Have you ever had a pet that you could not get rid of? Have you ever had a pet that you decided was not supposed to leave? Well, our family did. Sit my children and let me tell you about Walter.
This story began once upon a time, a very long time ago, on a very cold ice winter evening. New York has very cold brutal winters. The weather is so cold that when you breathe outside it makes the inside of your nose burn. It makes you feel like if you had to be out in the wind one more minute your bones were going to burst inside of your cold body. It seemed like you were never again going to feel warm.
It had been an icy cold winter that was lasting forever when I first saw the mouse that would be known as Walter. Mice have a way of finding their way into the house, even though you might think that every hole in the house had been plugged to prevent from the winter’s icy cold wind. Well, Walter found one of those holes that we missed. I have no idea where he got in or how long he had been there but he had sure made himself at home.
On one particular cold icy windy winter night, I had gone into the kitchen late after dinner to get a bedtime snack and some hot tea to warm myself before I went to bed. When I flipped on the light, I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye. It was fast and gray. I could hardly make out what it was but it looked to me like it was a mouse. But, as fast as I thought I had seen it, it was gone. I continued to make my snack and was humming one of my favorite songs. I love to hum. (My children often said, “Mom if you stop singing I will be good.”) Funny kids. Well, evidently the little flash of gray that I had seen enjoyed humming also because as I looked to the corner of the kitchen where I had seen him he was looking directly at me. I pretended to ignore him and as I got busy fixing my snack, he slowly made his way to Lulu’s dish, which was on the floor in the corner. Lulu was my pug dog and if she had known that mouse was in there she would have gotten very upset. Lulu thought she owned this house and any intruders were hers to deal with. I guess he didn’t think I could see him or he didn’t care because he was hungry and cold and he continued to munch. When he saw me see him, he scampered away. He ducked into the cabinet that surrounded the sink. I scribbled mousetrap on my shopping list and turned off the light and left, letting the mouse that I had temporally named Walter, to his eating.
I didn’t see Walter for a few days. I figured he had gotten his fill of the dog’s food and was off somewhere sleeping it off. And then one day I spotted him again, this time he seemed to be a bit plumper than before. I had gone into the kitchen to make one of my famous bedtime snacks, turned on the light and turned to get a glass from the cabinet for a drink of water, there was Walter. He was moving a little slowly. I wondered if he were ok. Then I said to myself, “Don’t be ridiculous, you can’t get attached to this mouse. If he is sick, he will go off somewhere and do what mice do when they are sick”. But still I couldn’t help but wonder. He looked up at me and it was almost as if he were saying he didn’t feel good. I sneaked an extra piece of cheese to him. I knew Tom wouldn’t see it, he was already in bed. I just felt sorry for Walter.
I left him in the kitchen that night. What could it hurt? He had been there for almost a week already, which I knew about. What about all the time that I didn’t know about. But I figured I had better tell my daughter Kathy about our guest so she would not scream out one night and wake her dad. I went to Kathy’s room and told her and explained to her that I had left the mouse by the dog’s dish and not to tell dad. She agreed. She, in fact, suggested catching him and taking him to the vet. We discussed it and agreed to wait.
Again we saw nothing of Walter for about a week. When we did see him he had lost so much weight I didn’t believe it was the same mouse. But he was not scared of me. He knew I wasn’t going to hurt him. I had thought many times about getting a mousetrap, but the animal lover I am I could not bring myself to do it. Kathy had finally seen him and thought he was cute, too cute for a mousetrap.
We continued to keep an eye on our guest for several more days. Walter didn’t look sick. We wondered. Why had he lost so much weight? We tried at times to coax him to us but he would not get close. He just looked at us, stand on his hind legs and rub his front paws together as if to say, “I’m hungry”, but if we would come nearer he would scamper. But we didn’t say anything to anyone else. Kathy and I had that secret. Tom didn’t go into the kitchen, so it was Kathy and I. When Kathy and I entered the kitchen on one fine Sunday morning to make breakfast for her dad, and us, we were greeted by a big surprise. There, at the end of the kitchen, at the dogs dish was Walter and 3 baby mice. So that’s what it was! Walter had been pregnant!
He needed a safe warm home to have the babies. Oh those babies were so cute with their little pink ears and red eyes, and their little bottoms sitting higher than their fronts. Their little noses twitching around, seeming to smell all the smells of the kitchen. Smells that were all knew to the babies because that is the first time they had been anywhere but in their nest inside the wall. They had almost all their hair and were walking pretty well.
