My family lived in west Phoenix in a square cinderblock home, painted turquoise. And the thing to know about cinderblock homes, however unattractive they might appear, a splash of turquoise paint makes them nearly… less unattractive.
In any case, cinderblock keeps out rodents and reptiles, and for desert living that’s darn smart.
Although about the time I was 12-years old, my dad built a garage in our backyard.
Actually, it wasn’t so much a garage as a giant workshop/sanctuary. It took up nearly half our backyard and was made primarily of wood.
That’s when the mice moved in.
The reason we knew we had mice is that every so often, about once a week or so, we’d find one floating in Pepper’s water dish.
Pepper being our family dog.
Now, you gotta figure, a mouse’s life can’t be an easy one. You’re either trying to find food or trying to keep from becoming food. And in Arizona, a mouse’s life must be extra hard. Especially in a workshop, where my dad never allowed food or drink.
My parents were certain the little guys fell in while trying to drink out of the dish. It was the only reasonable explanation. They lean in, lose their footing, and plop! Unable to get out, they breathe their last.
But I knew better. One look at that little rodent corpse, the serene look on his face, and I knew.
It was a clear case of mouse suicide.
After all, what did he have to live for?
My dear wife and 84 children,
By the time you read this, I will have thrown myself in the pond by the building of the gods. I’m sorry I couldn’t provide the life you deserve.
I looked for cheese. I found no cheese. All cheese is gone.
Alfred P. Mouse
I wanted to provide a proper burial for the mice, but Mom wouldn’t hear of it. Even a funeral pyre was out of the question.
Honestly, the woman had no compassion for depressed, suicidal mice.
And so it was that week after week, little mouse corpses were fished out of Pepper’s water dish and added to the garbage bin in the alley.
I wished, rather than believed, there was an afterlife for the little fellas. A mouse heaven, so to speak.
At least give them that.
Then one bright, Saturday morning, as we sat in the kitchen, Mom gasped and pointed out the window. “Oh my goodness,” she cried, “it’s Pepper!”
We got to the window in time to see Pepper drop a mouse into her water dish. She proceeded to poke it with her nose, over and over again. Every time the mouse came up for air, Pepper poked it under.
Finally, after what seemed like several minutes, the mouse gave up the good fight and was still.
Pepper stayed a short while until she was convinced it was dead. Then she took up her usual spot by the side of the garage and stretched out in the sun.
My parents and I looked at each other.
“Pepper is a killer,” I said softly, awed by her skill and resourcefulness.
My parents didn’t see it that way.
“A dog can’t kill something by drowning,” my dad explained. “They wouldn’t understand it.”
“She was just playing with it,” my mom added with a nod.
I wasn’t so sure. But what I did know was this: The Case of the Suicidal Mice of 40th Drive was solved.
The dog did it.