Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Anything With Fur

PETA would have a field day with me. I love animals…all animals. (I don’t include reptiles or amphibians in this category…they are…well…reptiles… I did have a frog once and a turtle (and my brother had a horned toad - or horned frog if you're a TCU fan). And I actually don’t mind handling snakes – as long as I’ve been assured they are non-venomous. But I would not consider either species for a pet. My definition of pet is something that you can hold in your lap and PET…have you tried to pet a snake? In your lap?? Right, my point exactly.)

I have every confidence that I will someday end up in the newspaper:

"Eighty-six year-old woman found dead in apartment with seventy-four cats, three dogs and a goat."

(The cats are a probability, the dogs a possibility...the goat just sounded good for the story.)

I have had pets my whole life. I wouldn’t know what to do without a little furry presence around the house. I think I would be considered a “cat person,” because I’ve mostly had cats. But I love dogs, too. We had two when I was growing up, a black Cocker Spaniel that I don’t remember, and a Pekingese named Minka when I was in high school. But mostly cats.

Although I am fairly non-discriminatory…I like anything with fur – even rodents. I love hamsters, they’re so cute and fuzzy little guinea pigs (every time I see one I expect it to talk like Rodney from Dr. Doolittle) and even rats. I think rats get a bad rap…they make excellent pets.

I gravitate to animals. If I walk into someone’s house and there’s a dog or a cat, the people can fend for themselves…I engage in conversation with the furry critter. People think I’m anti-social…but I’m not, I’m just more social with animals. So…I guess that would make me anima-social”….hmmm….

We went through a period a few years ago when Cleo (my current furry roommate) was a great huntress. And she wouldn’t just bring me a dead mouse as a present, she’d invite them into the house to play. My rule is, if it’s survivable it gets caught and returned to the wild. If it’s beyond help, the cat can have its way with the poor thing. (I used to scold my cats…but I understand this creates severe psychological problems for Kitty – hunting is instinctive behavior and should therefore be praised, not condemned. I worked on that for a long time, and while I just couldn’t bring myself to praise my cats for slaughtering helpless creatures (and they didn't eat them, they just slaughtered them), I don’t discipline. I just try to remain neutral.)

One day a very small, gray mouse was invited over for a visit. I discovered this addition to the household when it skittered across the living room and ran up the drapes behind the couch. While I’m not afraid of mice, per se, it is somewhat startling when one runs across your toes. So I did let out a yelp. When I’d calmed down I found myself staring up at the valance, where the little guy was staring down at me, breathing heavily (and little heart pounding...assumably). Teeny and furry and gray...twitchy pink little nose...twitchy pink little ears...

What to do? What to do?

Well, it looked like it was in excellent health, so the “catch and release” rule was obviously in effect. I got a large Tupperware container, the step stool and proceeded to stalk the mouse. I carefully moved the lamp table away from the drapes, slowly stepped up on the stool…and the mouse immediately ran down to the other end of the valance. I was concerned that this would probably happen again…and again and again…and we’d get nowhere. So I started talking to the mouse. In a very quiet, calm tone of voice I just kept reassuring the mouse it had nothing to worry about, I wasn’t going to hurt it and I definitely was not going to give it back to the cat.

I went to the other end of the couch, carefully moved the other lamp table away, slid the step stool up to the drapes…all the while carrying on this quiet, gentle one-sided conversation with the mouse. I stepped onto the stool and very slowly lifted the container up to the mouse. It just sat there for a moment and then, incredibly, it hopped into the container. I kept talking (and kept the container away from my body so it didn't freak out) and just as slowly stepped down. I walked to the kitchen door and as soon as I’d reached the threshold, the mouse leaped out of the Tupperware into the garage and disappeared.

That guy…what’s his name? Monty Roberts? The one they call the Horse Whisperer and based the Redford movie on? Well, eat your heart out, Monty. I’m a MOUSE WHISPERER!

For now,

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