SMALL TREASURES—A MOUSE’S JOURNEY

Suse holding Mice2009-08-10It sounded like a bird chirping. At least that was my first reaction to the squeaking noise that had Darter so intrigued in the garage. She was circling a small metal shelving unit full of Carter’s tools, her feline whiskers flexing in great concentration. I narrowed down the direction of the sound to the right hand corner of the second shelf, and stuck my hand back behind a small, greasy box full of bolts or something, and touched something warm and squirming.

Hand Holding Mice2009-08-10It was a mouse. Two mice, actually, both pink and hairless, and one with a cry that should have brought mama mouse running. But Mama wasn’t coming, because Darter had left her eviscerated body in the driveway, next to the body of yet another pink, lifeless baby.

I love my cat. I am happy that she keeps the mouse population down around and in our house, but, paradoxically, I am pained and distressed to see a baby of any kind suffer. So I thanked Darter for her hard work in keeping our house mouse-free, while I hurried the tiny pinky mice inside and warmed up a heating pad for them. Yes, I know, this is very conflicted thinking.

The little mice were the size the tip of my pinky finger, with eyes and ears tightly sealed. I could barely make out their tiny mouths and wondered what in the world I had around the house that would fit into that pinhead-sized orifice so that I could attempt to feed them.

Luckily, I had a very small plastic nipple made for preemie squirrels and chipmunks, and a 1cc syringe. I also had on hand some powdered Esbilac, which is always good in a pinch to feed baby anythings. So I decided to give these little mice a go and see if I could possibly save them. I’ve never attempted to raise anything this small and this young, and I knew the odds were not in their favor. Both were wrinkled with severe dehydration, and I had no idea how long they had been motherless. Hours at least, I assumed.

Upon closer inspection, I found that one of the babies still had his thread-like umbilical chord affixed to his belly. I decided they were both little boys, although a penis on a mouse that size is nearly invisible, at least to my aging eyes.

It was easy to name the loud one—who was also by far the smallest—Squeaky. Button came to mind as a good name for Number Two, so that was that: Button and Squeaky. The pink orphans. While their formula heated, I got out tissues, Q-tips, and a small face towel. When I held Squeaky up to the nipple, I realized I would need a magnifying glass if I hoped to avoid accidentally drowning them.

It was quite a fine juggling act: Squeaky in one hand, nipple and syringe in the other, and the magnifying glass sandwiched between my knees. Somehow, we all survived the first night.

And the second, and the third. Suddenly, a week had passed, and the mouslings were no longer pink. A soft fuzz of the prettiest grey had covered their naked pinkness. Their bellies were vanilla colored velveteen, and their still-closed eyes were circled in black liner. All was going well, but I was concerned for Squeaky. He never looked quite “right” next to Button. While Button had a coat of gloss, Squeaky looked greasy. Button was learning to scurry—albeit slowly. Squeaky walked with his back end held straight up, and he quivered with each step.

Still, they were surviving to my surprise and delight.  With eight feedings a day, I was able to spend a lot of time with them, fascinated just watching them grow and change. My daily charts of their care were full of exclamation marked “firsts”: “Button washed his face!” “Squeaky grabbed the nipple with new teeth!” “Ears open!” “Eyes beginning to open! So shiny!” “Button pees by himself!”

And I was struck once again by the miracle of small treasures. Life, I find, is awesome when it is huge and in your face, and it is equally awesome when it is so tiny you need magnifying lenses to see it. How miniscule and how perfect is something as ordinary-yet-extraordinary as a baby house mouse. The human hand is a remarkable thing, yet no less breathtaking than the perfect, thread-like fingers of Button wrapped around his white, cherished nipple. Eyes are indeed windows to the soul, whether the eye is human, or the glitter-speck eye of young Squeaky.

I am loving my journey with the mouse brothers. They are nearly three weeks old now, and while my days are spent in a bit of a sleepy haze from the necessity of late night feedings, I am learning the unique gift of mouse presence, which is quiet, gentle peace.

