by Lynn Mattioli
From the Editor: Lynn Mattioli was a 1987 NFB scholarship winner. The following story of compassion and daring-do first appeared in Reflecting the Flame, the seventeenth in the Kernel Book series of paperbacks we publish to educate the public about the abilities of blind people. It begins with President Maurer's introduction:
Not all of us have what it takes to stalk a mouse through the house. But, as Lynn Mattioli shows us in her story, "Cat-and-Mouse Games," blindness is not the deciding factor. Lynn is a registered dietitian employed by Harbor Hospital Center and is president of the Baltimore Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. Here is what she has to say:
My cats, Ben and Jerry, are creatures of habit. We have a daily routine. When I come home from work, they greet me at the door and then expect to be fed their dinner. One evening I returned from work, but they did not greet me at the door. When I went into the kitchen, they were both sitting on the floor intently watching the refrigerator.
I put out the cat food, but they did not want to eat. They wanted to keep their cat eyes on the refrigerator. Ben and Jerry are robust cats, so I know, if they did not want their cat food, something pretty intense was going on.
I watched them for a while. Ben was sniffing under the refrigerator. The appliance sits in the corner of the kitchen, so he was able to get at it from two sides. From time to time he would move around the refrigerator as if to get at things from a different angle.
Jerry was following his lead as if his big brother was teaching him something new. From the way they were acting I suspected we had a mouse in the house. It had not happened before, but, since I live in an older apartment building, I knew it was possible.
I have never been afraid of mice, but I knew I did not want one to move in and start a family. At the same time I did not want to hurt it. I definitely did not want Ben and Jerry to have the mouse for dinner. I stood there for a while thinking, "How am I going to catch this mouse if I can't see where it is?" I decided that Ben and Jerry could help me corner the mouse so that I could grab it and put it outside.
First we needed to get the mouse out from under the refrigerator. I have an extra long white cane that I use to fish cat toys out from under the sofa. I used it to check under the refrigerator, but no mouse came out. So I moved the refrigerator out from the corner, thinking that might scare it out. But again no mouse.
At this point I started thinking that Ben and Jerry were sending me on a wild mouse chase. Maybe they were confused. Maybe there was no mouse. I waited to see what the boys would do next. Ben started sniffing the grill on the back of the refrigerator. He then tried to climb up the grill. I figured that had to be where the mouse was hiding. I felt around the grill but did not feel anything. But then I heard it scurrying up the grill. So I tapped on the grill. There was a "plop" sound, and the mouse had fallen to the floor.
Ben and Jerry jumped into action. They chased the mouse right behind the stereo in the living room. This was not working well. I was worried I would spend the better part of the evening chasing the mouse from one appliance to another.
The cats were guarding either end of the stereo so the mouse could not escape. I used my extra long white cane to direct the mouse out one end. Ben took charge and chased the mouse into the fireplace. Luckily the fireplace was free of ashes.
Things were looking up. I thought Ben had the mouse cornered. Now my dilemma was how to grab the mouse so that neither of us would get hurt. I decided to use a plastic grocery bag to scoop it up. I figured the mouse would be unable to bite me through the bag.
When I returned to the fireplace, Ben was dismayed. He was searching around the fireplace for the mouse, but it was not there. I searched with him. I felt around the fireplace, but no mouse. Where could it have gone? How could a mouse escape with two cats and me on its tail? I didn't think it could have gone up the chimney unless it was Santa Claus mouse.
Ben came to the rescue again. He started sniffing the fireplace screen. I covered my hand with the bag and felt around the screen. There was the mouse, clinging to the top of the screen. I scooped it up and took it outside. I felt so bad for the mouse. It must have been scared. But at least I was able to get it outside unharmed.
I learned something from this experience. Initially I did not think I could catch the mouse because I am blind. I thought the mouse would move too fast for me to find it. I did not think I could catch it without being bitten. But now I know I was wrong. I found ways to get the job done. Blindness won't stop me from keeping that mouse out of my house.
To simplify the task next time, I think I will invest in a live mouse trap. But I would do this whether I was blind or sighted. It just makes practical sense. I doubt the mouse will be back, though, with Ben and Jerry on guard. They also keep the elephants away!