Monday, May 17, 2010

This Is Inman.

This is Inman. I meant to write about Inman when I had him, but I didn't. Inman used to live at the fair grounds, but apparently he hitched a ride in my grandparent's truck. When he tried to make a smooth exit at our house, my dad's dog Sadie decided to kill him. So Inman decided I looked like a friendly place to climb up, and to hang onto my back and sit on my shoulder for protection.
Our neighbors have lots of cats, Sadie is rabidly anti-rodent, and there is at least one known snake in the general area. Naturally I couldn't just let Inman out into this fierce unknown world. The way I saw it, he was on an odyssey, and it was my job to help him home. We were planning on going to a pottery exhibit at the fairgrounds the next weekend, and I planned to smuggle Inman, my little wood mouse, back to his home then.
Inman was not at all aggressive. He escaped immediately when I brought him in the house, but I caught him again. He was so tiny and good-natured. Terrified of me, but I put him in our huge aquarium, where he adopted the coconut shell hideout as his abode of choice. I gave him acorns and things and he would retreat there and eat them.
My dog Cami seemed to think I was playing with fire, and thought she should save me from myself by killing Inman. Naturally I had to keep a close eye on him. Then one night, although the lid was in place, Inman was nowhere to be found.
Then I saw a tiny little tail hanging out of the leaves of my potted anita.
I could have scooped Inman up right then, but I was afraid if I might miss, and he might jump down into the joyful jaws of Cami. So instead I grabbed her and locked her out of the room.
The next half hour was very interesting. I tried everything, but Inman successfully evaded capture. I tore my room apart, and finally Inman adopted the trunk my (very heavy) chinchilla cage sits on as his Alamo. He sat under there and wouldn't budge.
I rested a second, eying the trunk darkly and vacillating between threats and encouragement. (He was probably laughing at me, sitting there panting and talking to myself).
Then I pulled myself together and moved the trunk. And moved it and moved it, and swept all the timothy hay and fuller's earth sandbath out from under it - but Inman was nowhere to be found. And I have never seen him since.
I left food out lavishly, set several different kind of traps, involving food bait and buckets, that sort of thing. What you do for a lost pet mouse or hamster. But I never found a trace of him - no droppings, no sounds, nothing.
I read that while wood mice, like any others, can adapt to human habitation, they really do like the outdoors. They aren't often found in homes. So I assumed Inman had headed for the hills, and only hoped he had gotten there.
This was before Thanksgiving. Now, over the holidays there was food left out constantly, we were gone overnight and longer with dishes in the sink, etc. So you'd think if there was any little budding mousy community we would have known it. I had all sorts of food left out in my room, as usual, and it would certainly have been a nice place for a mouse to make itself at home; I was almost never up there. We were very busy.
Yet recently, within the past month, we have become aware that we have a mouse problem. My cat Hobbie has killed three of them. One was definitely a house mouse, not at all like Inman. But Hobbie only has three legs. He's missing his hind leg so he's not the best springer.
So you see, it would be easy to blame the particular quandary on me. Which is exactly what some people seem bent on doing...
Anywho, the other day we were cleaning out a crammed closet. That is, everybody else was, and I was holding Max who was sleeping. Just minding my own business, surfing the net and checking my email. Suddenly I heard garbled screaming and yells coming from upstairs, so sudden and unaccountable that I nearly fell out of my chair.
The words I caught were, "Oh no - Kaley - mice - somebody get Kaley - Kaley! - any more??..."
Needless to say I leapt upstairs, shedding Max somewhere along the way, out to rescue the animal life that had apparently announced its presence in a very unexpected way.
Apparently they were vacuuming, and vacuumed up a nice little mouse nest. And then they saw a baby.
I got the baby, and we all discussed the matter in the typical family way, everyone talking loudly over each other and half of us only listening to ourselves, and arguing about the fate of the little baby.
I cupped it in my hand and started systematically searching through all the shoes and things. I had cleaned them almost all up when I found my mousy friend's sibling, who was a little less alert.
I had just announced my new find when my mother shrieked and took off down the hall with the energy and agility of a whirling dervish.
"The mother, the mother!" She screamed wildly. It was quite comic. (Sorry, mom).
(Later, while was laughing at her, she explained that she is afraid of mice. I had no idea, I've always thought she wasn't afraid of anything).
Then I saw a very brave thing. The little mother mouse, her eyes looking ready to pop out of her head, was steadily making her terrified way towards me over the mound of blankets and other odds and ends we had tossed out. She was so scared, but she was coming, right to my brother and I, because we had her babies and she was trying to get to them, her children. I just stared at her, trying to think. I had entertained some plan of trying to capture them all and release them together.
But I didn't think quick enough. Everyone was talking loudly and moving around, and she scampered under my computer desk. I cleared everyone out and moved it, and she had pulled and Inman, and was gone. We haven't seen her since. But it makes me sad, to remember her looking and coming right towards us, so courageously. It's amazing how animals will sacrifice themselves for their young. Some people aren't even that brave.
So my sister and I secreted the two away. I quickly looked some things up on the computer, having no idea what to do with them. I thought they would die, but I mixed up some sugar water and fed them from a spoon. Later I added a little coconut oil while trying to figure out what would be the best formula. After dispelling certain family members' unfortunate misconceptions about the black plague and things like that, (which was spread by fleas, on rats, not mice - don't hate on the rodents), we tentatively decided that the babies would live with me, since we couldn't do anything else.
I found an article about raising wild mice. The author said she had raised baby mice on coconut milk, but almond will do just as good. So I soaked some almonds and made my own. (I'll tell more about that later).
I was thinking of naming them Poppy and Miles, but then the perfect name came to me: Simon and Garfunkel. They are two little bookends, after all. (If there had been three I could have named them Frank, Sammy, and Dean and had the Rat Pack, but they aren't rats, so that would have been cute but incorrect).
However, I was in fear of our lives yet: dad wasn't home. Mom talked to him on the phone and explained the presence of two new family members, so it wasn't any surprise when he got home. He probably wasn't surprised at all, he knows me so well, although he did ask my mother, initially, if we had flushed them down the toilet, which I find absolutely appalling. I reassure myself that he couldn't have been serious.

So this is the little tartan box they live in. I got a necklace in it several years ago. They're so tiny, so it's quite snug. I punched some air holes in it with a pin.
Here they are in comparison to my finger. They don't look so fuzzy any more, we all together make a soggy mess while they're feeding and they look rather grungy. Their mother would be horrified, I'm sure. But this was from the day I found them. They're unfortunately a little thinner now, too. Especially Garfunkel. He hates the syringe, he wants to suck on a nipple, and of course they don't make mouse-sized nipples. But I think someone should.Here they are, looking so nice and healthy. I estimate them to have been about a week old when I found them. Here their eyes were closed, as were their ears.
So, these are my little darlings. It's a lot of work, they have to be fed every two hours. I bet they'd eat once an hour, but it takes me altogether about a half hour to do their feeding, and all the sterilizing and warming up of formula. I really can't see feeding any oftener.
So, here's a close-up. Hopefully they'll live to adulthood and we can see what a resemblance they bear to their possible ancestor, my old friend Inman.

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