Perhaps this is the gift of the rodent kingdom. Perhaps this is the gift of creatures who take no life in the process of living their own. While Darter will continue to hunt and eat them, I stand in new awe of these very small treasures, who fill their own unique corner of Earth, and care for it far better than we.

More of the adventures of Squeaky and Button to come….

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15 Responses to SMALL TREASURES—A MOUSE’S JOURNEY

  1. Cindy says:

    Well, I just had to comment again….I hope I’m not commenting too much!? Anyway, last Spring I opened my pantry, walked in and saw something out of the corner of my eye scurry along. Of course I jumped back and then it hit me, “Oh no, we have mice”! Tucked back amongst the cans and the pasta was, sure enough, a tiny mouse. This one was about as big as my thumb, so no mama needed. Now, we live in a hundred and forty year old house, so the occasional loose mouse in the house at night wasn’t a big deal and didn’t stand a chance with our four cats. This one though was safely ensconced in the pantry, with a full array of yummy things to nibble. The cracker box was nearly shredded, the rice was speckled with little black mouse poop, and a particular bag of chocolate chips would never be made into cookies….and all this damage appearing overnight! Knowing I could not set traps or poison, I went out and bought humane traps, thinking I could just catch the little guy and set him free in the morning, because no matter how I tried I couldn’t figure out where he went to, he disappeared, and no matter how I tried I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where he got in. Well, two days and two traps later I found the little guy, or more then likely one of it’s cohorts, happily munching on the peanut butter used to bait the inside of the trap. Outside we went, and into the back, back yard he was freed and sped away. Ha! done with that! Ha, not! Of course, what was I thinking? Where there was one mouse, there were others, and God was chuckling! In fact, they marked a cross on my house sometime in the night, I just know it. Every morning for the next two weeks I freed little mice to the back field to go and re-populate their kingdom. The mouse population in my pantry finally went away once and for all and things returned to normal….. cookies were made again! Now of this I am sure, the very last mouse I trapped and freed was the one the night before just sitting on the pantry shelf when I opened the door. He just looked at me, I stood there and just looked at him. We stood there and just looked at each other for a full minute. How exquisite it was! How absolutely adorable! The petite, precious little feet, with tiny perfect little claws. The bright, shiny, alert little eyes. The darling little whiskers. The teeny, tiny twitching nose. I was entranced and delighted! I said out loud, “You have a right to live, and I have a right to my rice and pasta. You are beautiful. You are a precious little gift. You are perfect. Now, I want you to stop visiting here and return to your fields. I will not hurt you, but you need to go”. The next day, after I took out this last mouse, they never returned. Not one. And so ends my mouse story, which is nothing special, but the epilogue is this……a perfect little creature once again took up residence in my life and taught me Grace and Acceptance. A perfect little creature, for a moment, looked into my eyes and we understood. Can they teach us anything else but Grace? Can we be more blessed then to feel at one with ALL life? I’m hard pressed to come up with a better lesson, so in praise of “all creatures great and small”……

    I am once again thankful for your stories Susan. Their simplicity is stunning and moving and so needed in this world of ours. To pause and connect here is a joy. Thank you….

    • Susan McElroy says:

      Ah, yes: the fine line between their survival and our foodstuffs! I am amazed at how much damage and odor one small mouse can make, and at the same time, I think they are beautiful. If they would poop and pee outside, I think I could make room for them indoors…

      Good post, Cindy, and such a wise tale. Er, tail.

  2. Ingrid says:

    What a wonderful story – sending lots of good energy to Buttons and Squeaky!

    I have a mouse story, too. A few years back, one had taken up residence in my basement. My indoor cat is NOT a mouser, if it’s not served up in a bowl, she’s just not interested. Using a regular mousetrap was not an option, I never could have lived with myself. So, I bought a humane trap, baited it with peanut butter, and the next morning, I had caught him. Not being too smart (I’m talking about myself here!), I released him in my backard. And watched him make a beeline for the basement entry to the laundry room (where I had trapped him). Well, now, at least, I knew where he was getting INTO the house. So I sealed up that area, then trapped him again. This time, I drove him to a nearby park. Hopefully he went on to live a happy life there by a stream and lots of trees.

