Scrappy (Volume 91, May 29 - September 11, 2006)
From May to September
What I mostly remember
Is animal crises,
Caregiving and fly-sies.
I’m thrilled summer’s over
With its slaframine clover.
Now it’s on to the fall —
Time for bedding the stall.
Hope no hernia surgery will wreck
My plans to sit out and read on the deck.
Friday, July 21, 2006
I was on the phone with Dr. Pat, our other vet, this morning. We needed advice on what to do for our new charge, a tiny baby mouse. Ellis spotted him or her, lying in the middle of the path, all alone. This baby is so little, his eyes aren’t open yet. He’s about an inch and a quarter long.
We’ve been trying to get her to drink milk from our palms. Ellis has had a tiny amount of success. This little mouse is the cutest creature I’ve ever seen. Her belly is white; her chin is white. The rest of her is gray. Her head is as big as her body right now. We’ve been calling her “Spinky” — after a childhood pet — was it a mouse or a hamster? I have no idea. But “Scrappy” is better. This little thing is scrappy. It’s amazing Scrappy lived overnight. When you place him in your palm, he pulls himself up and walks around. (He’s just learning to walk. He flops over but gets up again.) (he/her/it -- language fails me -- I'll reluctantly settle for he/him)
Anyway, Dr. Pat said the mouse will starve to death on cow’s milk. We have to buy a can of evaporated milk. There are no nipples or eye droppers small enough, so we have to try to get a tiny medicine syringe into Scrappy’s mouth.
Volume is a big question. How much should a one-inch long mouse be drinking?
We’re philosophical. Scrappy is, most likely, DOOMED. Even if we can get him to drink evaporated milk and live long enough to open his eyes — what then? We can give him food, too, but what then?
Our goal would be to release him as soon as possible. But could he survive? He shouldn’t lose his fear of other animals or humans. Technically it’s illegal to keep him as a pet — nor would we want to. But what are his chances outside?
We can only try and see what happens. All I know is that when I look at this tiny, perfect creature sitting on my palm, relaxing enough, though still blind, to wash his little face with his even littler hands, I see the Divine.
It’s a beautiful sight.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Saturday morning we drove to Muscoda to pick up Dewey’s prednisone ($70.50). At the vet’s, I asked for a medicine needle that goes on the end of a syringe. Chet, of Chet’s Feed and Seed, suggested this as a way to try to feed Scrappy. Dr. Pat had told us to get evaporated milk but we had no delivery system. I called Chet to see if he happened to have a mother mouse who might be willing to take in an extra baby. He’s out of the rodent business (fortunately). We cut the end off the needle and sanded it — finally, something small enough to fit in Scrappy’s mouth! Chet warned us not to give him more than one drop every 20 minutes or so. I spent a long time on Saturday trying to feed him. I had to take off my trifocals — I couldn’t focus. That little mouse was so endearing. We wondered if we were being cruel, trying to keep him alive — but we couldn’t stop. He’d come to when we held him and sometimes make a tiny mewling noise like a kitten. I feel terrible that we couldn’t find what he needed — a mouse mother. But we were encouraged when we did manage to get a drop in his mouth. I admit I kissed Scrappy a few times — an exercise in controlled restraint and gentleness. I’ve been getting sicker and sicker since Saturday. I told Ellis I probably have the hanta virus from kissing Scrappy and I’ll be dead shortly. (Hurrah!)
Thursday, July 27, 2006 - in my studio, finally!
So, Saturday we tried multiple times to get Scrappy to ingest tiny amounts of evaporated milk….
Sunday was a much nicer day — less humid, still hot but breezy. Ellis really wanted to go for a bike ride. I had to be persuaded. I wished mightily that he was a horseman. I would have much preferred to be on a trail ride with him. And I worried about leaving Scrappy. He was worse Sunday morning — looking like he was alternately getting stiff or trying to curl into a fetal position permanently. We went through our third debate. Should we try to feed him? Is it cruel to try to feed him? Would it be best to let a cat eat him and end his suffering? Could we just put him back where we found him? Clearly, he wasn’t thriving — he was shrinking. Ellis held him for awhile, after which he revived a little bit. So we felt compelled to try to give him a couple drops of milk. But he pushed the needle away with his teeny, tiny hand. I pet him a little bit and left him in his terrarium/aquarium. We couldn’t kill him, or let the cats do the deed. We just couldn’t.
This is so strange. Saturday night, during the wee hours, I heard a commotion. When we woke up in the morning, we discovered that one of the cats had killed an adult gray mouse, in the house, during the night and left its body on the floor right outside the aquarium. I wondered if they were picking up on my desire to find a mother mouse for Scrappy, and were trying to be helpful (in a misguided way). Ellis thought they might be sending a message to Scrappy: “This could happen to you next.”
We’ll never know but we also debated whether it would be helpful or harmful to put the mouse’s body in with Scrappy. We didn’t, figuring a cold, dead mouse would be of very little comfort to a blind baby in search only of furry warmth and a mother’s nipple.
We hosed off the bikes, filled the tires, put the dogs in the kennel/yard with some fresh water, checked on the horses and fed Scrappy one last time, left a bunch of cat chow for the cats, and drove the bikes to Kendall. We did the Kendall-Wilton-Kendall round trip of 18 miles.
We ate lunch at Gina’s Pies-R-Square. Our egg salad sandwiches were good, but too big, and the atmosphere is sterile and uninteresting now. Most of the funky vintage clothes and antiques are gone. What’s left is too orderly and sparse. But we still enjoy that place.
We were gone about six hours. (I was calling Ellis “Gramps” — he was pedaling so slowly — uphill, after lunch, but I was pretty slow myself. His butt hurt the whole time; my crotch hurt. We both need new seats. I was very pleased that my ankle did not hurt.
Sunday evening, upon our return home, life went downhill fast. Scrappy had died in our absence. We were relieved and so sad. We failed again.
We buried Scrappy under the apple tree, by Misty, after a short prayer. We set him in the ground in a small bird’s nest we’d put in his little house next to some grass. Poor Scrappy. I still feel bad. He really touched our hearts, for some reason.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
10:30 pm - HOT
Something’s really going on with Mouse Medicine this year.
At about 9:45, Ellis yelled, “Val! C’mere, you won’t believe this!” I followed him to the stairs. On one of the stairs, there was Scrappy — back from the dead. It wasn’t, of course, but it was a darling, healthy baby mouse — probably a few weeks older than Scrappy. He or she was — surprise — also gray and white. This little guy was running around on a step midway up the flight to the upstairs. Ellis picked it up with cupped hands and handed the little guy to me. I wanted to hold it before we placed it outside. Of course, I thought briefly about keeping it. They are SO CUTE!
He/she sat calmly in my hand for a little bit. I asked Ellis to get it some cheese before I put it down. Unfortunately, he took forever, the mouse started jumping through my hands, up my arm, I re-caught it safely in my cupped hands, but then I dropped it from waist height. It fell on to a stone step at the base of our outside steps. Then it scurried along the step into the night (right next to the house). I felt terrible that I dropped it — but Mousie rebounded instantly so I don’t think he was hurt. I dropped the (late) cheese right next to the spot I last saw the mouse.
Wow. It was so uplifting to see that lively, healthy mouse. We think Scrappy came back to tell us he’s okay, not to worry.
Or, maybe one of the cats understood my/our sadness over Scrappy’s death and wanted to make us feel better, so he brought us a substitute Scrappy. Or, even more intriguing — maybe a mouse communicated with one of our cats — and by mutual agreement he let the cat carry him into the house to serve as a messenger from Scrappy.