little trooper

When I found him he seemed barely alive. His eyes were still closed, his sleek, gray body scarcely bigger than my thumb. I wondered what had happened to his mother, where his nest was, how he ended up on the dirty garage floor and if she’d come for him. I tried giving him some milk and water from a dropper I’d saved from Calvin’s countless medicines. Without intending to, I got some on his nose—no bigger than a pin head—so I tried to dab it off as best I could. From somewhere behind me I heard a peep, so since he wasn’t taking the fluid, I decided to make him a little corner nest of dried leaves, hoping his mother was nearby and would come to his rescue. But I was bracing myself for the fact that he probably wouldn’t survive the night unless she did.

The next morning when I went out to the garage the mouse was gone. I thought maybe Michael had swept him up to save my feelings, but when I spun around I saw him lying in the middle of the garage having been squashed under a boot or a motorcycle wheel. I cried. I kept thinking of Calvin and how tiny and defenseless he was when he was born, how his eyes were closed, too, until he heard my voice. Like this little mouse, Calvin was feeble and without his mother to suckle, at least for the first week of his life when he lived in a nest by himself, not of leaves, but of wires and leads, bright lights, buzzes, tubes and Plexiglas walls.

As carefully as I could, I scooped the mouse into a shovel, took him out to the garden and buried him at the base of a tiny, white rhododendron I call Midge, the only shrub in the yard that has a nickname. I told Michael what I’d done.

“I found two others,” he said, explaining that, very regrettably, he had stepped on one. He led me out to the garden to show me where he’d put them so I could bury them with the other.

“That one’s still alive!” I cried, shocked that it had survived the cold night.
“Well, he’s a fighter,” Michael said, “Maybe you can see if he'll live.”

He picked up the tiny thing while I went to find a small box which I filled with tissue paper. I tried again to give the baby mouse some milk and water, clutching it gently in my fist. After trying a little while I was surprised that he grasped the tip of the syringe and suckled. He drank a lot then pushed it away like Calvin does, so I laid him in his makeshift nest, closed the slotted lid and propped it up under the warm bulb of the oven hood. Then I went online and read that in my haste to rescue him I’d made a mistake in giving him cow’s milk, which can make them cramp or bloat and sometimes die. I read that baby mice this young, less than three weeks old, need to drink diluted kitty replacement milk, a kind of formula, so I took Nellie for a walk to the feed and farm store while the little mouse rested alone.

Upon my return, the mouse seemed a little livelier and had pooped, which I took as a good sign, but when he breathed he made a little clicking sound, causing me to think he got fluid in his lungs. I tried to give him a little of the formula, but he pushed it away, so I massaged his eensy belly with my fingertip, trying to help him digest the cow’s milk and eliminate gas, like I used to do for Calvin. Every two hours I repeated my efforts, but the mouse continued to shun the formula. I held him in my palm for moments at a time and stroked his back. I was heartened when, every once in a while, he’d rub his muzzle with his tiny paws or work up enough spunk to crawl over my hand. Not wanting him to tire, I let him rest again in his box. By the time Michael and I sat down for dinner our mouse hadn’t drank in almost eight hours.

“What should we call him?” I asked Michael, “We should give him a name.” We'd done the same for Calvin before he was born having learned his health was greatly compromised and that he might not survive.

“Turkey?” Michael suggested, which is what we call Calvin when he’s being a turkey.
“Mousy?” I said, remembering that we called our orange canary, Birdie.
“How about Trooper?” I added, since he’d put up such a good fight, and Michael agreed.

We wondered about the spelling, so we looked it up and it appeared the “oo” and the “ou” version can both be used to describe someone who is dogged.

For the next several hours I kept checking in on our little Trooper, whose box we’d wrapped loosely in an electric blanket. I checked on him again at eleven-thirty when I awoke to Calvin’s cough, and by that time our mouse barely responded to my touch and still wouldn’t drink. I felt he was perhaps too hot and it seemed clear he was fading, so I turned off the blanket and left him alone for the rest of the night. By the next morning our little Trooper had died.

Why hadn’t I taken him inside the first night? I should've looked on the internet earlier. If only I hadn’t fed him cow’s milk. Why didn’t I get my glasses before I tried feeding him the milk so he didn’t get any on his nose and breath it in? I should’ve followed my gut about the electric blanket. I think we worsened his dehydration. Why couldn’t my sweet little Trooper have lived?

Like any mother of a disabled child might, I ask myself these same kinds of questions and have these same regrets when it comes to Calvin. I try my best but somehow, sometimes, my best just isn’t enough. Sometimes, no amount of conviction or research or effort or confidence or tenacity or positive thinking or anticipation or preparation or prayer from others seems to change the outcome of things. I just do my best and hope for good results, but there's no guarantee that my other little Trooper, Calvin, who, unlike most children, must deal with so much adversity, will remain healthy and thrive simply because I try.

Little Trooper resting in my palm


  1. oh christy. you did your best. sniff.

  2. This totally astonishes me. If I hadn't already cried enough for one day, I'd cry some more.

  3. It is amazing that you have such compassion for the little mouse, and feel such responsibility for your efforts and decisions. One would think you would be worn out with care and worry about Calvin and have no room for anything else. But no, you still have more room in your heart.
    RR Julia

  4. Great love trumps all. You are filled with great love Christy.