    • Susan McElroy says:

      Oh, Ingrid! Your story brought back a really funny memory for me—years ago I was out camping with my then-honey, and a mouse got into the camper that night, scampering all over us. I caught him in a five-gallon bucket baited with peanut butter, and let him go outside. Then another got in, and I did the same thing. Six mice got in that night, until I figured out that ONE mouse got in SIX times! Talk about slow to figure it out!

  3. Bett Weston says:

    It’s become family lore – the story my brother-in-law, Jim, tells of the rat who became part of the witness-protection-program – relocated to a location far far away from his home in the walls of the house!

    Just a couple nights ago I rescued a mouse from the jaws of one of my cats. I made him drop it outside. It was still alive then, though I don’t know the outcome – it was gone in the morning, either on its own steam or something else came along and had dinner. I have so many cats that I never want them to actually get a mouse inside — too much competition & predator/prey energy. I pray each night that the mousies will stay on the other side of the doors in the rooms where the cats live! They and chipmunks and racoons are all lovely critters, but they can cause big problems when living inside. I made a rule that they can’t live in the cave with me, but they can have the all outdoors.

    Compromises.

    Susan – what a gift to keep the pinkies alive!!

  4. Sharon says:

    What a wonderful story and lesson in humility from Cindy. Thank you Susan for your inspiring blog.

  5. D.B. says:

    Susan,
    Don’t you have “the mustard seed” going with these little ones?! I saw Bobcat tracks a few days ago, had not seen them since last winter.

    Looked in my Animal Medicine Card book and could not find them? Does anyone know what they represent? Also, as I mentioned to a couple friends this sighting 2 of them came forward and said they had seen them too?

    Thanks for any information you may have. Lola sniffed the tracks and laid down????

    Hugs,
    D.B.

    P.s.
    Susan,
    Look up Mud Skippers…

  6. D.B. says:

    o.k., I will look again for Bobcats! I was probably too excited!

    Susan, again I ask you to look up Mud Skippers!…pond stuff!!

    Hugs,
    D.B.

    • Susan McElroy says:

      Okay, Denise, these mudskippers are too cute! I used to see them in the Marquesas Islands when I was sailing. I think my pond would love them—but I think we get too cold here. Maybe bring them in for the winter??

  7. Cindy says:

    I love to decipher and understand animal lore! When an animal you don’t usually see appears in your life, I believe it’s for a reason

    Regarding Bobcats….as totem animals they are a sign of PATIENCE…….so,

    the Bobcat sends a clear message that in order for us to get what we want in life, we must be willing to plan, adapt, and above all, have the patience to see our ideals manifest. They are stealth hunters, taking there time to get what they want. Ever watchful, discerning and willing to let things play out without interference.

    I think we could all take a cue from the Bobcat….what do you think?

    Cindy

  8. Marga says:

    Love the pictures and the words.
    Something new is happening now, perhaps, a new form, weaving Susan’s words and vision with our own to a richer understanding of the world.

    And to think when I used to take the mice to beautiful new habitats, warned them about ground owls and staying out late, and then raced them home, how I yearned for kindred spirits or even a few friends who wouldn’t think me quite daft.

  9. Bett Weston says:

    Here’s a website where you can enter the Enchanted Forest and call a power animal to you. It’s quite lovely. No bobcat, though.

    http://www.poweranimalsunleashed.com/

  10. Cindy says:

    I entered the Enchanted Forest, and lo and behold The Swan came to me. This is the last thing I expected! I thought, oh surely a wolf, or a deer or a horse…..or a bear, but no…..The Swan….and she was perfect for me. The description of the swan qualities, that are now mine, was just what I needed and didn’t know it! Everyone needs to try this. Really, just let your intention be strong and the right animal will come forth. I’m a swan, I’m a swan!!!!

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