by Jen on May 8, 2009

in Fact of the Day,What would Scooby Do?

You live in the center of the woods (fifteen acres of which are ours alone) and you get your fair share of wildlife intruding on daily life. Yes, it’s a regular wildlife a-go-go around here.

A couple of dozen turkeys regularly roost in two or three places on our property very near the house, scratching and gobbling when I turn on my car in the early morning. A possum spent part of a summer eating the cat food from the bowl on our porch, until I caught him and put a stop to it (more out of concern for the welfare of our cats than any maliciousness toward him). The deer that pass through have long since learned that, although our dog is large, territorial, and not shy about harassing them, she’s very effectively contained within a large fence (hidden within the trees and bushes though it may be) and they will walk right along the fence line flaunting their trespass. Every summer, Toad (yes, I like to pretend it’s the same one every year) moves into the area around the terracotta pots I plant flowers in on my porch. Groundhogs have set up shop in one of the drainage ditches along our unpaved, hilly, half-mile driveway (but haven’t made enough of a nuisance of themselves to have their death warrant signed. Yet.). I’ve often stopped on this same driveway in the pouring rain to rescue box turtles sitting in the middle of our tire tracks. Once I even dragged an injured snapping turtle to safety by his tail while he hissed at me for my efforts. Among all the various wild birds and songbirds, we have a couple — and by couple I mean a mated pair — of cardinals that daily visit the feeders by my bedroom door. There’s also a Pileated Woodpecker — you know, a large one of the Woody Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha variety — that calls our woods home. And the bugs? Due to my phobia of spiders, I won’t go into details on the bugs. Suffice it to say, yikes! (And yuck!)

But spring and fall are for the mice.

During these seasons, late in the night (or early in the morning, depending on whether you’re a the-glass-is-half-full or a the-glass-is-half-empty kind of person), it’s common to hear the delicate thunder of four sets of cat paws (that’s sixteen paws, for those of you keeping track on your scorecards at home), chasing an unfortunate mouse back and forth across our hardwood floors. If it keeps up for very long — very long in this case being defined as more than about 90 seconds — the Hubster and I will get up (hell, we’re already both awake at this point anyway) and I’ll aid him in rousting the cats to behind a closed door and then catching the mouse in a large Glad-ware container we like to call “the Mousecatcher.” The unfortunate mouse will then be set free in the woods. (The Hubster is convinced that every mouse thus saved turns tail and returns immediately to our home.) The cats also, during the Mousecapades, often leave gifts for us, usually somewhere we can step on it in our bare feet in the dark pre-dawn hours of a bathroom visit. Those are the truly unfortunate mice.

Recently, our dog has been spending all her time in the house, instead of patrolling our yard or watching the world from our back deck as she previously chose to do. She’s 12, which in Giant Schnauzer years is like 90-something, and she’s developed some fairly debilitating health problems. Although she’s always been alpha of our animal pack (even over our males; she’s tough), she’s the only dog left so her duties are reduced. In the past she’s been death incarnate for any wild creature that strayed within the bounds of our fence: rabbits, groundhogs, tiny moles. I once saw her snatch a bird from the air with her jaws when it flew too close to the ground. Now, however, she is death to no one. Well, there was this one incident recently where she yanked one of our cats back through a cat door like a scene from Jaws, but it didn’t result in death, merely a really pissed off cat. In fact, the cats have come to despise her so much they spend all their time outside or lounging in the warm laundry room which is off limits to the dog.

Which brings me to my current point.

During spring cleaning, I excavated closets, moving the boys’ stuff around, putting away out-sizes and bringing in the new. Closet cleaning always results in a few surprises, especially in the rediscovery of forgotten items. This spring, however, I got the biggest surprise to date. Our shoes and boots, the ones we use rarely or only seasonally, were filled with dog food, undoubtedly the pilfered stash of some of our unseen rodent housemates.

It might be time to move the cats back in.

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