Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nuka vs. The Land Walrus Introduce Pip the Cupboard Mouse

     Last winter a funny thing happened.  In the cupboard above our stove, the popcorn kept mysteriously vanishing.  At first I figured this was probably due to a porthole from another dimension, but then other things started happening in the cupboard.  Little gnaw marks appeared on containers and various foodstuffs, and then small, little black kernels littered the cupboard floor.  What could be happening in this cupboard?
     Jeremy quickly deduced that it was a mouse and presented with the evidence, I was forced to agree, so we did what most people do when confronted with a mouse, or, at least, what I assume they do, we went to the store for traps.

     That's where the trouble started.

     Your local hardware store has an aisle that will present many options for dealing with a mouse.  We took them all in and Jeremy started grabbing.  For better or worse, I am not a grabber, I am a reader, so I started reading and I didn't enjoy it at all.  Turns out the best way to deal with your mouse is to crack it with a metal bar or poison it.  This might seem like a perfectly reasonable way to deal with vermin, unfortunately, I cry when I see road kill, so I could only stare at Jeremy aghast.

Jeremy: "It's a mouse.  It's vermin.  We can't let it live in there and eat our food."

Me:  "I am not snap trapping it.  What if it doesn't die right away and it's half alive in the trap?  I will freak."

Jeremy:  "No problem, poison."

Me: "Jeremy, it is not safe to have poison in a house with dogs, and why should we poison the mouse?  He is only trying to live his mouse life, he just likes Orville Redenbacher."

Jeremy, glaring at me: "Well we have to get rid of it somehow."

     I surveyed the aisle of mouse torments and picked out two live traps designed specifically for overly sensitive babies like myself.  You put bait in there, and mice are dumb, apparently, so they walk in and then a lever goes up and the mouse can't get back out.  Captured mouse, alive at least.  Jeremy shrugged his whatevers at me and we bought the live traps.  I dutifully baited them at home and put them in the suspect cupboard, determined to show Jeremy that we could get rid of the mouse without killing it some terrible way.

     It didn't take long.

     The traps say to check them daily, so the next morning, first thing, I did just that.  Lo and behold, there, through the murky grey plastic, I spied the popcorn eater, a little brown mouse.  Gotcha!  I had captured the culprit on the first try, there was only one problem, something I failed to take into consideration upon my purchase of the live traps; what should I do with it now that I captured it?
     The trap literature helpfully recommended drowning the mouse, throwing it in the garbage, or releasing it somewhere not in your house.  Good ideas, right?  Problem is that in February, in Canada, my mouse would be a mouse-cicle in five seconds if I released it outside.  Admittedly, I had not considered this.
     I felt bad for the mouse, who was clearly not enjoying its time in the trap so I poked some holes in the lid of a coffee can and dumped him in there, like a five year old with a grass hopper.
     We named the mouse Cartman and purchased a CritterTrail habitat for it.  The mouse hated us, but at least it was alive and we could release it in the spring.  This should be the end of the story, but it isn't.  Turned out, the popcorn still wasn't safe.  Within the next few days, we caught another mouse, we named it Chili Cheese and dumped him in with Cartman, they seemed to be acquainted.  After this, thankfully, the cupboard cleared up.  I took everything out, bleached it, and nothing else violated the Orville Redenbacher.  Chili Cheese and Cartman hated us, but adjusted to life in their new habitat.  I figured that it didn't really matter anyway, because as soon as the weather warmed up they would be cheerfully released back into the wild, and that's exactly what happened, mostly.

     Chili Cheese and Cartman had four beautiful mouse babies.

     I was pretty stressed out when the mouse babies came.  I had not planned on one mouse, two mice, and then mice babies.  But, I'd come that far, so I stuck to my guns.  We would keep the mouse family until the snow was gone, then off they would go.
     Turns out our mice were White-footed mice.  I read about them, cleaned their cage once a week, fed them, changed their water and so on.  They were not much trouble as far as pets go.  The babies started getting big and I started to get worried, fortunately, the weather was beginning to break and I knew I could let them go soon.  Once the grass started to grow, I detached the portion of their cage that had their nest in it and put it out back under a large flower pot with the open end of the tunnel sticking out.  Finally, the mice were free to go when they wanted.
     The first to go was the dad mouse, Chili Cheese.  I was surprised he was the only one to make the break to freedom on the first night, but it was still early spring, so I brought them back inside for the day.  I would repeat this mouse ritual every morning and night for the next two weeks.
     Cartman went next, and then slowly, one by one, the mouse babies (now full grown) trickled off to find their own mouse lives in the wild.  It was a special time, watching my cupboard vermin be released into the wild, but of course, there was one, (isn't there always one?) that just wouldn't go.  For about a week he was the only one left and every night I would take him out back and put him under the flower pot and every morning I would go and find him still there, still nestled in the nest made out of old sock pieces and paper towels.  Eventually I tried dumping him out, (go, be free!)  but that little buggar dug his tiny hands into the side of the tunnel and held on for dear life.

