A Mouse's Tale

Well, the world has been awful lately. Frankly, it's put my own 1st world anxieties and problems in proper perspective, like, I'm lucky to have the problems I have. But here's the thing: have you noticed that even when you realize that your problems are on the piddly side, they are still your problems and you have to deal with them?

Gather round, me Gentle Readers, and let me tell you a tale, a tale of a mouse named Snowball. And for extra fun, let's make this a Choose Your Own Adventure Story...

My birthday gift to Younger Son was Permission to Own a Mouse. I vehemently don't like rodentia. At all. And Younger doesn't like dogs. Again, at all. "I'm more of a penguin or mouse person, Mom." There's a lot of forms and shady internet sites involved in getting a penguin, but a mouse is pretty easy.

This was with the understanding that my husband would be chief care giver for Mssr. Mouse. Still, I found myself saying Good Morning to the beady eyed rodent, and my voice may have risen a few octaves to that level used for babies and puppies. But the mouse was so responsive, wriggling and shimmying anytime I said hello, like it recognized my voice and was glad to see me. Like a dog, kind of. And when this mouse died, I was sad, mostly for my son, but also because I was a tiny bit attached to that furry face. We waited a respectful period and then took Younger to pick out another mouse. This 2nd mouse would be Snowball.

Snowball was doing fine, so fine that at a year we took him to the vet for an annual check-up. Yes, there is such a thing. And, really, it was a gift to my younger son who wanted to talk mouse-shop with the vet.

But about 6 months later Younger pointed out a worrisome red spot on Snowball's neck. Not a big deal, I assured him. We'll just go to the vet and get some cream. Or whatever. Maybe the mouse is dying, and this is the sign.

If you think it's absurd to take a mouse to the vet and would rather spend your time shopping, click here: www.Amazon.com

If you think that all God's creatures deserve to be treated well, read on:

The vet examined Snowball, took a skin sample and checked under the microscope and told me and Younger that the mouse would need topical and oral meds applied twice a day for 2 weeks. Oral meds???? For a mouse???? How is that done? I can't wrap it in peanut butter like I do for a dog, now can I? A rather large sum of money changed hands, and we were on our way home.

Two days later, Younger left for camp. While I have warmed to the idea that a mouse lives in my house, I don't actually touch said mouse. Enter my fearless Older son. Every morning and afternoon Older would fetch the mouse, and I would do my darndest to give that mouse cherry flavored medicine and swab ointment on his increasingly big and bloody wound. One afternoon, Snowball stretched his neck, and that's when Older and I realized that the mouse had clawed his way to the second layer of dermis. There was much gasping and shuddering and a little hyperventilating. Followed by an alarming call to the vet. Who could not see us. Because apparently there were no "small animal vets in the clinic today." Wha? Yes, mice are a specialty and not every vet specializes.

I swear to you that not even 3 weeks previous, we were having drinks with friends who told us their daughter's hamster had started ailing while she was at camp, and while they were ok with a hamster dying, it would not be while their daughter was away at camp, for crying out loud, and so they paid for a vet visit, FOR A HAMSTER! Ha, ha, we all laughed. Ha, ha. I was about to pay for a 2nd, 2ND vet visit! And I was desperate to do so! So, I was referred (mouse referral!) to another vet clinic, and away I went.

It was while sitting in this vet's office that I posted my status on Facebook. I don't do a lot of Facebooking, occasionally posting a cute photo of my boys eating or cooking or whatever. Usually I get some likes and a few comments about how big they are getting. The mouse post, by far, drew the greatest attention.

"You know mice are, like, $5. But I'm sure you have formed a priceless bond with this one?"

"Could this be like a goldfish, where you can replace it and your son won't notice?"

"Are you serious?"

Here's the thing: my pets are just that, pets. I love them, I care for them, but when they are old and hurting, I make the hard decision and hold them through it. I was not about to investigate Mouse Hospice. But this mouse had a huge, gaping, bloody, raw wound, and I couldn't just leave him like that.

And so another large sum of money passed hands, and now my mouse was on 2 types of oral medication. "Do you think Snowball would like cotton candy flavor?" asked the cheerful vet tech.

If you think spending a ridiculous amount of money on a mouse for Pete's sake is immoral and there are far more important issues in the world, stop reading and go to the website for the International Justice Mission.

If you think that taking care of a family pet is a commitment to be honored, read on:

Is there no balm in Gilead? Actually, there is a balm, 2 balms, and they would need to be applied in conjunction with the oral meds, 3 times a day.

The hamster friend contacted me and told me that their hamster had also been self-mutilating (vet's words, not mine), and they had looked up the most humane way to put down a hamster. And because her husband is an engineer, he had devised his own CO2 chamber. Just letting me know in case we needed it.

The vets' office called a few days later, a different vet very concerned that Snowball might have ringworm fungus. "But he's an inside mouse. How could he get ringworm?" A valid question, I think. The vet wanted to see him immediately. "That wound is going to need stitches." "Won't that hurt?" "I'll anesthetize him first."

And here is where I stopped cold. "I'm so sorry, but at the end of this month, I have to take my son to the doctor, and I'm paying for that visit, so I can't pay for any more mouse treatment."

Maybe this vet was just curious about possible ringworm, maybe he just wanted to see if this geriatric mouse could pull through, or maybe vets take a hippocratic oath, I don't know, but the vet said he would do this free of charge.

While driving back to the clinic that afternoon with all of Snowball's medications, I called a friend. "Are you giving the mouse mouth-to-mouth resuscitation?" my friend answered the phone. "Don't be ridiculous. I'm merely racing to the vet's office with the mouse's meds because he's staying at the clinic for a few days' observation to make sure he doesn't continue to self mutilate through his new stitches." Long pause. "So, he's a goth mouse now?"

Are you still with me? I'm about to wrap up, and I've got a cute photo. Younger returned safely from camp. His third question was about the health of his mouse. He went with me this week to the vet for a final, still free-of-charge visit, and Snowball was pronounced fine. We are done with mouse medicating. I'm now an expert at something new.

Congratulations! Your adventure ends with:

One happy Younger son

One maybe-Frankenmouse

No uncomfortable talks with Younger son about the circle of life

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