Saturday, April 21, 2012

Taliban Mouse

Peanut walked into the kitchen with her hands cupped. "Hey Mama, look! A dead mouse!" She had found him curled up under a bookshelf, the latest victim of a concerted eradication campaign.

As I disposed of the distressingly cute, furry carcass and scrubbed Peanut's hands with thirty gallons of soap and hot water, I was reminded of another wee rodent I used to know...

There was a mouse plague on our base in Afghanistan. They scuttled under the shipping containers where we lived and worked. They nibbled the best bits of our food packages from home, they ran across our bunks while we slept, and they carried rabies. Scary, foaming rabies.

The boys had one particular little mate that lived in the server room and, despite orders to the contrary, they kept their mousey fat on biscuit crumbs and boiled eggs.

But with the confirmation of a rabies risk, I finally had to put my foot down. The mouse had to go. I ordered in some baits and we laid them out.

The mouse loved the baits. LOVED them. He nibbled the squared corners until they were too rounded for him to bite. We supplied him with more bait, and he ate that too. Like candy! Every morning we would check the baits and they would be eaten. Every night we would lay out more. He was indestructible. He was everywhere and nowhere. He earned the nickname Taliban Mouse.

Finally one evening I was on late duty. Kicking back, feet on the desk, googling something pointless and dreaming of home. I heard a telltale munching, and looked down. It was Mouse! He had come for his regular evening snack. I gracefully scrambled onto the floor and cornered the little blighter. I wanted to grab him, take him out the camp perimeter and send him on his way. I had grown fond of the little dude. (I'd like to think it was because of his tenacity, but it was probably his lovely little pink ears.) Thinking of the many tame, pet mice I had handled at home, I reached down and grabbed his tail, expecting him to arch back like a tiny skydiver....

...which he did for about three seconds. Then he promptly rolled into a ball and bit me. I dropped his tail, leaving him dangling by his sharp teeth from my finger. A quick hard shake, a bout of swearing and his tiny body hit the floor. And that was the end of Mouse.

Of course, the irony is that if I hadn't accidentally killed the mouse I'd been trying to eradicate for weeks, then save, we could have kept him alive under rabies surveillance, perhaps preventing me from needing the vaccine. As it was, the six injections I earned for my foolishness certainly stung, but not as much as the pain of telling my boys that I was the one who had terminated their mascot. It took one particularly sensitive lad two long days to forgive me. Oh, the challenges of war!


  1. I don't know what side I'm on. Poor Taliban Mouse. Poor you for the rabies shots. Poor mates who lost their mascot. Lucky food packages from home that no longer got et.

    Just before we went on a whole family trip to Malaysia my mum was bitten by a dog. Determined not to miss out, she "walked her wrists off" on crutches the whole time (except airports with their wheelchair assistance). People would ask what had happened and look horrified when she said she'd been bitten by a dog. We did a lot of explaining that we don't have rabies in Australia. SIX INJECTIONS?! I shall tell her that.

    1. I was on the mouse's side, myself.

      Yup, six. One immunogloblin at the site, and five rabies vax to follow.

      There was a rabid monkey that lived on base, too. It was angry. Especially when they put it down...

  2. Six injections? Woah. The revenge of Taliban Mouse.

    Night shifts are total rodent shifts in my experience. When I walked in a secure psych unit there was a drain in a courtyard where a couple of rats would come out in the middle of the night (the hospital didn't do anything about them and they would just pop out of the drain and back again- can't really put down baits with psychiatric patients around). If any patients noticed we would tell them they were possums. Lovely drain possums.

    Oh and at a later ward we found a possum in the breakfast trolley. It was last seen running away at speed with toast flying everywhere.

  3. Thank you for your service!

    I love this bittersweet story. I have to share it with my husband; he was in the USMC for 13 years and we have guinea pigs and love little critters.

  4. How funny! I have a fear of chipmunks as one of my cousins caught a chipmunk on vacation and ran around screaming with it clamped to his index finger. The chipmunk had to be drowned to get him to let go. And Jeremy had to have the rabies vaccine. So. I am terrified of chipmunks...

  5. The challenges of war indeed! Oh my, I laughed so hard. Though I am sorry to hear about your injections and the mouses unusual demise. I actually read this the morning after my husband discovered half a dead rat outside my son's bedroom door. The rat trap in the laundry didn't work, but our twelve year old cat finally did. Perhaps your mouse went out with a sense of satisfaction at least?! :)

  6. Oh see i'm back reading your posts!! They still have plenty of mice in Afghanistan, my husband uses the sticky mat baits (imagine fly paper on the floor, for mice) & he's caught plenty. 2 Afghanistan deployments ago, he had one bleeding heart soldier who would set them free & constantly left messages on the sticky paper saying it was murder. They're pretty tough on the front line!! Love Posie (in Gungahlin, where there are plenty of mice, driving me bonkers last Winter, i'm a screamer!!)