Twenty-five years of marriage and the story of the mice and when Kathleen Maloney knew she'd marry Joe.
In 1985 I had a beautiful and rambunctious Irish Setter dog named Shamrock. I lived alone in a small house in Guttenberg, NJ and I kept Shamrock's food in a cabinet under the sink in the kitchen.
I normally bought a fifty-pound bag of dog food and it usually lasted me a month. Suddenly it seemed the large bag of dog food was lasting only three weeks and I could not figure out why.
One night I awoke in the middle of the night because I heard a noise in the wall. It sounded like scratching noises. It sounded like something was moving around in the wall.
And when Shamrock got up and walked over to a wall in my bedroom and began to intently focus on a certain area—I knew it was not just my imagination.
At the time, I was dating a young man for several months and things were going really well. When Joe called me to plan our next date, I described the noise I had heard the previous night to him and he came over to investigate.
After opening the cabinet in the kitchen and seeing the exposed dog food in the cabinet Joe said, "You have mice. A lot of them."
I was afraid to go to sleep that night and I slept with the lights.
The next day Joe went to the hardware store and bought me twelve mouse traps. They were the sticky glue traps and he explained I should set them close to the walls the next morning before I went to work. In the morning I did exactly what Joe told me to do and I left for work.
I came home from my job in Manhattan that evening and forgot all about my mouse problem. As I put my key in the door I heard a thumping sound behind the door. It would start and stop and start and stop again. I yelled, "Who's there?" When no one answered I opened the door and I was shocked by what I found.
My Irish Setter had a mousetrap stuck to each paw. In each trap, they were at least two mice and they were still alive. In the other traps, there were two and in some traps three mice. The mice were able to move the traps around the kitchen because there were so many mice in each trap. None of them were completely stuck.
As my exuberant dog jumped up to greet me with the traps still stuck on her paws, I screamed and ran from the house. I called Joe who lived in the next town and he came over immediately.
Joe found me in my yard sobbing uncontrollably. I was crying because as an animal lover it broke my heart to see the mice hurt and suffering. I cried and told Joe how I was the worst person in the world to do this to the mice. I vowed to never use the sticky traps again. I just felt terrible and I could not stop crying. I asked Joe, "Isn't there something we can do to help them?"
What Joe did next was truly amazing. He removed the glue traps from Shamrock's paws and he cleaned her up in the shower. Then he lined all twelve mice traps up in a row and he sat on the porch and he began to gently remove each mouse from the trap. He was so compassionate with each mouse and he was careful to ensure each mouse survived with as minimal damage as possible. It was a painstaking process.
I looked on and I asked Joe, "Will he be alright?" Joe reassured me as he released each mouse, "Look at him! He's fine and he's running off to his mouse family. He's going to have a good life."
The process of freeing the mice took Joe hours. Of course, Joe was not aware at the time, but bigger things began stirring in my mind that night.
As I sat across from Joe and watched how gentle and good-natured he was with each mouse, I began to get an overwhelming warm feeling that Joe would be a good husband and a good father one day. He had all of the qualities I was looking for in a husband and he came to help me when I really needed him. He was soft-spoken and patient and I loved how genuinely kind he was to each injured rodent.
Watching Joe as he sat on the porch that day I could envision him as a loving father caring for our children.
I saw so many good qualities in Joe that evening and it proved to be a pivotal day in our relationship.
That was the day I knew I wanted to marry Joe.
Months later Joe asked me to marry him and we got married in 1988. And just as I suspected that day, Joe was a devoted husband and a wonderful father to our daughter, Kelly. His gentle, patient, and loving ways which were displayed that day were consistent throughout our marriage.
We shared more than twenty-five happy and fun years together before his death in 2011.
The story of the mice and of the day I knew I wanted to marry Joe remains a precious memory.
* Originally published in Jan 2019.
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