Since the weather turned cold, the field mice have begun the invasion of the warmer, hidden regions of our house. As soon as their presence is noticed, the good, old-fashioned mouse trap comes out, baited with peanut butter to catch its first customer. I really don't like mice in my house. They stink. They make stashes of Ramen noodles here and there. They leave their little poop droppings everywhere.
We've caught several mice so far this season. They go for the peanut butter and generally are pop-eyed and stiff when I find them. But today was different. Amazingly enough, on my way down to the basement to check the trap, a thought wandered into my brain that had never found its way there before, just like the mice that wander into my home. "What would I ever do if I found the mouse alive and not dead?" You must know what comes next.
There it was--caught by a hind foot and very much alive. It's one thing to dislike a critter that you only see dead. Dead is not cute. Dead is not pathetic. Dead is not breathing. Being alive is everything. My heart suffered pangs of sympathy--oh! the poor thing. While it's alive, I can see what a wondrous creature it is--so small and perfect and right in front of my eyes. Never mind that I would have preferred finding it dead.
There was no way I could kill the thing to relieve its misery. I put on some gloves and lifted it, trap and all. It tried to bite me, to get free. It was terrified. I took it outside and released it. It lay in the damp, moldy leaves panting, but not moving. I hoped that a bird would find it soon and take it away. I went out again a few minutes later. It was still there. I ran an errand. By then it was gone. Whether it was paralyzed by fear and unable to move, and then recovered, I'll never know. Whether it became prey will also never be revealed.
I don't like killing things, and I remind myself that mice reproduce exponentially because they are meant to be food for other creatures. It doesn't matter. I want them to stay outside, but if they must come in, I want them dead, not alive, when I find them.