“Can you come down and deal with this, please?” the Jungle Gypsy called from downstairs. She sounded in a panic so I rushed, practically teleported, to her locale in the kitchen.
“What’s up?” I huffed, my breath catching up with me from behind.
She looked at me a little off-key before a screeching brought her back to the moment.
“What’s that screeching?” I asked, my eyes scanning the layout for the source. “Is that a squirrel?”
“There’s a mouse caught in the glue trap behind the washing machine,” JG directed my sight. “I’m late for work and I hate to have to leave you to deal with this on your own but it’s suffering.” She buried her head into my chest as the screeching continued, my eyes locking onto the source glued to a glue trap behind the washing machine.
Next to it, lying motionless, was a gecko that had free-fallen from the ceiling, landing right into the glue. Beside them was another trap with two geckos that appeared to have followed the same fate as their other buddy.
Glue traps are a horrible invention. Yet another cruel device to remove a being from the living and relocate it to the welcoming arms of death in an agonising and painful way. Like being sawed in half – slowly.
When I was a kid, I admit, I was guilty of violent acts against the smallest of nature’s visible-to-the-human-eye creatures. I’ve killed ants, spiders, pulled tails off skinks, flies, pulled apart millipedes and the never-ending onslaught of our own population controller, mozzies.
But that was before I realised that it was the wrong way to be and I stopped killing everything. Well, mozzies and flies have yet to reach an agreement with me and negotiations are still being held with ticks. The outcome being that it seems that peace in the Middle East might be achieved before peace between mosquitoes and humans ever will.
I hate killing anything. And what initially stopped me and put me on the co-existing track was the simple fact of, ‘What right do I have to take the life of another being?’ And, yes, mosquitoes are another being, but I feel like they can be made the exception. I mean, if you’re up against something that can and will inject you with the equivalent of a ruthless street gangbanger in the form of malaria, West Nile River and Zika parasites, it’s a do or die moment. Although , I’d like to think, they don’t do it intentionally (or perhaps aren’t even aware that they have picked up a hitch hiker and then injected it into your bloodstream), the price they pay to try and control the human population is a hefty one.
I had no idea that glue traps had been set by JG’s housemate who had already left that morning. I remember as a kid, my mother would set identical traps and dispose of the mice by drowning and throwing them into the neighbourhood council bin.
Jungle Gypsy hugged me, apologising profusely for putting me in this position.
“Don’t worry,” I gritted my teeth. “I’ll take care of it.”
Just wasn’t sure how.
I had a Vipassana course coming up. The last thing I needed to add to my anger issues and other fun topics was the murder of another being (be it for mercy – it’s still taking a life) and staining my karma.
The mouse was screeching in a panic as I lifted the trap. We had just watched the animated film, Epic (about fairies and pixies. Recommended) and in it, it shows the fairies point of view of humans and how their movements seem slow and lethargic because of size. With that in my head, I moved my hand slowly, hoping to emulate the mouse’s perception of time (although, I doubt that, at that sticky point in its life, it was thinking of time).
I had to put it out of its misery somehow. I figured I could remove it from the glue with a stick. We slowly stepped outside where I picked up a stick and proceeded to try and unstick the mouse. It screeched louder so I stopped.
And sat with it on the step.
It seemed to be calming down a bit. Watching it getting stucker with every movement, like watching someone drown in see-through quicksand, I noticed that, through its struggle, it had torn off its left cheek-fur from under the eye to the jaw. There was no blood but the skin would be raw. And the torn part was still stuck to the glue.
I can’t leave it out for another animal to eat it. It would get stuck to the glue. And if it didn’t, and managed to nibble away at the unstuck bits, it might eat a bit of the glue and die of poisoning. What if that animal had young that depended on it? I’d be responsible for wiping out an entire gene pool.
Seeing no other choice, I took a cardboard box, laid it with plastic and filled it with warm water. If I was going to drown it, at least it should go bathed in warmth. I held the trap above the water, begging forgiveness from the little guy.
