Sophia died over the weekend. She was having trouble getting around on Saturday morning, not eating much or very quickly. By the afternoon, she was mostly sleeping. At one point, she did manage to make one last leap from her meal-tray to the screen ceiling of her little house, but sort of just let herself drop when she came down instead of bounding down and dashing to her wheel like she usually did. Her daily activities were thus:
* Running on the wheel (say, 90% of her waking hours).
* Scampering around the tank, hopping onto her coconut or her platform that held the sushi-dish where she ate her meals.
* Leaping onto the ceiling and climbing around up there.
* Nimbly climbing down onto her water-bottle and staring out at me as if to say, "Ahem. My food dish is empty."
* Running on the wheel.
* Sleeping under her ground cover. She loved the new-fangled recycled-paper type and would burrow into it.
Here's her little home (no, I didn't always have so much food available, but I figured, what? She'll overeat?):
At bedtime, she was barely breathing but didn't seem to be in pain. I took a few photos of her like this, because she looked so peaceful cuddled up with her favorite toy (the wheel, of course), one arm over it like the little brother in A Christmas Story around his zeppelin, her cheek resting on it. Here's what she looked like:
Woke up on Sunday morning and it was clear that she was no longer alive. Her tiny nose and paws were brown instead of pink, her ears pale rather than pink, and her skin where her fur was thinning was white instead of light pink. She looked like she was asleep cuddled up with her wheel, almost like herself except for her coloring. I hadn't wanted to disturb her the night before to check if she was alive, but I felt safe checking: Yes, she was cool to the touch. So: time to bury her.
I poured a meal's worth of mousie-food into her little coconut, put in some fresh litter, sprinkled in some alfalfa, and dropped in a few treats (cheese-drop, her favorite seeds, apple). Then I lay Sophia inside the coconut with her comforts and carried her out to the burial tree. I dug a hole for her coconut-sarcophagus and set it inside. Big roots on all sides of the hole to make it safe and secure. I covered up her coconut first with the freshly turned dirt, then a bunch of wet leaves. I placed her old purple running-wheel on top of her grave and marked the spot with two branches crossing the wheel base, and laid two stones paralleling either side so the wheel will stay in place in case of wind or squirrels. Sophia can run there until she decides it's time to leave.
Now she can run and play outside and not fear cats or dogs or cars. Maybe she'll stick around, maybe she'll find a new mousie body. I'll give her a little while and then go check Pet World to see if they have new mousies born this week. I would like to have another mousie.
It was a beautiful sunny morning outside, the ground damp and the air warm.
kijjohnson wrote, "She was a ray of sunlight always, and small as she was, she made our house seem more home-like." That's so true: She was only a mouse, you know? Yet she made me smile every single day, and she was so full of life, and she truly delighted in living. It makes me both sad and smile that I got so attached to a little mouse. When I went to the pet store Saturday to get special treats for Sophia and Sparklemouses for tatsuko_shikibu, the cashier was selling some feeder fuzzies to a snake owner in line ahead of me: That's how most people think of mouses. But Sophia is special: She was my pet, I loved her, that makes her different. No snake will ever eat her.
I'll be checking Pet World for new mousies in a few weeks... I think I'll get a pair again, hoping at least one will be a healthy mousie! Of course, there will never be another Sophia, and I'll need to remember that not all mouses live 2-1/2 years, nor have such a positive outlook on the world.
Remember this: A simple mouse can bring such light to life, can so delight in living. A lesson for us there.