A little off topic, you might think. But no.
This is the story of the time when Mouth, quite literally, bit the dust.
Now, chinchillas are strange little things. They look like puffballs with squirrel tails. They can't get wet because their fur is so ridiculously dense. Their diet is insanely specific; they bark like dogs when they're angry; and they need regular dust baths to stay floofy.
They are basically just meringues in rodent form.
Anyway, my boyfriend and I agreed to look after Billy and Arthur when their original owner emigrated. For the past two years, they have lived in a big cage in our spare room.
Billy is a thug. There is nothing he wouldn't do for a raisin.
He spends most of his time bulldozing around, gnawing at everything in his path. Raisins, dandelions, furniture, he's not fussy. If he has his eye on a thing, that thing had better watch out.
In the raisin world, Billy is the terror of terrors. Baby raisins see him in their worst nightmares. He is the raisin equivalent of the boogeyman.
Then there's Arthur. Arthur's a bit of a sad case. He has only three legs (an old injury that our vet is convinced doesn't bother him), and we think he's blind in one eye.
He's brown, which is unusual for a chinchilla, and he has these weird mottled ears. He gets ten out of ten for rarity value.
Arthur's life is largely spent being sat on by Billy. Both chins seem happy with this arrangement.
No self-respecting raisin would give Arthur a second glance. We love him, but he is a bit of a dweeb.
Because chinchillas are native to the Andes mountains, my boyfriend and I reasoned that Billy and Arthur would probably like to bounce around a bit. Their cage is pretty big, but we thought they were bound to get bored of it.
So we bought a huge zip-up playpen for them. Seriously, this thing is enormous. It was designed for dogs.
Every couple of days, we get Billy and Arthur out of their cage and let them hop about in the playpen for a few hours.
They can't come to any harm in there, so we generally leave them to it.
One day while the chins were in their playpen, Mouth wandered into the room. The cats are usually shut away when Billy and Arthur are out and about, but I was there to supervise and Mouth didn't look particularly threatening. So I let him have a peek.
What I hadn't bargained for was Billy's reaction.
Billy was surveying the room from inside the pen, no doubt having a Pride Rock moment, when Mouth approached.
Mouth's ears loomed over the side of the pen like the shark fin in Jaws.
Billy tensed. He was preparing himself for battle.
Now, whatever self-preservation instinct chinchillas are supposed to have, Billy lacks it. He is a chilla on the edge.
As far as Billy was concerned, there was a Thing that was getting too close for comfort, and that Thing must die.
As the tension mounted unbearably, Mouth - idiot that he is - raised an inquisitive paw.
That was it. Billy finally snapped. He saw red.
He attacked Mouth in the best way he knew how.
With a great war-cry, he kicked a giant torrent of dust from his dust bath into Mouth's unsuspecting tabby face.
Poor Mouth. He didn't know what had hit him. He had only wanted to sniff the overgrown mouse, and it had unleashed such rage!
Mice were supposed to submit feebly, not fight back.
All Mouth had ever known was a lie.
He retreated to a safe distance and licked his paw in a numb, humiliated way.
Ever since then, Mouth has harboured a deep respect for the savage squirrel-mice that inhabit the spare room. They possess powers far exceeding his own.
Billy's ego, on the other hand, has inflated beyond belief.
I just live in eternal hope that he never tries to take on Tail.