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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Rodent Alarm Clock

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,



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I was sleeping peacefully about 4:30 a.m. one day recently, when the primitive part of the human brain which monitors the environment even while we are asleep started sounded the "wake up NOW!" alarm in my head.

When you awaken suddenly it takes a few seconds to figure out what has rudely interrupted your sleep. My first recognition was that one of our housecats was on the bed (not unusual,) and that he was scrambling around wildly with his claws digging into the quilt (not usual.) It took me another split second or two to realize he was chasing something; then I knew immediately what that "something" probably was. I sat up, shrieked and turned on the light. When I flung the covers back, a tiny mouse flew through the air and fell onto the floor, followed by the housecats in full gallop.

Our housecats cats have a great life. While they are never allowed outdoors, they follow the sunlight from window to window throughout the day. If there is any prey species visible outside the window, they make the "bird chirp" noise and lash their tails. They may play a little with one of their many toys, or deliberately annoy the dogs a bit. They churn excitedly at feeding time, but other than that, they pretty much sleep. If the cats are extremely alert and active, it's a fair bet there is something they consider prey (a fly, a moth, a cricket or a mouse) in the house.

It seems two or three times a year, an especially dim-witted mouse comes into what is a veritable execution chamber, our house; and the cats always manage to catch it. What I do not understand is why "Beeker" thought it was a good idea to bring the captured but still athletic mouse onto our bed and release it there. The cat brain is indeed inscrutable.

This rodent-catching talent is what caused humans to domesticate cats in the first place. But our house cats do not need to "work" for their living anymore; and mice in the house are few and far between. Consequently, we have to work at managing their body weights to try and keep them healthy. Like humans, too much weight causes chronic illnesses in our pets; and getting pets adequate exercise and controlling their food intake is important to their health.

Which brings me to a somewhat related matter that came to my attention yesterday, and caused me great hilarity.

There is now a recognized sport for dogs called "Barn Hunt." I came upon this fact reading an article by a woman who spent $2800 on barn hunts for her greatly over-weight dog. She relates that the vet warned her sternly the dog would get joint deterioration or another serious health issue if it didn't lose weight. But the quite opinionated Siberian Husky hated pulling things (the natural job it was bred for,) did not like to run or walk on a leash, and scorned the costly high-fiber prescription diet dog food the vet recommended.

Somehow she came across information on "Barn Hunt" and started taking her chubby canine to these events, resulting in a very happy dog and an eight pound weight loss. And, a significant wallet weight loss.

"Barn Hunts" consist of a dog being turned loose in a building or within a fenced area full of piled hay bales. Among the bales are capped PVC tubes, provided with air holes, and inside each tube is a live rat. The released dog is timed to determine how quickly it can climb into, over, through and around the hay bales and locate all the rats. No, I am not making this up. You can find one such facility on line listed as "DFW Dog Quest" but there are many others. Their web site states "at all times the safety of the dogs, handlers and rats is of paramount importance. Rats will be humanely handled".barn hunt is not intended to harm or kill rats."

Yes, people PAY to allow their dogs to engage in a "pretend" hunt during which no rodents are harmed. (First, however, they have to pay to take a class to learn how to participate in this sport.)

If only I had known. We had a very serious rodent infestation in our pole shed this fall. Our big shed has a sizeable horse hay pile in it, and we trapped and removed a total of 16 mice and 8 rats in a prolonged campaign. Now I find out I could have charged people to come and bring their fat dogs to hunt in the barn. However, ours would have been a "trophy" hunt and rats most assuredly would have been harmed. I'd box up the rat remains and send them home with the successful hunters, perhaps after having them pose with their kill for a memorable photo or two.

So, if you have a big, fat cat at high risk of developing diabetes, just get yourself a few mice and turn them loose in your house. Just be sure to close the bedroom door before you go to bed.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.


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