Waifs and Strays… Of Mice and Men

Picture the scene… mid July (so getting towards the hottest part of the year), just finished dinner / tea so its about 9pm, O.H. (Summer) takes a trip to the fridge in the kitchen; not having a window it’s dark so she snaps on the light and sees out of the corner of her eye a very small grey shape go scuttling across the floor and disappearing under the kitchen cupboards… liitle subdued shriek from her brings 7 dogs pounding through from the living room, all barking and creating mucho ruido and chaos (the 2 seniors are upstairsand vocally joining in from a distance).

“We have a mouse,” she announces.

And so begins a couple of months of hide and seek… Mickey or Minnie is generally nocturnal but because the kitchen is normally dark, he / she doesn’t actually know whether it’s day or night ,so occasionally makes a daytime foray from its hiding place (wherever the hell that is) and the first I know about its appearance is when first one dog then another visits the kitchen…

Anyway I managed to catch it about two weeks ago; one of the dogs had it cornered so I was able to drop a contained over it and trap it.

Regulars to this blog will know that I am a bit of a softy where animals are concerned; my view is that like us, they didn’t ask to be brought into this world and as such deserve a fair crack at life. This applies just as much to mice as my dogs, so I won’t kill them. I released Mickey / Minnie out into the campo where we live. Now obviously this action puts it at the mercy of the birds and neighbourhood feral cats but hey they have to live too… and so Mickey / Minnie will just have to learn some survival techniques.

I thought no more about it until about a week or so ago when I found some mouse droppings around the bulk dry dog food bins in the kitchen and two of the dogs decided to take up overnight guard duties… I’ve said before on many occasions we are a bit pushed for storage space in this house.

I decided to try to find an access point… all of the walls in the kitchen are partition walls made from plasterboard. 90% of the wall surfaces above the worktops are tiled, but our “builder” (and I use the term very loosely…) left one area, normally out of view, unfinished. This area includes a recessed double electric wall socket, the fascia panel of which stands proud of the wall by a tiles thickness. This was, so far as I could see, the only access point our unwanted visitors might have… sure enough one small area behind the socket fascia had been scraped away and opened up a little (the give away was a small dusting of plaster on the worktop beneath the socket).

When he departed our “builder” left behind some of the unused tiles. Now I dont possess a heavy duty tile cutter so I measured up what was needed to surround the socket and took a couple of the tiles down to a marble and granite worktop supplier in the next village. Having explained what I was trying to achieve ie., blanking off the area surrounding the socket , she, (yes she!) cut the tiles down to size for me (Que precio?… Nada… muchas gracias…). I stopped off at our local ferretaria and bought some tile adhesive / cement / grout and set to work blocking Mickey / Minnies access

Job done… right…?

Not a hope… later that same day mucho scrabbling and scratching noises now at floor level… Nothing if not persisitent…Now having searched all the likely easy access points, I couldn’t find anything obvious and the dogs lost interest too so maybe Mickey or Minnies mate has decided to move on to pastures new. I can only think that there is an access point behind the washing machine but thanks again to our “builder” , it’s almost impossible to drag it out without developing a hernia…(sidethought …why oh why don’t washing machine manufacturers put some form of retractable castors on the damn things its not exactly bloody rocket science).

Anyway, in the meantime I have been searching for humane mousetraps… like a said I dont want to kill the little buggers and a broken back or internally bleeding / haemorraging to death is not my idea of a reasonable way to go.

Checked out Amazon and came up with this…

Trixie Humane Mouse Traps

Seemed to fit the bill and had some good reviews too… and at about £5 each worth buying… hell, if it doesnt work then it’s no big deal… so I bought four, and they arrived this morning… Simple design what gets in cannot get out… I baited the traps with a few bits of the dog kibble that had obviously been the original attractant .added a bit of processed cheese and then set them in place.. one behind each of the two kibble bins, one under the worktop adjacent to the washing machine and one alongside it, then switched off the light to await results…

I didn’t have long to wait…Suzie the ex troglodyte podenca curious as ever, set herself up on guard duty and quite literally within 30 minutes she came through from the kitchen to let me know that something had happened… not just one but all four of the traps had been sprung, capturing four tiny little field mice and, far from being stressed out, they were all gnawing away quite happily on the treats in the traps. As with Mickey (or was it Minnie) Mk. 1, I took them all outside to the fields in the campo and released them…

Back in the house I washed out the traps to remove any traces of them, then re-baited the traps and set them in place. That was about four hours ago… Suzie is still on guard duty, I’ve just checked the traps and all are empty so I guess for the moment at any rate that’s it.

