Assassin on the Job

mouse grain

Fourth in a series

Mr. Lancaster Sr. was tall, lean, and spry, I’d guess about 80 years old. He was a quiet, likable man who typeset and printed our medical forms. Friendly chit chat revealed that he lived quietly with his daughter.

There weren’t many veterinarians in Albuquerque in the late ’70s; everybody knew everybody. Of course, that made gossip a hot commodity. When Dr. Mike Adams encountered me at a continuing education conference he could hardly contain his excitement. Clearly feeling the power of knowledge he dropped the bomb that Mr. Lancaster was a convicted counterfeiter who’d been released from federal prison only 3 years earlier.

The old timer’s history did not diminish our esteem for him. He’d gotten himself on the wrong side of the law and he’d paid the price. Mr. Lancaster Jr. – our new cat –, on the other hand, was a horse of a different color. Still a kid, he was a budding murderer of helpless creatures, normal for his species.

In its early years my practice lived in a rented space, sandwiched between an equine veterinary clinic and a feed retailer. Grain was stored on each side. The open field out back served as a breeding ground for field mice. That environment plus the fine dining experience offered by my neighbors provided an endless supply of rodents.

Mice are born, they reproduce, and then they die. Ashes to ashes, just like the rest of us. It was their carcasses, moldering in the warm space above our suspended ceiling, that put a damper on the otherwise sweet ambiance of my space. We had a problem and young Mr. L needed gainful employment that did not involve predation on one-legged peepers.

It was Martha’s acute powers of olfaction that drove her to surreptitiously invite our fuzzy white pet into the storage room behind the equine clinic. At the end of his first day, his job satisfaction was evidenced by his ample girth. Young Mr. Lancaster happily scampered off to work each morning, reducing our cat food expenses.
Next week: A watch cat?
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Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.