BUTTON’S GREAT ADVENTURE

buttonbigheadDo you remember Button and Squeaky, the two infant house mouse babies I found some weeks ago, squeaking in my garage?  Well, it’s about time I continued their story:

After some days of futzing with an infant feeding syringe that I had to look through a magnifying glass to use correctly (that is, without drowning the mouse babies), Button, Squeaky, and I settled into a fairly harmonious routine. I would wake once in the middle of the night to feed them. During the day, they fed every three hours.

My hands have gotten far less dexterous over the years, and I was concerned that I couldn’t keep them steady enough to consistently aim into those tiny, pinhole mouths, but all my outside work this summer had strengthened and steadied my fingers. My aim was good, their hunger was intense enough to keep them focused on the syringe, and as the days passed, Button grew. After a feeding, his tiny white belly would be plump and soft.

Squeaky, sadly, did not thrive. He was much smaller than Button, his fur wavy and oily-looking while Button’s shone like grey satin. When I would hold them in my lap after a feeding and watch them move, Button was beginning to attempt that classic mouse “rush” to and fro, albeit on shaky legs. Squeaky walked, trembling, with his back legs and tail hoisted up high.

On the morning that I began to hear a slight clicking in Squeaky’s breathing, I did not choose to begin antibiotics to stem the onset of pneumonia. For him, I sincerely believed it was a blessing. I carried them both with me in my bra all day. By nightfall, Squeaky was gone. I placed his tiny body under a beautiful maidenhair fern out by the pond. I covered him with a maple leaf. May he rest in peace. May his small body feed the Earth.

buttoneatsButton was becoming more exquisite by the day. His little pinned-back ears began fanning out like flower petals. His eyes got large, his whiskers grew soft like new grass, and he learned to grab for the syringe nipple and hang on with his small, sturdy hands.

I put Kleenex and shredded paper towel bits in his small plastic container, and after many days, he finally matured enough to begin creating a little nest with them. He took no interest in all the solid food goodies I offered him: nut pieces, cheese, Cheerios, baby cereal, wild strawberries.  His love for his nipple was very strong. When he would hear me fiddling with the lid of his enclosure, he would poke his nose out of his den and sit very still until I picked him up. Then, he would latch on to the nipple, and drink till he looked round as a marble.

I was beginning to wonder when he might begin feeding himself, and when I might think about turning him back to the wild, when I awoke one morning to find that he took both matters into his own paws,—sort of. In the top of his plastic container was a perfectly chewed, round hole. Thus began Button’s Great Adventure.

butttoneats2I kept his enclosure in my bedroom on the floor. The doors were e always kept closed (Darter our cat, as you know, is quite the huntress), but the spaces beneath the doors were easily large enough for Button to slide under.

I sat down with his container in my lap, stunned that he was strong enough to have chewed a hole in it and made such a clean—and dangerous—getaway.  Ghastly thoughts had their way with my brain: Me stepping on Button and smooshing him. Darter bringing me his entrails. MazelTov gobbling him down in one gulp before I could stop him. Also in my mind was an image of me beating my head against the wall—something that seemed more than appropriate under the circumstances.

The first thing that made sense to me was to try and figure out if Button could possibly still be in the bedroom, so that evening, I put out formula and sunflower seeds next to his cage with the hole in it. Come morning, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when the formula dish was empty, and some sunflower seeds had been cracked and eaten.

Two blessings, I told myself: He was still in the bedroom, and he was eating on his own. His sudden freedom seemed to be hastening the coming of his wild nature. I was lucky, so far. He was lucky, so far. That morning I went out and bought a mouse-sized Have-a-Hart trap, and set it up by his container. I trapped nothing that day, but by the following morning, there sat Button, huddled in the corner of the trap, under house arrest.

I carried the trap into the bathroom, climbed into the tub, and slid my hand into the trap. I wasn’t sure if he would allow me to handle him anymore. His demeanor was that of a wild, wary, mature mouse. What a difference two days can make, I told myself.

When my hand touched his fur, he climbed quickly into the palm of my hand, and sat very still. Bringing him up to my face, I said, “It’s time for you to have your next adventure, and it’s a big one, little man.” His whiskers flexed. He looked at my nose (a pink mountain). And he started to wash, first his face, and then every inch of his small self. “Getting ready for your big journey?” I asked.

buttonfoonI placed him back in solitary confinement (at least I knew he was safe and secure there), and hurried through my breakfast. Then, I packed a plastic baggie full of sunflower seeds, cereal, oats, a blob of peanut butter, and a handful of Kleenex, incase he needed some familiar construction materials.

I put the trap and Button in my backpack, Carter called the dogs, and we headed into the forest to the old, abandoned log cabin about a quarter mile down the hollow from our house. It was a fine day for freedom. The dogs rejoiced at the touch of fall in the air, and I rejoiced that I had been granted a second chance to steward Button to his wild life—one outside the walls of my bedroom.

In the old cabin sits a wooden ledge, next to an old chimney. Bricks are loose and falling, and there are wonderful places for a mouse to hide and thrive. I emptied the baggie contents onto the shelf, and then took out the trap and slipped my hand inside. Into my palm slipped Button, sitting still and calm. He was a creature big enough to place his trust in giants.

