Monday, May 20, 2013

A short story about untimely demises

I'd rather not get into the "dos and don'ts" of pet ownership, specifically of whether or not the house cat should in fact be kept in the house. Growing up, our cats (always spayed/neutered and vaccinated) were indoor/outdoor pets. We always had this feeling that it would be "mean" to keep them cooped up in the house. In the winter when the snow got too deep to maneuver, they'd be stuck indoors and would whine, cry, and spontaneously take out their anger on us and eachother. So come spring melt, out they went!

I personally do not own a cat, but when I do, it will likely be a strictly indoor cat. I know the damage that house cats can do to small mammal and song bird populations. I know how QUICKLY cats can reproduce and also spread disease. But for now, my parents cats roam free outdoors.

The way I'm setting this story up, I'm leading you to believe that the cats are the evil do-ers of this tale. This is not the case.

Ziggy and Addie "helping" clear brush from the yard...
Last week, after I finished my semester, I traveled back across the state to visit my parent's home. They've lived there since 1992, and it's where I spent the majority of my childhood. 10 acres of lawn and horse pasture, lots of room for dogs to run, and quietness. I had some chores to do around the house, that I've been meaning to do, but couldn't since I was in school.

I've been storing all of my camping gear in the garage, and since I'm staying in NY this summer, I wanted to take it back to my house with me to make sure all was in working order for a trip this summer! As I'm puttering around in the garage and walking to and from the car, the dogs were loose in the yard. I have an almost 8 month old golden retriever (Addie), and my parents have 2 dogs: 16 year old border collie Hannah, and 3 year old black lab Ziggy. Ziggy and Addie are the best of friends. Ziggy is (and probably forever will be) a puppy in his mind. Loyal and sweet, he just wants to please. Addie on the other hand, is going through "a stage". She is sweet, obedient (most of the time...), and mild-mannered. But when she gets something PARTICULARLY disgusting like horse crap, Goose crap, deer crap, any crap will do- she plays keep away from me. Bounding, frolicking, tossing the poop high in the air and catching it- she is anything but obedient. I try to remain calm while I firmly instruct "Drop it! Leave it!" and then try and lure her to me with sweetness and compliments "Pretty Addie...come here baby...want a cookie? Ride? Walk? ADDIE!!!!!!" ...meanwhile she's scarfing the poop down.

So while I was  in the driveway, I noticed Addie just off the side of the driveway in the brush snarfling around. Ziggy was in attendance too, but as soon as he saw me watching them, he was guilty and slunk over to me. Good boy. I slowly walked over, at a diagonal (never approach straight on, she knows), without making eye contact, to see what was going on. One of the cats had a mouse. And Addie, I don't think knew of the mouse's existence at that point, she was just trying to love on the cat. I scared the cat away, and scooped up the mouse.

Poor mouse. He was alive, and seemed well...except for being tossed like a hacky-sack by the cat. This was my favorite species of mouse too- a woodland jumping mouse (Napaeozapus insignis). Not many people have a favorite species of what some consider "vermin". But these guys are very cool. Their pelage is beautiful- a ruddy/reddish color, buff on the stomach. Long, long tails, and HUGE back feet similar to kangaroos!

Woodland jumping mouse rescued from one of our pet cats.

I only held him for a few moments to look at his external anatomy, and to allow him to catch his breath. The cat, p-o'ed by my nerve of interrupting his game, was gone. Ziggy was hiding in his dog house, but Addie...Addie was just waiting. It did not cross my mind that I would have to protect this poor mouse from my DOG...but within moments of setting him down in the bushed. Addie pounced. And peeked out of the bushes at me as she scarfed the mouse down. Alive.

What? What is this? My precious, pampered, princess dog...eating LIVE rodents? I was disgusted with her. I screamed at her immediately, and that just set her off running like a crazed animal through the understory, crashing around, fueled by mouse blood. Not a proud moment.

At least I got a few pictures of him, so that his untimely demise was not in vain. Right?
I returned to doing whatever I was doing in the garage. Ziggy was still hiding. And Addie, once I started ignoring her, was back between my feet. I couldn't be mad at her, she didn't know any better- but my God, gross!

Hannah, by the way, this whole time was lazing in the grass like a good geriatric dog. Staying out of trouble and out of the way. GOOD dog!

A short while later, I hear another commotion in the bushes again. This time, Addie wise to my game, beat me to the cat. THIS time the cat (a different one from before) had a young Eastern cottontail rabbit! Probably just born within the week. And it was alive. And Addie pounced...and what I will forever remember of this moment, was watching big rabbit feet disappear down her throat. No chewing. No shredding. No messing around. The Small Mammal Glutton struck again! I didn't get pictures this time, it all happened so fast.

The cat came up empty-pawed, and Addie? Well, she did not get her dinner that night. But nor did she go to bed hungry!


  1. I have to laugh at all the antics, and you actually holding the live mouse for a photo shoot!!! They are one small animal that I really do not like, after seeing them in the big bins of chook food when I was so young.Congrats for,what is to me, such bravery!!! Greetings from Jean

  2. Saw your comment on KB's blog. CONGRATULATIONS!!!


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