Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lazarus Redux

Okay, if this is really the same mouse being reincarnated over and over, he must have been Hitler or something in a previous life, because he has been through hell.

He came back again a few days ago. Charlotte was chasing him around my room. I got her away from him and tried to encourage him to run and hide. When he wouldn't move, i looked closer. His back legs had both been damaged as Charlotte played with him. He could still use his front legs, but he was not strong enough or fast enough to drag himself over the lintel, run away from Charlotte (who was camped out just outside of the door), and find safety in the attic or basement or walls.

Charlotte doesn't know how to kill mice quickly. She only knows how to play with them to death. I know that this is not exactly cruelty, not the same as if it were me playing with the mouse to death. I know that this is the natural order of things, that cats play with mice and birds and other things to death every day, that i don't know anything about the pain that mice feel or remember. I know that i didn't buy or capture a mouse specifically for her to play with, that the mouse wandered into our house and found an unexpected cat. I know that there is no reason to fret myself over this one tiny life, that this one mouse was even less than a drop in the bucket of suffering in the world.

But i couldn't let her keep playing with the mouse. I couldn't sit quietly at my desk, hearing the pained, frightened shrieks of the mouse. I knew that even if i got the mouse safely away from Charlotte, there was still a good chance that he would find his way back in, or that she would find another mouse. But i couldn't do nothing.

I found an empty box. I gently scooped the mouse up with my hands and placed it in the box. I put on pants and took him outside. As i watched him dragging himself slowly up the hill, i thought about the other cats i'd seen in the neighborhood. I thought about owls, dogs, raccoons. I knew that this mouse would not be able to feed himself, protect himself, that he would likely die even more slowly out here than he would have if left to Charlotte's tender mercies. But i couldn't sit and listen to his dying cries.

It occurred to me that the merciful thing might be to find a large, heavy rock, and put the mouse out of his misery. The thought made me physically ill. I could almost imagine myself doing it, but then i realized that there was a chance it might take more than one blow. I couldn't do that, for certain. One blow i could perhaps manage, but i was not capable of slowly beating the life out of Lazarus.

Was my own psychological suffering worth more than his physical pain? Was it more important to protect myself from sorrow and nightmares than to make him comfortable?

But i couldn't do it. I know my limits, and i had reached them. I decided to wait until someone else was home, someone who might be able to stomach it. But by then, when i went back out into the yard, Lazarus was gone.

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