He did not leave my outstretched hand for some time and I didn’t hurry him. Finally, he tiptoed off my fingers, then scurried into the labyrinth behind the old bricks. I watched him hurry away to his new life with a heart full of relief and gratitude. I had kept him alive against all odds. And my reward was seeing a tiny piece of wildness slip off my palm and vanish like smoke into the great mystery. It was a good day to be alive. May little Button thrive, and may his offspring call that cabin home for many years to come.

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18 Responses to BUTTON’S GREAT ADVENTURE

  1. SaLLy says:

    Will Button be passing on his story to his fellow mice? How will he tell his story? This is so much fun to follow. These are great pictures of Button, and without complicating things, I wonder if his and the other stories can become a book for children.

  2. WiLSoN says:

    Did you ever see the movie The Green Mile? There was a great mouse character in it, “Mr. Jangles,” who lived to a remarkable old age. Perhaps you and Button will cross paths again some time down the proverbial road..

    • Susan McElroy says:

      Oh, yes! I can just see me and Button when we are 100, sitting together on the porch of that ancient cabin! I loved the Green Mile.

  3. Patricia LeVesque says:

    There is no blessing too small to be appreciated. Bravo for both you and Button. Many thanks. Pat LeV.

  4. Sue German says:

    I love the idea of a children’s book about Button! Any opportunity to foster a love of animals in children is to be explored, I think. I wish I could write, but that’s not a talent I possess. Luckily Susan does! And of course that’s probably why Button came calling on her. In any event, would love to hear how he does! Blessings, Sue

  5. Ann Parker says:

    As fervent “rodent fans and supporters” here in the endless suburbs of Northern CA, we all love this! Thank you for the story, Sue! (Saddened about Squeaky, though… 🙁 ).
    I agree w/Sally etc. who mentioned the possibility of a children’s book. This is a natural. Told from Button’s POV, I’d suggest… 🙂

    • Susan McElroy says:

      Hmmm, I don’t know if I can raise the voice of my “inner mouse.” Gotta work up to this. I wrote one children’s story once, tried to get it published, and no one wanted it. I passed it to my author friend Daniel Quinn, whom I know to be brutally honest, and he said “Susan, this isn’t bad. It’s just kind of boring.” There you have it…

  6. Chris Davis says:

    What a beautiful story, Susan. The pictures – both your photos and the ones in my mind – are so vivid! I agree – this would be a delightful children’s book! Chris

  7. Cindy says:

    It moves me beyond words when I hear of someone taking the time to care for the smallest among us. Button is one lucky mouse! And Squeaky, while he wasn’t meant to be here long, certainly, without a doubt, left an impression on you Susan. I have this vision of you carrying these babies around in your bra for the day! At first I laughed out loud, then felt such a tenderness for the way you kept them close to you. Squeaky had a blessed sense of protection around him for his short little life, snuggled close to your heart!

    I, too, vote for a children’s book Susan! Watch for the signs now, this it going to keep coming up for you! Think of all the animal adventures waiting to be written to entertain, and most importantly, to show children how to be caretakers of the small…this planet and each other!

  8. D.B. says:

    I must be a big kid because I could read stories like that everyday!!! 🙂

    If not a book for children what about adding to your blog sight a section for kids? They are all used to using this type of sight and it would open another opportunity to share and encourage the little ones about the beasts and the balance of life.

    It would be so great to read their comments!!!

    Hugs,
    D.B.

  9. Ingrid says:

    I seocond the idea of a childrens’ book about all the wildlife babies you’re rescued!

  10. D.B. says:

    Will do Susan! In the meantime, we can test the idea with the little ones in our lives.

    Thank you for showing us how to be kind, gentle and true to ourselves. My dog Lola accompanied my mothers cat Leo today to his annual check up; Leo decided after a brief but awkward moment to use his charm to soothe the situation! He was allowed to wander the halls with the vet and the tech and even sat atop the counter to let the gals know the phone was ringing?!

    We all seem to do better when the ropes are down, the fear eased and the love shining! Love to all!

    Hugs,
    D.B.

  11. Kerry says:

    Hey Susan! All your blog stories would come together to make a great book already, without alteration. People of all ages will love these stories as a compilation.
    So don’t try to write a children’s story then! They may not be right for the youngest of readers, but there is definitely a youth market in these stories. Engaging and powerful. My inner 12 year old is completely enamoured with your stories and photos. I can see them in every public school library!
    I love the idea of a book based on this blog. I would buy two for sure, one for myself and one for the young person in my life. Long live (your) books!!

    • Susan McElroy says:

      Hi Kerry: Funny, I had been thinking of a collection of my Maple Musings, self published, possibly spiral bound, to sell online. Hmmmmm.

  12. milkayphoto says:

    Hi Susan! I stumbled upon your blog looking for information House Mice as I am currently fostering two little ones right now. They are much older than when you found Button and Squeaky, but one has a bum hind leg. We found that one first and have no idea what happened to her (I think it is a girl, but unsure – should there be nipples already if female? I am guessing they are 4 weeks old). She responded well to being warmed and fed and is hobbling around like she knows no different.

    A day later we came upon another mouse of the same age – almost frozen with cold. That one has recovered quickly and the two are fast friends. It is coming to the time when I know I need to release them, and your story of Button will make that process easier. I didn’t release them earlier because we have been hounded by rain and there is flooding everywhere. I want to make sure these two will be safe when I do release them.

    Any information you can provide me would be greatly appreciated! Tracy

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