“I’m so sorry,” a sadness and the sense that I was doing something wrong began to blanket me. Turning to The Universe I asked, “What else can I do?” There was no internet at home so my research resource was limited. As I began to lower the trap towards the water, The Universe appeared by my side in the form of my subconscious.
“Hold on there, Nelly,” it said. “You’re not even gonna try?”
“Name’s not Nelly,” I began as it ignored me.
“What kind of a human are you? You’re supposed to be compassionate and loving. We can’t kill this creature. What right do you have?”
“But what else am I going to do?” I argued. “Of course, I don’t want to kill this animal but it’s in misery, because of cruel human engineering. Look at it.”
It didn’t and continued to berate me with, “So because it’s a mouse it doesn’t deserve a chance?” It paused for effect. “If it were a puppy would you be so quick to conclude that a mercy killing was the only option? If it were a human baby, you would do everything in your power to save it. Everything but kill it.”
Hmm, guy makes a valid point. Why was my go-to option instantly death by murder? My only go-to option should have been (and this is now set to Default in Settings) Save rather than Delete.
“If hardened human engineering created this,” Subconscious nailed it home, “then perhaps soft human engineering can resolve it.”
“But there’s no internet,” I explained.
“You have another resource,” Subi said matter-of-factly. It waited.
As did I. A moment after it became awkward I asked, “Are you waiting for a reply or was that rhetorical?”
It sighed. “Your brain, mate. Your other resource is your brain.” It shook its head in almost disgust. “Look, lemme introduce you to a couple of very good friends. This is Logic and that’s Common Sense. They’re gonna assist you.” Subi’s shoulders slumped, a sort of all-hope-is-lost halo about it.
Well, there was no arguing the point. The water in the box was still warm and my brain came up with a few search results. I clicked on the first one (under the ads).
‘Try to mix it with soap, get it off the trap for a start.’
Mixing in dishwasher liquid, I dipped the mouse in making sure its head was kept above the water. With a stick, I managed to gently remove it from the glue.
I carefully handled the mouse hoping it wouldn’t bite me, talking to it soothingly, asking it to co-operate with me. It appeared at first that the glue was removed but, after drying the creature in a kitchen towel, it became sticky again. Its tiny claws stuck together. And its whiskers, vital for its survival, where glued together to its neck.
There was no way this rodent would survive if I released it like this (from the Latin: Rodere, meaning ‘to gnaw’. They are mammals of the Rodentia order. What makes a Rodentia? I hear you sing. A single pair of continuously growing incisors in each of the upper and lower jaws. In fact, according to research on Wikipedia, about 40% of all mammal species are rodents. They are the most diversified mammalian order and live in a variety of terrestrial habitats, including human-made environments). And if something came along to eat it – raptor or reptile – they’d die from glue poisoning.
“Well now what?” I asked aloud.
“Think, man,” Subi egged me on. “How do you get glue off your fingers?”
“Hmm,” I hmmed. “Usually I let it dry and then peel it off. But I don’t have hairy finger tips.” I examined my fingers to double check. All the while I kept an eye on the three dogs that came with the house and realised that I could call the local vet for assistance.
“You’ll have to cut the fur off where the glue is,” she recommended over the phone.
“What about its feet?”
“I don’t know. I can’t help you there.” There was a pause. “You might just have to take it out of its misery.”
Seems to be the go-to solution around here. Again, were it a larger mammal, a puppy, a human, that solution wouldn’t never cross anyone’s mind. Sighing, I grabbed some scissors but as I held the mouse and tried to get an angle to cut the fur and not the flesh, I concluded that it would be a sticky risk.
“This is no time for a drink,” Subi spat. “Besides, you quit.”
“Not for drinking,” I said, raiding the house bar. “To see if it’ll get the glue off. Like how acetone removes nail polish.”
