If this world beater of a pandemic has taught us anything it is that all creatures great and small must be better protected and more respected. From the pets that comforted us during the lockdown to the wild animals caged in the wet markets of Asia and Africa, we need a new and fairer deal for the critters of this world.
From the massive African Bush Elephant to the most elegant South African giraffe, from Jonathan the 187-year-old tortoise on St. Helena island to Mikko, the grouper in Finland who keeps eating all of his friends in the tank, from Barsik, the 41-pound house cat in Manhattan to a devious little mouse in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, all creatures on earth deserve our post COVID-19 attention.
In the long history of man’s exploitation and cruelty to every species below him on the mammalian totem pole, once in a while the wild one wins. When I see a clip of a bull jumping the boards of a bullring in Madrid and landing in the laps of the spectators in the front row, I’m up and cheering… but not for the startled fans.
When the guy in Brampton tries to steal a puppy at gunpoint and subsequently shoots himself in the foot, I feel very sorry… for the puppy, frightened by the shot.
Such “accidental revenge” is rare which is why the story of Blazer, that tiny New Mexican mouse has always fascinated me. Let me explain by saying — once upon a time that mouse was happily settled in a hole in a house. But the owner of that two-storey clapboard did not want the mouse in his house.
The man was annoyed that the mouse was unemployed and living off his table scraps. Okay, so the mouse was not productive but he was also not destructive. However that didn’t stop the man from buying a set of traps.
The mouse avoided the man as best he could, keeping to his floor-board nest. But to the owner of the house, the mouse was just a pest. At best, just another mouse to feed.
He had no wife, no friends, no kids, but neither did the man. To co-exist in warmth and peace, that was the mouse’s plan. But the man said no, the mouse had to go, he was after all a good housekeeper. He was not, as others might make him out to be, some sort of silly mousekeeper.
So the man set a trap in the house for the mouse and went outside, where he rolled up his sleeves to rake and burn the leaves. When the mouse saw the little platter of cheese he took it to be a peace offering, a sign that their co-existence might suddenly be prospering.
As the fire got higher, the man’s throat got drier and he went inside for a drink. And lo and behold the mouse in the house was now just a poor sap in a trap.
“Geez, Louise,” cried the frightened little critter. “I’m gonna die just because I like cheese! It tasted like camembert but it must have been brie. Besides, I was sure it was gluten-free.”
The man picked up the trap of wood and wire and headed for his blazing fire. In straits described as very dire, the mouse began to cough and tire, as he approached his funeral pyre.
Though the mouse would squirm and squeak like a rudderless rodent up Shitt’s Creek, the man felt he had rendered justice on that furry little freak… so to speak.
The fire was high and the flames were hot, as the mouse cried out for “Help!” But it was all for naught. The man opened the trap and threw the mouse on the fire. But as he flew through the air, the mouse had a thought … Hey! This just might backfire.
We interrupt this silly nursery rhyme with a news report that I swear, I am not making up. On Jan. 7, 2006, Luciano Mares was burning leaves outside his house in southeastern New Mexico where unseasonably dry and windy conditions had already destroyed more than 21,000 hectares of woodland and levelled ten homes. Into this fire Mares dumped a live mouse that he had trapped earlier inside his house. The mouse’s fur caught fire and he ran back under Mr. Mares house, setting it on fire. Mr. Mares was interviewed for this news report by the Associated Press from his nearby motel room, his house having been burned to the ground.
Said Fort Sumner fire department Capt. Jim Lyssy: “I’ve seen numerous house fires but nothing as unique as this one.”
Yeah, so this cute little mouse, a real charmer, set fire to the house with a three-alarmer. Although the fate of the mouse was bleak and quite hopeless, the state of the man was now definitely homeless. And contrary to what we’ve all been told, revenge, even accidental, is not always best served cold.
My point — and yes, I do have one — just because as human beings we can cage, breed, exploit, torture and kill the creatures of this planet, it does not mean we should.
Any of the ten books written by William Thomas are available at www.williamthomas.ca