Me:  "Go, little mouse!  I'm freeing you, go into the wild with your mouse family!"

Mouse: "Go to hell, lady!  I am not giving up free food and a cat-free environment!"

Me: "But you're a wild animal, it isn't right to cage you."

Mouse: "I was born in this cage, moron, and I will die here."

     I sighed and brought the mouse back in, and reattached him to the rest of his cage.  I told him I would give him one more chance to leave and then he could forget about it, because I was tiring of the charade.  That night I put him back under the flower pot and left some food scattered around.  Maybe once he got out in the world he would realize freedom was where it's at.

     No such luck.

     The next morning, I brought the stubborn mouse in for the last time and put his cage back together.  "That's it, you know." I said to him. "I am not putting you outside again, you are stuck here now."  Not surprisingly, the mouse did not reply, though he did run on the wheel with extra gusto that night.

Pip enjoys sunflower seeds and running on his wheel.
     Welcome to the blog, Pip the cupboard mouse, we're happy to have you!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Nuka and Duke vs. The Dog Sitter

     For six days I left the mutts out of my care.  I am sure this was liberating for all involved parties, (I know it was for me!) except perhaps Allison, the dog/house sitter.
     If you read my last blog, (Nuka vs. Olie's Ear) then you know that things did not begin well.  Nuka decided as a going away gift for me, she would bite her buddy Olie's ear.  I am happy to report that Olie has since made a full recovery.  After this ominous beginning to my holiday, it took me a few days of texting to leave Allison the hell alone, competently in charge of both my animals and my home. Upon our return, Allison informed me that all was well, the dogs were well behaved for her and things went smoothly.  I figure because of her inherent good nature, she is probably covering for them, but I digress.

I don't know where my mom is, but you're feeding me, so I'm good with it.
I just never know what is going on, because I'm a special guy!
     Allison informed me that she wrestled with Duke and Nuka regularly and allowed them to sleep in the bed with her, that fact alone probably makes them prefer her to me.  I, myself, cannot sleep with Duke and Nuka.  They take up too much room and kick a lot, so kudos to Allison for snuggling in at night with my fur children.  Her greatest success was bringing Duke and Nuka to her parents house for the day to play with her family's dog, Lily.  Such an endeavor is an act of bravery seldom rewarded with success.

Lily and Duke.  In spite of barking non-stop in dog's faces, Duke makes friends easily.
     Allison had asked me before I left if that was all right with me.  Since Allison has known my dogs for as long as I have known them, I told her to do whatever the heck she wanted with them, and she did!

I see no evidence of bloodshed...
MWAHAHA!  That's what you get for inviting me over, sucker!  This baby pool is mine.

Lily: Gee, Nuka, why are you such a jerk?
Nuka: Back off, kid, you have tasty looking ears.
Because of his nubby legs. Duke fears anything to do with water except drinking it.
Lily: What is he doing?
Nuka: Flinging giant gobs of slobber everywhere.
Lily: Ew!  Why?
Nuka: That, my dear, is a wonderful question.
     All in all, our time spent apart was refreshing for everyone.  Nuka and Duke got a break from me and I got a break from them.  They also made a new friend, Lily, which is good, because Nuka bit her last friend and that position is currently open.  Allison also left my house even cleaner then how I left it for her.  I don't even know what to say about that, except that I hope the dogs really were good for her, because she's going to have a very difficult time getting out of watching them the next time I go away.  Thanks, Allison!

We're going to get a treat for sitting still, right, Allison?  Because that's pretty  much how we roll.

*All of the pictures in this post are courtesy of Allison Branch.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Nuka vs. Olie's Ear

     Ah, summer holidays.  A time to leave work and the hustle and bustle of the city and take on a more leisurely pace, something a little more relaxed.  Sometimes this includes the dogs and sometimes it doesn't.  This year, it didn't.
     Between hurricane Irene and some car trouble, just going on holiday at all was a bit of a struggle, but we got it all worked out and in the end it came to be that a coworker of mine was going to both house and dog sit, the poor girl.
     No matter what, I have a lot of anxiety about this kind of thing.  Never mind the fact that Allison is a perfectly capable human and already knows my dogs, I still have anxiety.  Nuka gives me anxiety.  But in any case, Tuesday morning I rose bright and early.  Allison was working all day, so I was going to drop the dogs off with her at work.  That way, when she was done, she could just load them up and drive back here.  No problem, right?