Summer is in the UK (again!) at the moment and when I told her of the success she did pose one very valid point… why are fieldmice coming indoors during the Summer? If it was winter then fair enough, it gets pretty damn chilly here but to find them in the house during the warm weather is strange… unless of course there has been a change in our immediate environment…

I have a theory…

Many moons ago we took on a neighbours dog called Luna (qv oher blog entries), she unfortunately died from peritonitis shortly thereafter. I still have a guilty conscience about that but I think it was going to happen anyway and neither I nor the attending vets picked up on the symptoms. This same neighbour sometime later got another dog (why God knows, poor liitle bugger lives in their garage most of the time and only rarely sees the light of day… they also got a cat… like the dog it is not spayed… Cat too lives in the garage but is able to escape and did so whilst in season… needless to say some weeks later the cat had kittens, four or five of them, I’m not sure, but they too have not been spayed… I would guess that they are now of an age wheh the females will be coming into season, and I’m pretty sure the original cat is pregnant again… It’s only a matter of time therefore, before they beome 20 or more…

I strongly suspect that the reason the mice have adopted our house is because of the increase in the number of cats scavenging for food…

Like so many people out here, the neighbour just will not stop and think for a moment… indeed she finds it hilarious watching me trying to control the five leashed, snapping, snarling and baying hounds that they become when they meet the cats during our thrice daily walks…

And so there you have it… just the latest in an ongoing story of us countryfolk…

More next time!

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Waifs and Strays… La Tirada de Cohetes or Breakfast in Beirut…

Its getting very close to that time again… mid August, Hot days, Sultry nights and FIESTA….
The programme for the weekend’s events landed with a dull thud in my letterbox on Monday and it appears as usual to kick off each day with what can best be described as ‘Breakfast in Baghdad’ and ends with ‘Bedtime in Beirut’…..

First and last events of each of the 3 days are described as ‘Tirada de Cohetes’ literally a ‘roll of rockets’… if last years tirada is anything to go by, the cohetes will be even bigger and noisier than the year before, all of which makes for an extremely stressful time for the house pack and all of the other dogs in the village.

Summer is in the UK at the moment attending to a very pregnant daughter who has just been diagnosed with gestational diabetes; this leaves me to cope with 9 soon to be demented, hyperventilating hounds who all hate fireworks… there is a good case for Doggy Valium but I can’t keep the poor sods drugged up for three days, so I / we will just have to put up with it and if the neighbours complain about the incessant howling that will inevevitably occur, then tough sh*t it’s their Fiesta after all.

Not content with fireworks, each day also features a marching band that invariably comes down our very narrow street, cymbals clashing, trumpets blasting and enough percussion to equip a regiment. Again the dogs hate it close up I guess its very painful for them but there is nowhere else I can take them to avoid the racket. Same thing goes with the evening entertainment on each of the three nights… I say evening but it actually takes the form of a dance with live bands which kicks off at 11pm and goes on ‘hasta altas horas de la madruga.’ with enough amplification to keep Pink Floyd in business for years…

Wednesday evening / early Thursday morning set the scene for things to come… August 15th is a National Public Holiday and our local bar decided to hire in a live band to celebrate…now normally I quite like Mariachi music but it doesn’t blend in well with howling, screeching, barking dogs especially at 4 am when the band was still going strong…

Victor Meldrew? Not really, I’d like nothing more than to partake in some of the social activities but trying to keep the dogs sane has to take priority and will we just have to resign myself to catching a few Zzzzzz’s when we can.

So roll on Monday morning when the whole thing is over for another year…

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Waifs and Strays… Just a’walkin’ the dog…

It has been suggested that walking the dog is a therapeutic, pleasurable pastime that keeps you fit, active and mentally alert… what a crock of sh*t… what a load of old b*llocks.

It’s highly overrated, it’s time consuming, infuriating, and at times downright dangerous. On a cold, wet and very windy day like today I can think of a thousand things I’d rather be doing, like maybe going into hibernation until the warmer weather finally arrives and stays for more than a couple of days.