Because male mice don’t have babies and because female mice do, we decided we better name her something besides Walter. We renamed her Wilma. Wilma looked like she was very proud of those mice. It seemed like she was saying, “Look what I have” “Aren’t they cute”? I would like to think she had names for them. Maybe Jane, Jill and Judy. Who knows?
I was almost complimented that she had chosen us. I was glad I had not turned her out into the cold that first night. I was glad that we didn’t set a trap for her. I know most people don’t like rodents but these mice were so very, very cute.
Then one day the inevitable finally happened. Tom made the discovery that we had mice in the house, though he had no idea we had been watching and harboring them for weeks. “Set the mouse trap”, he yelled, “those rodents are dirty and bring disease.”
Wilma, how could Wilma carry disease? Not our Wilma and her cute babies. Never. Reluctantly we bought the traps but put them on the other side of the kitchen, where we knew Wilma wouldn’t go. We also tucked them way in the back so that Tom could see the traps were there but we really didn’t set them.
Now Kathy and I were on a mission we had to save the lives of those mice. We decided to wait until the mice were a little older and then set a mousetrap that we could catch them in. Not the kind that kill. Then we would take the family out into the woods when it was a little warmer so they would have a change to survive. They had become dependent on us in the house during the winter and if we sent them out now they would surely die. Then one day it was time. It was a nice warm day in May when the sun was up and the birds were singing and the brush was growing on the ground. Wilma and her family would now have protection from the elements.
Kathy came up with a great idea; she opened a cardboard box to make a kind of shoot. This we put near Lulus dish and the shoot lead into a box. The kind that when you go in you can't get out. No harm would come to the mouse family. We placed little pieces of food that lead through the shoot and into the box trap. Then we waited. By now Wilma had gotten heavy from all the winter eating and her babies were pretty good size too. Wilmas little short legs could barely touch the floor when she walked, so we were hoping she would fit through the shoot in the box. What a funny sight that would be if she got stuck. So now it was time to watch and make sure they all followed each other.
It took about an hour of quiet time before they peeked around the corner to see if it was all clear to go to the dish. They made their way over and stopped in shock when they got there. NO DISH. Where had it gone? “Wait,” said Wilma to her children, “there is food over there. Let me go first. Children stay here and I will call you when I know its safe.” They hung back while mom went to investigate. Yes, there was food. But why was it in a line, and why was it leading into that little box. But it smelled ok. And there were no humans to harm and that Lulu dog must be sleeping somewhere. “Come children, but be cautious.” said Wilma. So the children mice crept up behind their mother and felt safe again. Slowly they followed the line of food, nibbling all the way.
After all the mice were in the box, Kathy and I felt a real sense of sadness. Wilma and her babies were not really hurting anything. They were so cute. But we had disrespected Tom's wishes long enough. So we had to find a home for her and her babies. Then Kathy got a bright look on her face. “Mom”, she said, “Why cant we make a home for her and the babies in the shed. They will be safe there and we can make sure they have food and water, at least until the babies are able to get food for themselves.” I agreed. We would put them in the shed. Tom never goes out there. The mice would not be in the house. They would not be in sight.
So off we went with the box trap and some water and some food. As we put the mice on the floor of the shed, we were very sad. We felt like we were, in a way, deserting some friends. But it’s something that had to be done. Wilma looked at us as if to say, “Thank you”.
The next evening we heard scratching on the screen door, our mouse was back trying to get inside. Wilma and the children were at the door. They wanted to come in but we had to be insistent on them going back. So we again hauled them out to the shed, made sure they had enough food and water and this time made sure they had enough wood shavings and cotton to make a good bed. And again Wilma and her family would come back. Once in a while Wilma would sit up on her hind legs and stare into the house for hours. Kathy and I felt horrible about it but could not do anything about it. Tom had spoken. If dad had not been so against it Kathy and I would have brought him back inside to live behind our sink as a family member.
After a few trips of taking them back out to the shed, they seemed to understand that this was the way it was going to be. Time stretched longer and longer in between visits. Pretty soon they didn’t come at all. We assumed that the mice had moved on. Then, one night as we were fixing our snack, we heard the sound of very quiet scratching at the back door. Kathy and I looked at each other. Could it be? We ran to see what it was. There, on the back step, in the cold of winter was Wilma. Along side of her were her 3 grown daughters. And the grown daughters had grown very, very plump. They stood there on their hind legs begging to come in. Kathy looked at me and I looked at her and she ran to get a box. We made a nest in the back pantry under some pots and pans. Tom never went there.
That is where the mice stayed until the following spring. Then Wilma, along with her daughters, and her 6 grandchildren were taken out into the tool shed to spend the summer, where the babies would grow and have children of their own. And who knows, maybe next year..........................we would again have visitors. I hope so,