one day, I realized this was no case of the bottom of the bag wearing away. There were holes scratched all over the bag. Someone, or something, had done this. Not only that, Clyde's bowl, which I had refilled the night before, was empty the next morning before he'd had a chance to take a nibble.

It could no longer be denied. I had a mouse. And news to me, mice like dog food.

I live in a quaint D.C. apartment in what was once a rather large and stately single family home. I'm told the house dates to the early 20th century. This all sounds very charming until it gets cold outside, and everyone wants to warm up and find a bite to eat. It was as early as October I first heard the evidence I had a pet I hadn't chosen. It would take more than two months before I would finally meet my little nemesis.

So, I decided this situation had to be dealt with. But I'd never had a mouse before. Part of me didn't want to do anything inhumane, and then the part of me that loathes rodents would knock some sense into the kind, animal-loving other part. The last time I had seen a mouse inside was my history teacher's classroom my senior year of high school. Not one of my proudest moments, upon glimpsing the thing run across the floor, I started screaming and jumped onto a desk.

When I told friends who had inhabited apartments in D.C. or New York of my more recent plight, they remarked with all too familiar nods, "I feel your pain." "My previous apartment was an exit off of a mouse highway." Then there was the worst story of all -- the friend who had come home from a trans-Atlantic flight, exhausted and jetlagged, to find what we'll call "evidence" on her pillow just as she was about to climb into bed.

I feared Clyde, my peaceful little bichon, would encounter the mouse while I was out and some kind of mismatched battle would ensue. I wondered if the mouse was rabid. Every time I heard a creak in the walls of the old house, I thought it was him, skittering around. Could he climb walls? Where was the hole he hid in? I made sure there was never any food out, anywhere, he could get to. The dog food bag disappeared in place of a thick plastic cannister.

I researched ways to trap him. I acquired a rat trap but was afraid I was going to break a finger if I didn't set the contraption right. I'm no engineer, so I found a Youtube on how to set one. No mouse came to eat the cheese I left. I was told maple flavored cereal is better bait. (The fact that people have enough experience with mice to know these things is scary.) I got those sticky pads you form into a little pyramid that are supposed to attract the mouse with their peanut butter scent. Again, no mouse. I did see a tail one day, and it was about all I could do to hold it together.

Weeks went by. No more evidence of the mouse. I thought he had moved on to greener pastures where he could find more crumbs to eat.

Until today.

I got home from work to find Clyde staring strangely and silently at something on the floor in front of my bed. I thought it was a leaf and was about to pick it up with bare hands to throw away. But in fact, at long last, Clyde had discovered our mouse. I screamed, once, and the thing didn't move an inch. Was it dead? No. It was timid, like a rabbit you see outside. You know if you move slowly and don't come too close, it'll just sit there. The amazing thing was, the little guy was admittedly, actually kind of cute. He was about a quarter the size I had been imagining all this time. He was brown, and I had been envisioning some pallid gray thing.

With Clyde as watchdog, I quickly retreated to the kitchen for the broom and a paper bag. With one brisk move, I swept the mouse into the bag and clamped it shut with my foot. That was the mouse's last night in my apartment.

Monday, January 2, 2012