The house was out of vodka but there was plenty of gin. Pouring a capful into a small bowl I then dipped a cotton bud and dabbed at the mouse’s fur.
The fur came off.
And then a thought struck me like the discovery of black gold.
If there was something we had, it was a ton of oil. Olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil and vegetable oil. Why not oil?
Why not, indeed.
I decided to use vegetable oil purely for its affordability and poured some into another small bowl. Carefully, I bathed the mouse in the lubricant and to my astonishment, the glue came sliding off the fur.
I watched as its whiskers, crucial to sense changes in temperature and to help feel the surface they’re walking on (mice don’t venture far from their burrows to find food. About eight metres is their boundary line. Their complex burrows usually built close to the food source) came unstuck. It’s toes and claws followed suit. Its mouth resumed moving freely and the only physical injury it appeared to have was where it had torn its cheek-fur under the left eye.
I wiped down the mouse but the oil wasn’t coming off. I figured it’ll dry off and decided to make a little hospital box for it. I placed the lid of a large plastic bottle with water and left a banana so it could eat (mice eat 15-20 times a day), recuperate and, eventually, be released in a new location in a field somewhere within a few days.
As the days passed I checked on the mouse every morning before heading off to surf and when I came back. I didn’t want to interact with it too much for fear it would grow attached. My 10-day Vipassana course was nearing and I figured that the morning I’d leave for the course would be the morning I’d release the mouse, allowing good karma to carry me through the meditations.
But it’s fur was still in oily clumps, exposing parts of its thin skin. I figured it might be a health hazard if the mouse’s fur couldn’t protect it from pointy things or the cold. I mean, sure, their life expectancy in the wild is six months but you wanna make those six months count, no (in captivity, they can live for two years, depending what experiments they’re subjected to)?
Two eves before the proclaimed check-out date, I headed out to a friend’s art exhibition. I relayed the rescue effort and consulted with him my dilemma of ridding the oil.
“Try warm water and soap,” he suggested. “The best would be dishwasher liquid as it’s a degreaser.”
The next day I followed up on his suggestion. After the mouse dried it was back to its furry ball. It had eaten most of the banana and a carrot I had added to spice up its menu.
It was climbing fearlessly on my hand and then up my arm when I cleaned out it’s box. Just chillin’ on my shoulder. I was tempted to keep it but what if it had family? What if it was a mother or part of a bigger colony that was now worried sick?
What if, in fact, it was a baby rat that was still growing?
The morning before I headed out to Vipassana I came up to check on the little fella and to let it know it was being discharged from the temporary hospital. But the box was empty.
“Never even got to say ‘goodbye’,” I complained sadly to Subi.
“Dude, you just rescued and recuperated a mouse after your go-to solution was to kill it,” it consoled me. “I’m sure it knew it was time. It probably just didn’t want to be relocated. Wants to stick around in the hood, make sure you’re doing alright.”
“I’ll take that,” I grinned. “Hope you made it out there, little buddy,” I called out.
I mean a raptor or reptile could have taken it the minute it high-tailed it (or long-tailed it. Mice tails grow as long as their bodies) out of the hospital box. But even if they did, I was at peace knowing that they wouldn’t be poisoned by any glue.
Such is the circle of life.
It used to be that we would co-live with our fellow natural species. If they got into the food, we’d just have to make better containers. The easy way out is to trap and kill but what right do we have? Even if it is ‘just a mouse’ it’s still a living being. We’ve become so disconnected with nature that we’ve created weapons of mass destruction against them and scaring ourselves from things like cockroaches and mice.
Such is inhumane nature.
It seems the only solution we have is to kill – and with cruel devices like a glue trap – rather than use patience and compassion to find a way to co-exist. I learned a valuable lesson through that mouse: Don’t ever give up on something no matter how small or big or impossible it may seem.
If you just take a moment to think a bit, use Logic and Common Sense (which, when put together, make for a better combination than a burger with fries and a beer) things tend to work out and another life gets to live.
Such is human nature.