Winter Weasel

Ratty cat likes to run out on the porch whenever I open the door. Problem is it's cold out there, and I can't keep the door open. If he doesn't come when he's called, I sometimes shut the door and leave him out there in the foolish belief that I'm somehow teaching him a lesson. (Yeah, I've owned cats my whole life; I KNOW you can't teach them a lesson, but I refuse to accept that for some reason.)

So the other day he runs out there and won't come back in, so tough, kitty, you're out there for a while. I'm cooking a turkey at the time, so I'm pretty busy and my hands are gunky. When I finally get around to letting him in a half hour later, he comes in carrying a mouse, so at least he spent his time productively.

Unfortunately, poor wee sleekit timorous cowerin' beastie is not dead. When Ratty gets sick of parading it around the house he puts it down, and it goes scurrying off. Thus ensues a delightful pickup game of mouse hockey all around the house, which I don't care much for anyway, but believe me it's much worse when you're trying to cook a turkey. Then the dog (George) gets involved. In his younger days I occasionally used him to dispatch similar mangled cat victims--he's very fast, so there's no suffering, unlike my stupid cats, who take their sweet time--but he's pretty old and blind and totally uncoordinated now. All he essentially does is keep the cat away from the mouse and gives the poor little beast time to duck under the freezer chest.

So there's no getting around it--I'm stuck spending the next twenty minutes or so unloading the freezer so I can move it while these mighty predators stick their noses under it and dance in anticipation around me. I get everything moved, finally tip the freezer up, there's the poor mousie in the corner, and both the dog and the cat rush in and perform this intricate Keystone Cops/Three Stooges maneuver in which they jam up and prevent the other from moving in and closing the deal. This allows the mouse to dash literally under their feet, where he ducks under the door leading back to the porch. So all that work for nothing but an hour of cruel entertainment. The stupid beasts spent the next hour or so prowling around the house, getting underfoot and trying to convince me they are indeed dreadful scary predators and not the pathetic losers they actually are.

All of this backstory to say that, while I was thus employed with the freezer, which sits right next to a window, I kept hearing this scrabbly mousie-sounding noise against the wall. I thought it was the mouse, but it was coming from outside. When I finally looked, there was an ermine watching me, perched on the wheelbarrow right outside the window. We were pretty much eye to eye, maybe a foot away (with the glass between us, of course). He just sat there watching me for a while, then goes back to whatever he was doing, which seemed to be playing in the snow.

I've never seen one before, outside of pictures. My husband used to own a pet ferret, so I've always assumed weasels were ferret-sized, but this guy was surprisingly small--about the size of a thinnish chipmunk. Awful cute, with the big black eyes against the white fur.

I looked them up on the internet and he is what they call a short-tailed weasel. They are apparently rarely seen. So if it wasn't for this hassle with the mouse, I probably would have never seen him.