One Small Bite for a Mouse, One Giant Leak for a House


house leak caused by mouse
A small action can create a large reaction.

One person cannot do everything, but every person can do one thing.

This quote, or something similar to it appears on school walls, Facebook banners, wooden decorative signs, keychains, well, you get the idea. Life can be overwhelming and in creating self confidence and positivity we as adults, coaches and mentors often talk about taking that first step. Doing that first thing, taking that small step, helping you start your journey or make a positive difference in the world.

We also learn, as we go through life, that even the smallest of gestures can make a big difference for someone. Something as small as holding a door, carrying a package, or buying a coffee can turn someone’s day around. A kind word or a smile can give a child confidence. How and what we say can often be the difference between success and failure.

The other side of this small gesture coin is not as often shared. Negative words and actions, no matter how small can also have big results. So, we learn to use positive and uplifting language as educators. Compliment, coach, correct then compliment is how I teach and coach those in my care. Relationship building is what life is all about.

But what about when it isn’t?

I have lived in my house for 22 years. A large New Englander with an attached garage and barn, built in 1905. Not only do we live inside but often times critters do as well. Over the years we have had to extricate squirrels, bats, mice, and ants more than once. While this can be an inconvenience it is not uncommon in our style house.

In 2009 a neighbor’s house burned down. The shell of the structure stood for several months. I remember walking by one day and seeing a raccoon looking out of an upstairs window at me. While cute it was also rather unsettling. Raccoons do not belong in second floor bedrooms. When the house came down the influx of mice and squirrels into the basements of all the neighbors was the topic of conversation for weeks.

Over the years fall is the time the mice arrive. It is cold enough outside that a 100-year-old balloon construction fine wooden home is akin to a fancy hotel for a mouse. A few well-placed traps and our mice problems were solved. So, when the critter noises began again this fall, we followed suit. We placed our little traps close to where we heard the nibbling and scratching. Each morning I expected to find a mouse that had met its demise. Each morning I didn’t.

The activity behind the walls grew louder and more insistent.

My anxiety grew with it.

Four nights ago, I awoke to noise in the kitchen This has become pretty standard lately. I thought I heard critter noise but the rain I thought I heard was loud enough that I wasn’t sure. I called Kenny. When he arrived in the kitchen, I heard him say “oh no, this is bad”. “Critters?” I asked. “No, it’s water”.

I leapt from bed and ran to see. The rain I heard was coming through the light fixture and every seam in the ceiling. A white wood and plaster rain cloud of a ceiling, a growing lake of a floor. We stood dumbfounded. The critters were forgotten.

A call to the plumber at midnight, shutting off the water to the house, buckets and bins well placed, and towels… all the towels… everywhere. We went back to bed. I slept surprisingly well all things considered. I left early for a race; Kenny waited for the plumber. I waited for the news. Old houses can have several issues that can cause plumbing malfunctions. I worried about what we may have to do to fix this. What huge issue caused this?

It was a mouse.

That’s right, you read me correctly.

A mouse.

The tube, plastic now not copper, that carries fresh water to the upstairs bathroom had a miniscule hole in it, clearly put there by teeny tiny critter teeth. It took the removal of two ceiling panels to find it, and was easily repaired. Fans and towels and buckets remained a part of the kitchen décor, we called a pest control company. We set traps, we found their egress, we placed poison outside. We felt a measure of relief. Surely, we had solved the problem.

Except we had not.

A slow drip began in the pantry. We placed a bowl beneath it, and then another. We paid towels. We called the plumber. We checked the traps and the poison baited hollow rocks. We waited for the plumber. We found no dead critters. Another ceiling tile panel revealed another mouse bitten tube, this one carrying water to the washing machine.

Critters can smell water through that thick plastic. Once they find it, they hunker down. Our critter problem has turned into a water problem.  Our water problem is a critter problem. All living things require water. I am so accustomed to the ease of turning a faucet that I no longer think about how water gets from the reservoir to my house.

I do now.

But what about the incessant critter issue? Where are they coming from in such force and why? The weather is not extreme, there are no burned-out houses nearby, we keep a relatively clean house. Our nest guess is water. The drawers full of mouse chewed ointments and shampoo bottles from the bathroom indicate a very focused search. All critter noise has left the first-floor copper plumbing areas.

They now keep Kenny awake.

That behind the wall beneath the floor scratching and nibbling is upstairs now. They have found the water. Shampoo and lip gloss and plastic tampon applicators fresh from the box are no longer necessary. There is a Mouse Mecca between the floors in my house and it is rubber tubed plumbing.

My biggest take away is a metaphor. It is easy for me to be upset at these mice and to feel anger. We are already almost $2000 into plumbing and exterminator costs. There are still live critters scurrying about after lights out. They are winning so far. So what is the metaphor?


All living creatures need water. Ants to elephants and all in between need water, and all will go to whatever measures are necessary to find it. These critters are thirsty. I can relate to that. They have worked hard to find it, actually smelling it through the rubber. They have set up their homestead nearby. They likely hope to raise a family there and what a great piece of real estate! People do it to and that is where my mind went.

We threw away three garbage cans worth of yucky brown water. We used easily accessible fresh water to clean the mess left by the leak. We replaced the rubber, we turn the faucets, take the showers and wash the clothes. While we do all that, the mice continue to chew. While we turn the faucets millions of people worldwide also “continue to chew”.

We are lucky.

Those garbage cans of dirty water would be gold to people far and wide. It can be boiled to drink; it can be used as is to “clean” things. We have the luxury of unlimited water a faucet turn away. Listening to those critters and their incessant chewing, finding all of the plastic items they chewed through in my bathroom in their quest for the water is not lost on me.

I feel badly for them. Not bad enough to let them move in, but bad that they can’t find the water they need in nature. We will have to eliminate them to save our home from more water damage. I think I heard a trap snap last night. As badly as I feel for the mouse, it brought me a measure of relief. One small hole allowed almost 100 gallons of water to flood my kitchen. One small action, one giant reaction. If a mouse can do that, then maybe we can change the world!

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