Give me the Courage of a Mouse
I heard my cat Junipurr rustling in the dry leaves by the back door. It was the sound of Cat Chasing Mouse so I went out and ordered him inside.
I didn’t want another of the spoils of Junipurr and Purrly’s hunting to arrive on the door mat. Their hunting is instinctive. I get that and equally it is my instinct to protect mice and birds and lizards from the deeply coded jungle instincts of my well fed domestic cats who play with small animals and birds with the same kind of cruelty that humans delight in when they make the bulls run or roosters fight one another for no reason.
When I am able to intervene successfully, Mouse always runs as fast as she can whether it is back to the nest and her babies or to the foreign soil of the garden next door I will never know. I just see her run and I cheer her on, a sense of satisfaction that I have liberated a tiny little animal from the jaws and claws of the lions.
Mouse’s world is no less important to her than my own. She lives by her wit and skill in a garden fraught with tigers and lions and panthers ready to pounce on her day and night. Sharp metal mouse traps, poisons and bait, night owls and frightened humans who will kill her in an instant. This is the world that she is born into.
I bent down to see Mouse hiding under the leaves, her body heaving with a palpitating heart and her back leg covered in blood. It was a distressing scene and I knew her terror was equal to that which I might feel if I was attacked by a pouncing giant or trapped in a corner with no escape.
I moved towards her and saw that she was not in a very good state at all so I picked her up to bring her inside where my husband would euthanise her rather than have her die slowly from her wounds . Despite her injuries she pushed against my closed hand with the strength of a small lion, all the while her heart, which was now close to the palm of my hand was pounding in terror. In a deft twist of her body she lunged at my finger and bit it sharply, jumping to freedom as I recoiled in pain. It wasn’t a big bite. Can a Mouse ever really make a big mark?
It was enough to free her from my gasp and she ran into the vegetable garden.
I don’t know where she got her energy from as it was apparent when I picked her up that she was critically injured with a stomach wound.
I have learnt over the years to accept that there are limitations to the difference I can make for a suffering animal or a struggling human being so I didn’t pursue her into the vegetable garden. In spite of my best of intentions I will never be able to transmit a message of safety and protection to a wild animal, big or small, so instead I transmitted a prayer for her pain and I let her go.
The rustling leaves told me she was on her way to her freedom and I walked back inside, past Junipurr who had moved on to the effortless task of getting my attention for his breakfast, the wide eyed hunter now replaced with the purring, tail wrapping choreography of a cat who will never have to hunt for food to survive.
My encounter with Mouse had impact and occupied my thoughts over the next couple of hours. She was so strong and determined in the face of what must have felt like my second attack after the cat struck her with his razor claws.
In the few seconds she was in my hand, I noticed how perfect her own claws were and how her limbs were not so different than mine with her perfectly formed legs and hands that grasped at my skin to push me away.
An hour or so later I imagined her laying in the garden dying a slow and painful death so I decided to see if I could find her and return to my first plan of bringing her inside to be euthanised.
I found her straight away.
She hadn’t run very far into the garden at all. In fact she was only a few inches away from where she jumped out of my hand.
She was laying on her side, eyes closed, covered in ants. She must have died shortly after her escape.
Her stillness enabled me to see the extent of her injuries and truly, I could not see how she was even able to move let alone fight with the strength and fierceness that made me recoil and release her.
I picked her up and stroked her head as I carried her to the flower bed for burial.
I told her she had been amazing.
She died on her own, no doubt in enormous pain and blood loss but she truly gave her survival her all.
I was able to look closely at her tiny little hands and the perfection of her face, her magnificent rope like tail and in her I saw the courage of a lion and the fierceness of many of the women I have met in domestic violence shelters who continue to fight, even though the battle is with an enemy far bigger and physically stronger than she will ever be.
I dug a shallow grave next to the mint patch and placed Mouse down gently. I thanked her for taking me away from my computer and the technology that so often removes us from the world of animals and nature and death and victories and into the realm where to have the courage of a Mouse is a thing to be proud of indeed.
She was a hero of mythic proportions.
She fought both the jungle cat and the human-giant and I am honoured to have been the one to lay her to rest.
Give me the courage of a Mouse and I would consider it an honour of equally mythic proportions.