In 2018 I sold one of my companies. No, it was not the startup I had hoped to sell for the millions but nevertheless, it was enough to allow my family and I a short break and a change of life.
We sold our penthouse and bought a country house (Finca in Spanish). It has been my dream for as long as I can remember. I always wanted to work for some time, sell the company, and buy a house in the countryside. A place where I could build myself a home office to spend my mornings working and the evening gardening and walking in the countryside.
At the entrance of our house, I have a board hanging that says “I made a wish and you came true”. It stands true for almost every wish I made in myself and so my story with the mouse starts here.
In the first year of moving in, war was declared. The rats were chewing wires and had found a few ways of entering the house. Our dog, Mika, managed to catch two of these rats and one of them at 5:00 am during one of my book-reading mornings. Mika is a bodegera (aka ratonera). That’s what they do best and they are used as hunting dogs by Spaniards. We were ever so proud of Mika, catching these huge beasts with the longest tails I have ever seen.
On numerous occasions, I had to also employ rat poison as they had started to dig their way through two small holes to find new ways into my office. They started chewing network and telephone cable and that was when I thought that’s it. It is either you or I, I will get you no matter what.
WAR it was. I started to close every possible hole around the garden and places that it had made home.
Warning: The next part is my confession, I am not proud of it, it is simply what happened next.
One Saturday morning while I was gardening and tending to jobs around the house, our paths crossed. I knew it was my chance. I ran after Mr Mouse and closed the hole it had managed to come out of, Mr Mouse ran away faster than I could jump up a level to a small garden enclosure. I was preparing myself to climb and then the strangest thing happened.
Mr Mouse must have been 3 to 5 meters away from me running away as fast as he could, but all of a sudden he stopped. I remember the following 30 seconds to a minute in slow motion. The mouse stopped and turned around walking slowly back towards me.
I couldn’t believe it. It could have run away. It could have escaped and Mika and I were not in a position to catch up with it. Why had he turned around and is now walking slowly back towards me?
This was my chance. I had to strike. I picked up the shovel and got ready in attack mode. Mr mouse came and stopped right within 10 centimetres of my feet. He was actually on a raised wall that was virtually the height of my hands.
I was holding the shovel high and standing in position waiting for the right moment. Mr Mouse was now in perfect reach and then it did something that I was not anticipating. It stood up on its legs like dogs do when you are about to give them a treat.
It stood there motionless and gazed directly into my eyes. I still remember the gaze. I could see it in his eyes, he was saying “Ali, you are not really going to kill me, are you? Look I surrender, I don’t want to place chase anymore, I give up”.
Doubt poured into me. He was not running away, he was helpless, I was 100x its size and I had won the war. I didn’t know what to do. If I didn’t strike it would carry on destroying cables and the house could soon become infested with more rats. I was confused and I am not sure how long we stood there watching each other.
What happened next is something that I have not forgiven myself for. I brought down the shovel on its head. I spare you the details and I write with huge guilt as I write.
I knew he was begging me, I know he had come back to say “Let’s make peace”. Why did I react? Why did I kill Mr Mouse? I ask the same. What came over me? I am an animal lover. Spiders, geckos, fish, and dogs live in harmony inside our house.
Nearly two years have passed and the memories of Mr Mouse and his gaze still haunt me, however, Mr Mouse had a big family. It was not long after his death that his cousins and children moved in. We now have a new family of three mice, they have lived the past 12 months in my front office garden.
Last week, our paths crossed again. This time I was not happy. We stopped again, I gazed into his eyes and said “I know, you have destroyed my telephone cable again, but I will forgive you, I just beg you not to do it again. Let’s make a deal, you can live here and I will look after you, and you promise not to chew my computer and network cables.”
This is a true story. Since the incident I have stopped using any further traps or poison. Mr & Mrs Mouse with Uncle Rat, live happily right in front of my office and we meet several times a day. Mika tries her best to catch them and for the moment it seems that we have come to a mutual understanding and ceasefire.
Our family has just grown bigger, two dogs, four fish, a big toad, a few hedgehogs, a number of snakes, countless geckos, and now baby geckos, salamander, the wild boars that visit us during the summer season in search of food and water and of course, Mr & Mrs Mice and extended family.
I still need to get the office line fixed and I no longer interfere in controlling the population. Nature has its harmony and believe it or not our snakes and the neighbour’s cats complete this cycle better than the inhumane, human intervention. Lesson learnt.