Saturday, June 18, 2016

Visiting Dad's Cousin, Part 2

The next morning after dealing with the skunks at Dad's cousin's place, I went down to have breakfast in the main house. Getting there, I walked in on an interesting conversation. Dad’s cousin was beginning to lecture her husband’s granddaughter. Apparently she was here for the summer in part to work for her Grandpa and Dad’s cousin. {pause} You see, Dad’s cousin was such a great animal lover, she not only fed skunks, she raised animals for a living. Specifically, she and her husband raised epileptic mice in a home laboratory they ran. They ran their own experiments on them, and also sold them to other researchers. Apparently their mice were somewhat prized because their epilepsy was closer to human epilepsy in several key measures than most epileptic lab mice at that time (mid-1980’s).

The lab was actually pretty interesting, as I learned later, when the granddaughter gave me a tour later. The mice were kept in drawer-like cages on one wall. To get in, you simply pulled out the cage and reached in from above. There was also a large table in the middle, where they could work with the mice, and a counter off to one side with a fish tank set up as an observation tank complete with a video camera, so you could put a mouse in, start the video camera, and get about two hours of observation on tape.

Anyway, the granddaughter was staying with them so she could work as a lab assistant for them for her summer job. There had been a problem in the lab the previous day. The granddaughter had put a mouse in the observation tank and set the video camera to record. You could see her leave thru the door at the beginning of the tape. A short while later, the door opened again, and one of Dad’s cousin’s four Siamese cats jumped up on the counter. It was “Ghirry,” which was short for Ghiradelli, one of my cousin’s favorite chocolate companies. Ghirry wasted no time at all on the wall full of cat-proof cages. He went straight to the fish tank with it’s open top. He checked inside, found the mouse, picked it up in his mouth, and left. That mouse, of course, was never seen again. {Smile, wink}

“Well, if you’re upset as Ghirry,” the granddaughter started to say.

“No. We are not upset at Ghirry,” Dad’s cousin corrected, “Ghirry was just behaving like a cat. He was just following his instincts. He didn’t do anything wrong. You left the door open,” and Dad’s cousin began describing the extra chores the granddaughter needed to do because of this oversight.  

I was really impressed with her attitude. So was Dad. It’s nice to see that someone understands that are some things you just don’t train some animals not to do; you don’t train a cat not to hunt mice. {REALLY BIG GRIN}

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin


  1. Your cousin's family sounds very interesting. (I've never met anyone who raised epileptic mice!) and the way they handled teaching their granddaughter responsibility sounds right -firm and fair, while still loving. :)

  2. Thanks, Chicory. {Smile}

    They're the only people I met who raised epileptic mice. I met a few researchers who used them, I think, but I don't think they raised them; not like Dad's cousin and her husband did. {SMILE}

    I liked how they handled their granddaughter, too. As you said, firm and fair, while still loving. {Smile}

    I also very much liked how they didn't expect the kitties to stay away from the mice. Cats don't stop being small predators who's prime prey includes small rodents just because their people get some special mice. {SMILE, wink}