The boys were playing nicely in the basement with a couple of their friends, battling each other on the Skylanders Wii game. I was enjoying a few chaos-free moments alone. Suddenly, I heard Luke’s footsteps running up the stairs. You can always tell Luke’s steps because the kid hasn’t walked a day in his life. His first steps were at a run. I do not joke. I knew my peace and quiet were short-lived.
“Mom…you gotta come quick,” he panted, out of breath from his breakneck speed of life.
“Why?” I responded. I wasn’t ready to give up my stillness for just any old reason.
“There’s a mouse,” Luke replied.
That got my attention. In the ten years we’ve lived here, we’ve had no evidence of mice or voles in our actual domicile. I know many people in our neighborhood who’ve had rodent issues, but we haven’t. (Yes. I am knocking on wood right now.) I assume we’ve had no indoor rodent encounters because our dogs, left outside most of the time during the warm months, scare them off or…in the case of our last dog, Buddy…catch and eat them.
“A live mouse?”
“Yes. In the basement.”
“In the storage room?” I wondered out loud.
“No. Come quick. I’ll show you.”
Before I go any further, I must tell you that I am fairly rodent friendly. I’m not afraid of them. I’ve set a few traps in the garage when in winter I’ve noticed they’ve moved in, but for the most part the furry little critters and I exist somewhat well on a strict “if-I-don’t-see-you-then-you’re-not-a-problem” policy.
I got downstairs and could tell all four boys were staring out the window into the window well where, indeed, a fat, brown vole was hunkered down near the base of the corrugated metal that surrounds the area. I breathed a sigh of relief that I would not be setting traps indoors. A vole, for those of you who have not encountered one, is a field mouse with a short, stubby tail, partially hidden ears, and a stout body. Several times a year, a hapless, sight-impaired vole falls into one of our window wells. Most survive the fall. Some do not. Either way, it’s my job as Chief Rodent Officer to remove them.
I kicked off my flip-flops, put on closed-toe shoes, and grabbed my work gloves. I lifted the window well grate and climbed down the ladder five feet into the well. The little vole was trying desperately to appear invisible. Alas. He was not. I caught him on my first try but when I opened the gloves a fraction to show the boys that I had him, he slipped the noose and jumped behind me. I swung around and chased him back to where he was originally and recaptured him. I grasped him tightly in my hands so he would not escape this time and held him up to show hubby. Examining him carefully, I realized with amusement that he had his mouth wrapped around the thumb of my glove, presumably hoping to inflict pain on his captor. Silly mouse. Still, I felt for the little bugger so I made sure the dog was out of range and then I released him onto the river rock in our backyard. He promptly scampered under a nearby bush.
The voles, the dog, and I have a weird relationship that reminds me of the criminal justice system. Ruby, our border collie, is the law. Like border patrol, she chases the voles who are illegals in her jurisdiction. The voles, running from the law, careen in the direction of the house and fall into the window well. After time served in solitary, the parole board (aka me) releases them on their promise that they are rehabilitated and will not return. I like to imagine they run off with plans to at last escape the system and live on in peace. Yet, this cycle persists. Perhaps the voles, like many criminals, have become enmeshed in the system and feel comfortable there, which is why rather than leaving when they are freed they rush right back into familiar territory? Perhaps this explains their recidivism rate? Maybe there’s some sort of vole gang dynamics whereby they taunt each other into drawing the dog out in some sort of hazing ritual? I’m not sure. The only thing I know is that as long as a live vole is in my window well, I will forgive him his crime and set him free. I believe in second chances, even if Ruby does not.