My Little Pandemic Pet Boom

When my husband and I were young and in love (you remember those days don’t you, the days when Mr. Right was never wrong, and even his end-of-the-day smell was intoxicating?), we lived in a house in the middle of a horse pasture that had all the charm of a ’70s trailer house, including the mice. Not a lot of mice, I suppose, just enough to help me to decide I never wanted to live in another house in the middle of a field, or in the middle of nowhere. 

One little mouse would dash across the living room and into the nursery, hop into the crib, do a once-around and dash back out. I know the path because being the kind of people who didn’t want our baby to lose a finger in a mouse trap, we chased the mouse, on its circuitous route, with a broom, or towel, or whatever we had handy at the time of its wanderings. We wrapped the crib in netting, kept watch and after a few days, the mouse, tired of the game, moved to a house of its own that was not infested by two-footed pests. 

That made room for a mouse to move into the kitchen towel drawer. I didn’t know this until I whipped open the drawer, a mouse ran up my arm, and was subsequently flung across the room, landing on the floor, while I screamed what has now been lovingly dubbed my mouse scream. Apparently, this scream is unmistakable, and it has always elicited the same reaction. Mr. Right, on the night of that first scream, dashed into the room, surveyed the situation and, understanding the gravity of the fight, rushed not to my side, but to the mouse, administering soothing sounds and caresses until it regained its equilibrium and could be carried outside to tell it’s tale of a close call to the assembled mouse masses.

Yes, my friend, Mr. Right decided that night to protect the weak, to minister to the shaking, and to laugh whenever I scream because of a mouse. I think that may have been when I decided Mr. Right had a few flaws, not enough to send him scurrying, mind you, but enough that when we were offered the opportunity to live in Alaska, a place mistakenly said to be mouse-free, I packed our bags faster than you can sing “Three Blind Mice.” 

We never had a house-mouse in Alaska, but we had pets. Cats, dogs, Guinea pigs, frogs and fishermen (fishermen have the same knack as a pet for showing up at dinnertime and enjoying a good nap). Our house was full of hair, sounds and smells, but never a mouse. Then we moved to Montana, life changed, and pets were a treasured memory, our nest was comfortably empty, our suitcases always ready for adventure. Until Covid. 

Realizing that life was short and precious, and the house a little too quiet, I got a kitten with the admonition that her job was to capture mice at the cabin and never to be an actual pet. She spent the first 10 days of her life here sleeping on my husband’s shoulder as he was in quarantine, and after a start like that there’s no going back. We taught her to sit, to shake, to high-five and to beg for bacon in the morning, which is when I realized we really needed a dog.

So, I — and I am admitting this only to you — gifted him with a pup (I’m still trying to convince him she was his idea, so if you see him, remind him it was his idea, please). If he had brought the dog into the house, the ensuing chaos could be his fault and I could pet the kitty while he deals with the dog.

The dog, not a simple, quiet purse pet like the ones smart people got during Covid, is a rambunctious chocolate Lab, who sleeps in my office until she hears me silently run the mouse over “End Zoom Meeting,” and then erupts in wiggles and happy whines, sure that it is time for another walk. She was walked at 6. a.m., mind you, after a 30-minute living room floor cuddle with her master, and given a bone, right on schedule, at 9 a.m. after which she played fetch, when the bone was old news, at 9:45.

On day two we realized we had problem. She was on her bed, where she had dragged it, under the Christmas tree, and she had all her toys displayed in front of her. If we moved a toy, she moved it back. If we moved them all, she would find them all, seeming to count exactly how many there were. We, the empty nesters with suitcases always by the door, now have a drill sergeant to answer to, one who does not take kindly to being ignored or excuse tardiness for any earthly reason.

Soon after her arrival, like minutes, she was given the name Katmai (cat my) which is a river in Alaska. My son-in-law, who is ever clever, suggested it went well with the cat’s name, which is Caddis (a world-class fishing-fly, guaranteed to catch things — dare I hope, mice?). In fact, it did not. Now, when someone needs to be called, it is a litany of k sounds and finally a rattling of the treat bag, of which I am the most susceptible k around. To add to the chaos, the cat is not a girl but a boy, so goes by she, he, it, or you, interchangeably, with either Paul and I correcting the other about the cat’s identity.  

Our house is not quiet. Now, it is full of tear-inducing laughter as the antics of a gender-confused cat and an OCD puppy play out across our days. And, it is full of half-eaten toys and more hair than a barbershop, and we are scheduling play dates, not for a child, but for a pet and her friends, because, like us, it seems everyone went a little pet crazy last year.

So, if you see me out and about, and my hair is a mess, my pants stained with mud and my basket full of squeaky rubber pigs, know I am out of my mind, but not out of hope that Mr. Right will remember this was all his idea and send me to a spa to regain my calm.   


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