We found half of a mouse in the basement the other day. The back half. Not sure where the other half is, but I assume it’s in the belly of one of our cats.
We also found a whole mouse, cowering under my husband’s bass drum, a cat on either side of it–one all white and fluffy, one black and sleek–watching it intensely.
My husband pulled the mouse out and brought it upstairs. “What do we do with this?” he asked, motioning to the mouse sitting patiently in his hand. It was just a baby, fully furred, yet unstable on its feet, eyes slightly open, mouth suckling the air. It quivered uncontrollably. Undoubtedly, it had seen its sibling get bitten in half by a giant beast. We were torn.
At first we put him out in the woodpile, finding a sizable notch in a piece of wood and wrapping him in a garden glove. We dropped some flax seeds around him for nourishment. He nestled in and we left him there, hoping he would survive.
As darkness fell an hour later, we began to question our decision. Did we just sentence this little creature to death? Surely he’d freeze in the night; it would get down to fifty degrees overnight. Plus, there are stray cats out there all the time. Could he even eat solid foods yet?
My husband went out to check on him and came back twenty minutes later. “His name is Mr. Jingles,” he said, matter-of-factly. Of course it is, I thought, since he’s Stephen King’s #1 fan. Well, on second thought, he’s his #2 fan…
Once he had a name, we had no choice but to bring him in. We decided to keep him warm overnight, then free him to the wild when it was warmer. So, we poked holes in a shoebox and lined it with a piece of a fleece blanket. I made a concoction of half and half and warm water for him to drink. The internet said to feed him powdered kitten milk, but we didn’t know where to find something like that. (Was someone out there milking cats?) It was nine at night and we used what he had. He drank it, slowly, from an eye-dropper. After a few drops he quivered and we thought he was dying, but he didn’t. He climbed around the blanket, buried his nose into a fold and nestled in. He slept in our bedroom that night next to the heater.
Maybe we were crazy. Maybe we should have let nature take its course. But, we’re part of nature too, aren’t we? And, in a way, didn’t he have more of a right to live in our house than us? I mean, he has BORN here! (I know, I’m stretching it there…)
The next day he spent in the garage while we were at work. That evening we fed him by putting drops into our hand and he lapped them up. It worked so much better than the eye-dropper. He eagerly crawled into our hands when he sensed us near–his dexterous, gripping toes clinging for dear life as he climbed our fingers. As he walked more, he built strength and balance in those wobbly little limbs. The next few days were cold, so he became a full-time house dweller.
I’ll admit that after three days I felt a bit like a crazy person taking care of this little guy, but I figured I was doing it because we have four month old dachshund puppy and I have some ‘mother’s milk’ running through my body. The innocence is all too familiar; the trust too sweet. Or is it more than that?
I think the moment we knew we’d protect him and try to save him was when I ran a finger along his head and under his chin and he closed his eyes and stretched out his neck. He loved to be touched, to be pet, like one of our dogs or cats. He wasn’t ‘vermin,’ as some people would say. He was a scared, little creature asking for safety and comfort in a big world after he’d lost his family.
How could we refuse?
I wrote the first half of this a few days ago, and really thought we were going to save Mr. Jingles. I had visions of creating a little home for him in our house, or letting him free in the garage, where he would come out and visit us when we were working on projects out there. (I probably watched too many Disney movies as a child…)
Last night he snuggled up in my hand for a while, then I lay him on my shirt as we watched a movie. He was fine until his back legs spasmed. Then his whole body spasmed. I tried to get him to eat, but he wouldn’t. He started gasping every few seconds, sucking in air. We each held him for a few minutes until he passed. We hoped he wasn’t in pain, but it was quick, and he wasn’t alone.
We thought he was going to make it. And we had been ready to take on the responsibilities. We were feeding him numerous times a day, making sure he was pooping (he did so…in my hand, often…) and we kept him warm. But, it wasn’t enough.
We only had him for four days, but he became a part of our family, however briefly. I’m not ashamed to say I shed a few tears when he died, and I went to bed sad, and a little shocked, with no shoebox on the floor next to the heater.
We knew the odds were against us, but we tried. I’m glad we tried. I hope he is too.
I know this happens all the time–people try to save birds, squirrels, chipmunks and other animals who are orphaned or injured. But why? Is it just instinct to care for those who are helpless? Or do we have so much love inside of us that we can give, and give, and give and never be empty?
I hope so. That’s a nice thought.
We did love that little guy; he had personality.
We’ll bury him in the backyard under a fruit tree. And we will remember Mr. Jingles.