Monday, August 1, 2011


* Like "massacre," only way, way, way sadder.

We all knew it was coming. A couple of Fridays ago, I saw a giant tumor on Poseidon (Sam's mouse). The next day, I saw one on Scabbers (Jack's mouse). Rodents are prone to tumors. I know this. I also know that the mouse lifespan is one to three years and that our mice are going on one and a half.

Immediately upon discovering the tumors, I turned to Fourth Breakfast, my rodent guru. We bonded over rats and gerbils a few years ago at BlogHer, and she has since become my go-to gal for all questions small animal. She gave me some advice, which was mostly to take care of them as long as they seemed happy and then euthanize them. My friend H, whose gerbils often graced the pages of this here blog, passed along similar words. Also that rodents with tumors can go downhill very quickly. Considering how fast these huge tumors suddenly appeared, that doesn't surprise me.

I mean, you can operate on mice with tumors, but it is apparently really tough on them. For us, it wasn't something we really considered. And not only because you guys would laugh hysterically at me for years to come after you saw the teeny tiny IV set up.

(I'm making that last part up. I think.)

So, then the question becomes, When?

There are a lot of factors that go into that decision. Are the mice okay? Are they eating and bright-eyed? Will it be harder on the kids to miss the mice after they're gone or worry about when they're going to die? If it's a Friday, do the mice look like they'll make it through the weekend? If you're about to go on vacation, are you leaving your housesitter with a nasty dead-mouse surprise some afternoon? What is your reason for keeping the mice alive? Because you don't want to cut their little lives short or because they are actually living an enjoyable life?

Also, look at these guys. How much are you going to miss them?



I took those photos a few months ago on a day when I gave them a rare treat: goldfish crackers. Mostly because they look cute eating them. I pretended they went fishing.

Today seemed to be the day for my mice. I looked at all of the factors, their activity levels, and the size of the tumors compared to the size of the mice, and decided that, for our family, today was the day I needed to have them put to sleep.


Naturally, after I made the appointment and was driving my kids to my friend's house so she could watch them during the deed, I was sure that I had made the wrong choice. I mean, they were just hanging out in their little plastic box, not knowing what was about to happen.

It was terrible.

The kids were okay. I, of course, sobbed like a fucking lunatic at the vet's office. He assured me that I'd made the right decision what with the pressure that such giant tumors must be putting on their tiny bodies. Afterward, I felt totally at peace, but it was horrible to have to make a life and death decision about two little souls that I had assumed responsibility for.

I also assumed responsibility for the corpses because the clinic would have had to charge $50 to dispose of them for me. Alex told me that he would bury the bodies when he got home from work, so I stashed them in the freezer (I know.) and set about the rest of my day.

Since Alex works at a law firm now though, I feared darkness and rain would arrive before Alex did, which is why I could be found digging a grave on the side of my house shortly after making dinner. The kids wanted no part of the burial, but I'd bought a little mouse-shaped (although Quinn claimed it looks like a cat) doohickey in the afternoon to use as a grave marker. I ended up painting it with hearts and the mice's names, mostly because the tombstone was originally a rodent dust bath and I had to paint over the pink bubbles and puffy letters spelling out "Critter Bath!"

Not exactly the epitaph I had envisioned.

I had the kids put some seeds and pellets in the tombstone/rodent bath, and put it out on the grave, right next to our bird bath.

Rest in peace, noble rodents.

Sadness hit my kids a little later in the evening. We talked a lot about how mice don't live very long and we took really good care of them and it wasn't our fault, but Sam in particular was pretty broken up, especially after Quinn casually said at dinner, "I'm glad Squeaky survived."

[Insert your own image of all hell breaking loose here.]

Eventually, when all the dust settled, Jack had claimed ownership of (my) Gerbil (now evidently renamed Scabbers) and Quinn had ceded ownership of Squeaky over to Sam. I don't know if Squeaky got a new name and I'm afraid to ask because I can't handle more tears.

I was really proud of Quinn, who had truly risen to the occasion. "I gave Sam my mouse, which means that she won't be mine forever, and I'm still happy," he told me later.

Mousetown is a sadder place now. RIP, Scabbers and Poseidon. You will be missed.

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