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Deer Mouse Returned

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Deer Mouse Returned Empty Deer Mouse Returned

Post by Valmias Mon 04 Sep 2023, 8:17 pm

Hi everyone! I just had to come here to share a happy story with other mouse people.

I have had a deer mouse named Cricket for over two years now. He was brought to me as an orphan with another mouse who didn't make it. I have treatment-resistant MDD, so I guess I had the right sleep schedule for mouse weaning. Cricket was really sick, and at the time I had to make a decision whether to maintain my distance and keep him ready for re-wilding or pull out all the stops to care for him even if he became too hand-tamed. Obviously, I chose the second option, and it involved a lot of keeping him in my hand for hours after feeding. After weaning and poop-training and solid food, we were well and truly bonded. I knew that he was not a good fit for the wild, but I also knew that his needs as a wild mouse would be extreme. I took it as a challenge. I researched biology and diet and habitats and behaviors. I reorganized my life to be nocturnal so we could spend nights together. I knew deer mice had complex social needs, so I made myself available to him all the time. I spent hours every night sitting next to his cage, sometimes cuddling, sometimes just keeping each other company. I left his lid open whenever I was around, and he could come and go to explore my bedroom, and he always came back to his cage on his own when he was done. I even learned some mouse-speak so we could brux together. As I took care of him over the months, he became the stable point around which my life could rotate. I was able to get and hold a job, improve my relationships, and even feel a rare sense of self-worth; raising this mouse has been the most difficult project I've ever taken on, and in seeing him thrive I was able to find value in my life.

10 days ago, he slipped under my door and disappeared into a crack in the wall. I was devastated. I spent the past week and a half trying to come to terms with my new reality. I knew that the wisdom on keeping wild mice is that one day they will want to be wild, and I wrestled with that idea. I couldn't know whether he had snapped into a wild mouse or if he had just gotten lost. I didn't know if he was excited to be exploring the world or if he was scared and hiding and missing me. I put out traps for him and got to know all of the many other mice that l hadn't realized lived in my house. People would ask how I would tell him from all the identical mice, but I said I'd know. Even though I wasn't having luck, I resolved to keep looking for him for as long as I could. I didn't know if he would want to come back if I did catch him, or if he was even alive.

Tonight I caught him, after 10 days living in our unfinished basement. Although I had been squinting at dozens of stranger mice all week to see if I could convince myself they were him, I recognized him right away. When I took him out of the trap and held out my hand, he immediately jumped up for cuddles. He was exhausted and underfed and messy, but once he was back in his home he fell asleep licking my fingertips. He's lost a lot of weight and he looks distinctly ragged, not at all like the wild mice that I had caught. He had not been thriving in the wild and he was clearly happy to be back home. Now that he's back, he better believe he is going to get spoiled with almonds and blueberries. I don't know how this ordeal will change him over the long term, whether he'll want to go back to the wild or never want to leave his cage again. I don't know if he will be sick or have lasting issues. But for now, my Cricket is home and safe.

I just wanted to share this because for a long time I've wanted to tell people how much value accidentally keeping a wild mouse has brought to my life. I know it's generally a bad practice, and I don't want this to come off as encouragement to keep a deer mouse; what I did took an unreasonable amount of work for tiny results, and most lifestyles cannot accommodate it. Wild mice should be wild, and they will not be happy as pets. But in this one special case, I lucked into the gentlest creature I have ever met, and we saved each others' lives.

Here's a video of us from earlier in the summer:
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