Creature Feature

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So we’ve now had two full nights without a nibble. No creature was stirring, not even a mouse. What a profound relief to be free (for now) of things that go bump in the night. The scratching was so loud at times it even upset the dog, who would come stand in the dark at my side of the bed for reassurance.

But yesterday, we were all well rested. The dog was up to his usual antics for this time of year, what with the butterfly shadows zigging and zagging around the yard on a sunny afternoon.

But when I called him to come in, he balked. He’d come just so close to the house, then acted as if he was guarding something in the grass. And as I stepped closer to see, he picked up his kill du jour: a rather large, long-tailed mouse (species unk).

Odd, I thought. He catches lots of moles, and the cat (rest her soul) used to catch the much quicker and more nocturnal and secretive mice. But I don’t think I’ve seen the dog catch a mouse before. It must have been sick. Uh-oh.

Do you suppose this was one or our poisoned evictees?

I lassoed the dog and drug him inside, and came back and bagged up the potentially warfarin-laden mouse carcass and put it out of harm’s way. And we will have to be vigilant over the next few days for a repeat of this scary consequence of our purging the dancing mice from over our not-quite-sleeping heads.

And while in the dog-zone, we discovered last week that the dog had tape worms. And looking back, I have to wonder if this helps explain Tsuga’s bizarre eating disorder that had him eating (and puking) walnut shells. Maybe this was just the wisdom of the species (along with eating grass) as a way to either 1) make himself throw up, or 2) cut/shred some tapes in the intestines from sharp edges of the odd stuff he’d eaten.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Your dog is smarter than I thought. Black walnut is indeed an old folk remedy for parasites!

    P.S. What looks like a big mouse with a long tail is probably actually a rat! Good dog. Our Jasmine kills them too.