Some time ago, I befriended an adorable winter mouse, I named Bella, who wandered into my yard one day and became my friend for one long lonely winter. Little Bella first caught my attention by peeking out from behind a wooden rocking chair on my back porch one cold December morning as I worked busily cleaning away cobwebs and dust from window panes and dusty corners.
I pretended to ignore this curious little field mouse. I was hoping that she would scurry away as almost all little critters do to avoid the murderous intent of larger critters. As I continued dusting and sweeping, I kept stealing glances to see if the little mouse with the large pink-ears was still watching me from its hiding place behind my old rocking chair. As I furtively turned my head to get a better view, I was taken-aback to see the funny little brown mouse standing up on its hind legs with its little hands clasped in a pleading gesture as she stared at me.
My heart went out to the furry little winter mouse and I reached into my jacket pocket for the small package of peanut butter crackers I had accidentally left in my pocket the day before. I opened the package , stepped off the porch (making sure the little mouse saw what I was doing) and placed a peanut butter cracker on the frozen winter grass. I felt sure this would appease the determined little mouse to take the cracker and scurry back its winter nest, preferably far away from my back porch. I then stepped back into my house and shut the door behind me allowing the little mouse to know it was now safe to scurry away with the peanut butter cracker.
The next day, as I gazed out of my backdoor window I saw my neighbor’s old Tom Cat on my back porch. He had apparently cornered something behind my old rocking chair. All at once, I knew Old Tom had cornered the little winter mouse who, no doubt, had returned for another peanut butter cracker. I quickly stepped outside with broom in hand and shooed Old Tom away giving the frightened brown mouse with the large pink ears time to escape. It was the least I could do seeing how it was my fault the furry winter mouse had returned for more peanut butter crackers.
This time the little winter mouse scurried underneath the wooden porch and dashed away, but where to, I wondered. Surely, Old Tom would catch it now and it would be my fault. Sadly, there was nothing I could do—this was nature, the natural cycle of life and death. I sighed deeply and bowed my head as I turned away from the window.
Little did I know Bella was quite familiar with all the hiding places around my house as I found out one chilly morning in the wee hours before dawn a few weeks later. While snuggled up in my bed, underneath a quilted coverlet, I reached over to turn on the lamp on my nightstand. As I did, (to my dismay) my winter mouse stood before me on my nightstand. Her tiny hands were clasped tightly in front of her, grasping a peanut butter cracker I had left on the nightstand. Her pink belly and soft brown fur trembled in the bright light. We stared into each other’s eyes, nose to nose, for what seemed like a long time before she suddenly dashed, cracker in mouth, to wherever she had made a home – in my house.
Well, I thought, a friend it one thing, a Boarder is quite another. So, early that morning, I crept, as quite as a mouse, with my flash light in hand to find the freeloader’s hideaway. And find it I did. Apparently, my little curious winter mouse liked music, because I found her and her nest behind my credenza. Her little brood of six pink baby mice seemed quite comfy— snuggled up in one of my missing fluffy slippers.
Well, enough is enough, I thought. One winter mouse is tolerable for a winter, but not Bella’s brood of six baby mice. I found myself in dilemma of what to do with Bella and her babies. There was the mudroom, I thought, and that presented another dilemma. The mudroom already had several guests.
The injured red flying squirrel was healing well in a shoe box on the third shelf, Tabby, my 12-year-old tabby cat, somewhat incontinent and nearly blind, slept there each night on top of the filing cabinet, Fluffy, my snow white Tibetan Lhasa also preferred to sleep there where his food was kept, like wrapped around the 25 pound bag. (You should know that Lhasa’s are very protective of their people and their food.)
I had no choice. Bella and her babies were going into the mudroom, in a covered shoe box, secured with tape and with small holes for air. I placed the shoe box on the floor very near the mudroom backdoor that had a small bit of daylight between the door and the floor. Every day I would leave one peanut butter cracker for Bella on the back porch. It didn’t take long before she waited for me every day at the backdoor, standing up, her little hands folded across her tummy and I would hand the peanut butter cracker to her. She would reach out with her tiny hands, and grasp it and hold it to her chest before dashing away. She was the sweetest mouse. Her cute little personality and her big brown eyes were so expressive.
In early spring, I went to the backdoor and there was no Bella. I hurried to the mudroom and found the shoe box empty. They were gone. Bella, my winter mouse had gone back to the corn and alfalfa fields with her young. I hope they all survived, but I would never know. I never saw her again. I still think of her sometimes, on a chilly winter morning when I turn the lights on in my bed room.
Story by K. D. Dowdall – first posted last December 2015