Chippewa Herald * October 10, 2007   Visitor
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Some pets are born to cause dilemmas

by Tom Arneberg, Community Columnist

"WHOA! Baby pigs are falling from the sky!"

That's not the usual battle cry you hear around our house -- or any house, for that matter. But those were the exact words we heard from the mouth of David, our 11-year-old, on August 15.

It was too late for April Fools, and the intensity in his voice and the commotion of the other kids convinced us that he was not kidding anyway. So we went out to the deck to investigate.

We were, indeed, staring at a squirming pile of small pig-like baby mammals beneath the big umbrella. But as soon as the animals' mother joined the group, we realized they were field mice, not pigs. (I do remember that the baby gerbils from my childhood reminded me of little pigs.)

Well, now, here's a dilemma. What do you do with pests that you would normally trap and "eliminate," when they look so cuddly and helpless?

That's a dumb question for those of you who have daughters. Of course, you immediately fix up a nice cage to comfort them!

Alison soon had their new home ready. Fortunately, she still had her cage left over from her pet hamsters a couple of years ago. Within minutes, Mommy Mouse and her five babies were nestled all snug in their lint beds, with water, food, and nesting materials close at hand.

Alison's love for her new pets was untarnished by the gaping hole now chewed into our deck umbrella. (We use it only for shade, not to stay dry, so who cares about a hole?)

We had two nephews and a niece (of the human species) staying with us that week while their parents were house-hunting in China (more about that next year when we visit them), so our normally hectic household of five children was even more lively with eight.

Kids took turns staring into the cage, watching the mother prepare a nest and care for her young. It's easier to see with the cage lid open.

And that's exactly how we found the lid the next morning -- open.

Alison flipped out. "WHO TOOK THE MICE?!" Every one of them was missing.

The babies couldn't even open their eyes yet, let alone walk or climb, so there's no way they escaped on their own. But Alison could not coerce a confession out of either her siblings or her cousins.

After all the interrogations, we could come up with only one conclusion -- the lid *was* left open, but the mother mouse took it from there with no help from human hands. She must have taken each baby, one at a time, in her teeth, crawled up the wire mesh side of the cage, over the top, and down the 2x4 wall to some new nesting place in the garage.

The kids and I sat in wonderment at the amazing feat of this dedicated mother.

My wife sat in disgust, knowing that there were now six new mice infesting our garage.

Now we had a new dilemma -- how can you set traps and murder the pets you named and cared for only a day earlier?

Fortunately, I love gadgets and can't pass up buying a new invention, if the price is right. Some people have literally "built a better mousetrap," so I already happened to have several varieties hand. One of them actually catches the critters alive!

It's a rather simple concept -- this new trap is a long, skinny one-ended box that sits on a fulcrum like a teeter-totter. The mouse enters the open side, but when he walks to the back of the box to get the peanut butter, the box tips over the fulcrum and a little door shuts and latches. It's very simple, and it actually works!

Believe it or not, over the course of the last five weeks, we have caught all of the baby mice (that are now mostly grown up).

So our mouse house is once again thriving with activity (with a lid that is firmly latched), and our garage is pest-free.

This brings us to yet ANOTHER dilemma -- what do we do with our newly recovered pets with cold October nights coming?

Given their escape artist talents, I don't think that cage will be going anywhere near the inside of our house.

On the other hand, they will probably freeze to death if left in their garage cage. And we certainly can't just kill them in cold blood, now that they have names.

Anyone want some warm, fuzzy pets for the winter?

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