Needs must however because of the definite shortage of space in the house and no garden or patio space. The dogs need to relieve themselves. To this end they, all nine of them, get three or four walks a day. Not too bad when Summer is home to help out but at the moment she is on one of her flying visits to the UK.So it’s just down to me…

Walking the dogs then takes on a whole new meaning; they are all to some extent ex-street dogs. The alpha female, Izzy, and her mate Leo are the undisputed queen and king of the pack (Cesar Millan would have you believe that the human is supposed to be the pack leader… another load of old tosh!)

If I want them to do something, they will consider all the options before committing to a decision; if they want to do whatever I suggest then fair enough but if after due consideration they decide that its not such a great idea, then there is no power on earth that will make them change their mind. Going out in the cold is not a good idea… going out in the wind is not a good idea, going out in the rain is definitely not a good idea. Going out in a combination of all three? Forget it!

In any event the logistics of actually walking the dogs on my own three or four times a day, would take up every minute of the day if done individually, so when faced with the situation for the first time a year ago I hit upon the idea of taking them out in groups.

Group One is Izzy, a mature greyhound bitch, Leo a mature Saluki male, Sox a mature Podenca bitch, Suzy another Podenca bitch though not so mature in years, and Fred an immature Pod / galgo cross. All are extremely strong dogs, (Sox really should be nicknamed Scania, Suzy could be Iveco and Fred probably should be called Volvo), Izzy and Leo are normally pretty docile on the lead, just pootling along like a couple of Nissan Micra’s until a cat appears on the scene then its instant Porsche time…)

Group Two is Spike and Scruffy… these are the two reprobates that put Summer in hospital last April with a busted hip necessitating an emergency operation to fit an artificial one, daily shots of  Heparin, a lot of post op discomfort, six months of recuperation and an embarrassing scene whenever she goes through a metal detector screen at the airport. Spike and Scruffy are constantly on the go when on the lead, everything needs investigation, sniffing and sampling (anything goes no matter how disgusting).

Group Three is Pippa and Sophie… most of the time you wouldn’t even know Pippa is there; her lead is normally slack and she is right there at heel. Sophie however is a lot like Spike and Scruffy checking out everything, usually at the full extent of her lead.

From that you can see that although the dogs get three or four walks a day, I actually get nine or twelve… I hadn’t actually thought about it much until a couple of weeks ago when on a cold wet night similar to today in fact it occurred to me that since the first of January this year the dogs have each had over three hundred walks and I have over nine hundred. It’s no wonder the soles of my trainers are like racing slicks! Each group on each walk gets around thirty minutes of exercise. Izzy and Leo, like the 40mph couch potatoes that they are, get some free-running exercise each week in a nearby abandoned enclosed basketball / five a side football / tennis court. I’d love to be able to let them run free together outside of the confines of the court, but there is too much risk from traffic on a road that cuts through the area and far too much risk of a chance encounter with a flock of sheep or goats (the two hounds don’t have a good track record where four legged wildlife is concerned…).

So there it is… rant over! There is a picture below that I found on Google Maps for where we live… this is actually me, walking the dogs, back in the day when we had just three…

Aah the good old days…!

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Waifs and Strays… Grumpy old men…

So… what do you think of it so far..?

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Waifs and Strays… Bathtime? You think so?

Just try it buster… just try it… if you think you’re hard enough….

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Waifs and Strays… Not all abandonados have four legs…

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Waifs and Strays… Update 3 April 2012

As you may have gathered the entire content of this blog to date is material that I previously published in an expat blog. The story started way back in November 2010. I have pretty well given up on the forum side of the particular site; I find an awful lot of the content childish, churlish, and just plain boring. So hence the transfer to WordPress…

Summer is back in the UK again, she flew out on Saturday to see her kids and grandkids, one in particular who was recently knocked down and dragged along the road by a typical white van man…although recovering well its going to be a long job… up to 2 years…

So for the time being it’s just me and the dogs again…

Sophie, (Summer’s favourite) wont let me out of her sight and the others are missing her I guess, although it’s difficult to say. I’m having to be a bit heavy handed on the disciplinary front because left to their own devices they can cause problems with our neighbours. When I took Summer to the airport we had to leave the house at 7am and the dogs kicked off with a vocal protest immediately; so I had a lot of explaining and apologising to do when I got back some 6 hours later. We used to be able to get a flight from Granada Airport which is only 25 minutes away but Monarch pulled that service back in 2007 so now we have to get to Malaga and its a totally different story!

Anyway… its very late… transferring all this stuff has taken most of the night so I’m going to wrap it up there. Soon be time for the dogs first walk of the day!

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