     I got there before seven o'clock am to give her my house key, get the dogs settled for the day, then I could drive back home and Jeremy and I could load up his car and be on the road nice and early.  This would also ensure that the dogs wouldn't see us load up and leave town without them, an added bonus.  Let me set the scene for you.
     It's a nice, sunny day, birds are chirping, it's cool but you know that in a few hours it will be a beautiful August day.  I get to the kennel and let the dogs out of the car.  What is that I spy?  Ah, Olie and Nikki, a boarder collie and a husky are running around in a yard together.  Isn't that convenient!  These are another coworkers dogs and Olie is pretty well Nuka's only friend.  Wonderful, I think to myself.  I can leave Duke and Nuka out here with Olie and Nikki to play and go give Allison my key.
     The dogs run into the yard with their friends, there are greetings, and I go inside, leaving these four little soldiers unattended as I have everyday for the last three years or so.
     I talk briefly to Allison and my coworkers, but was conscious of time.  Lynn, the owner of Olie and Nikki, stopped me before I left, there was the usual chit chat, and then our conversation went something like this:

Lynn:  "Hey, Erin, Nikki has a weird little lump on her back, I was wondering if you could look at it before you leave."

Me: "Sure, I left my dogs out there with your dogs, let's go."

Lynn: "Cool."

(Lynn and Erin walk to dog yard.  Lynn has to work momentarily and Erin must leave for holidays.  Time is of the essence.)

     We open the gate and Nikki runs over ahead of the others.  I feel along her spine and Lynn directs me, there is a small little lump on her lower back.

Me: "Well, I'm not sure, but it feels like a cyst to me."

Lynn: "I'm worried about it because she's old."

Me: "It doesn't seem to be bothering her."

Lynn: "No, it isn't."

     At this point, the other three dogs run over to us and we can't help but notice that the right side of Olie's head is covered in blood.

Lynn: "Uh oh!"

Me, turning to Nuka:  "YOU %#$&(*> ")&^%$!!!!"

Lynn: "I think it's his ear."

Me: "%^&*(  &*$$@!"?>*())|"}$#%&*(?><"{*"%$!!!!"

Lynn: "We should take him up to the groom room, rinse it off and have a look at it."

Me:  "#:*%!"

(Erin and Lynn take Olie to the groom room.  There is smoke coming out of Erin's ears.  Olie is bloody, but appears unperturbed.  He jumps into the tub.)

Olie, the innocent victim.

Lynn: "Yep, it's his ear."

Erin: "Why is my dog such a %^("@?  What is wrong with her?"

(Michelle our manager appears and quickly stops the blooding with cotton pads.)

Michelle: "Yeah, stick some Polysporin on it.  It will scab up and he'll be fine."

Me: "I hate my dog!"

Lynn, sticking Polysporin on it.: "They were probably roughhousing and she caught him, no problem."

Me: "I'm so sorry!  I feel awful, I'm sorry my dog is awful and horrible and bites your dog's ear!  I'll pay for the vet bills!"

Lynn: "Meh, he'll be fine.  Don't worry about it."

Me: "But I am worried about it!  I am very, very worried about it!"

Lynn: "Don't be!  God, he's fine!  He doesn't even notice it.  It just bleeds a lot because it's his ear."

Me: (Insert pitiful whining sound)

     Eventually I am convinced to leave for my holidays after reassuring myself that Olie's ear will not fall off and he will not bleed to death.  I refuse to look at Nuka on the way out.
     When I get home, I tell Jeremy about the tragedy at the kennel and our conversation goes something like this:

Jeremy: "Did you see Nuka bite him?"

Me: "No, we were inside when it happened."

Jeremy: "Then how do you know it was Nuka?" (Pause) "Maybe it was Duke."

Me, trying unsuccessfully to picture my overweight basset hound flying through the air, jowls back, snarling, ripping Olie's ear.: "There is no way it was Duke.  It was Nuka."

Jeremy: "Nuka always gets blamed for everything."

Me: "That's because she always does everything!"

Jeremy: "Is Olie alright?"

Me: "Well yeah, but still."

Jeremy: "Don't worry about it then.  We're on vacation."

     I spend the next few days texting Lynn, assuring myself that Olie will not die from this vicious ear injury and am finally convinced he will make a full recovery.  I think of Nuka, oh, Nuka.  You have only one friend in the world and you bit his ear.  And your timing, well, it was probably premeditated.  I guess that's what I get for leaving this big girl behind.  Thanks for the send off, Nuka!

The perpetrator of the vicious ear assault.