My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant


Saturday, March 23, 2013

In memory of Val & Tino

We lost Tino the mouse, one of our beloved furbabies, on Thursday. I found him that afternoon, laying beside the food pile with some sunflower seed shells around his sweet face (how that little guy loved his food!), still warm and looking very peaceful. Tino was very elderly for a field mouse (at least six years old), blind in one eye, and had been quite frail for a while - in fact, we had thought we were going to lose him in January. But he rallied, though he remained feeble compared to his buddy Val.

Tino peeks through the "DIY skylight" in a cardboard tube, a favorite place to sleep.

Val and Tino, who may have been brothers, came to live with us during a bitter Valentine's Day blizzard six years ago (hence their names), when they'd come into our garage seeking shelter from the cold and the storm. We lived in the country and field mice entered our attached garage often enough - until we found the wee hole they were using - that we finally invested in several "tin cat" humane live traps. We'd release the mice near food, water and shelter a good distance from the house (1/4 mile away or more, though goodness knows some of them probably found their way back and got to repeat the adventure!), unless the weather was very bad. For those times we'd bought an aquarium, shavings, food, water dish and exercise wheel, and became the proprietors of the Whiskers Inn B&B. :-) Our tiny guests enjoyed a warm, cozy, delightful stay until the weather turned nice enough to release them back outside, and after a two or three day stay most of our guests made it clear (by dancing along the glass or trying to chew their way through the lid) that they were ready to check out!

But not Val and Tino. Knowing a cushy deal when they found it, they signed a long-term lease and became full-time boarders. Luckily for us, they were both male! They were the first mice to make themselves right at home and remain content to be there, the first to learn how to use the exercise wheel - even teaching themselves games on it - and though never growing tame enough to want to be held or cuddled, quickly grew calm around us, settling into a comfy routine. And so we changed the name of the establishment from the Whiskers Inn B&B to "Mouseville" (a little tribute to Mr. Jingles from one of our very favorite movies, The Green Mile).

Of course we're sad to lose Tino, but it helps to know we gave him a safe, comfortable, hopefully happy, extraordinarily long life. He enjoyed spending time outside on warm, sunny days, was particularly fond of eating organic nom-noms (sunflower seeds, dried soybeans, raw pumpkin seeds, carrots, raw almonds, date pieces, raisins, brown rice, and oat groats), had the adventure of not only moving from room to room within our house several times, but from house to house three times (though at least he got to always take familiar Mouseville with him every time!), and before he grew too feeble to use it much, he adored the exercise wheel. He was the first to learn how to use it and became very skilled at it. (One way we were always able to tell Val and Tino apart was that Val, never as coordinated as Tino in their youth, scuffed his nose once trying to get into the wheel while Tino was spinning it and ever afterward had a hairless scar on his schnozzle!) One of their favorite games was for Val to sit still in the wheel while Tino ran as fast as he could, vaulting over Val every time the spinning wheel brought him around, until Tino would finally jump out of the moving wheel leaving Val to spin around and around until the wheel stopped. I'd have puked my guts out, but Val and Tino just loved that game! :-)

It's hard for us to tell how poor Val is feeling about the absence of his nearly lifelong friend and possible brother, but we can't imagine he doesn't feel the loss. They always slept cuddled up together, played together, and I have no doubt were very fond of each other. Though probably the same age as Tino, Val is still very spry and active, and we hope to enjoy his lively company for some time to come. Tino will be laid to rest in our front flower bed, where he will eventually become part of the flowers we'll be planting there in a couple of months.

Update 4/21/13: Despite doing well for the first three weeks after Tino's death, Val became frail and wobbly in the past week. This morning when I got up and checked on him, I found that he had died in his sleep during the night - one month to the day after Tino. They were probably the same age, and very elderly for mice, but given Val's rapid decline so soon after Tino's death it's impossible not to imagine that Val didn't die of a broken heart, missing his constant companion. Sweet and good to the very end, Val died just ahead of a major spring snowstorm that's due to arrive at noon today, bringing 5-10" of snow to our area over the next two days, giving us time this morning to bury him beside Tino in the still-warm soil of the front flowerbed. Rest in peace, little one, we love and will miss you so very much.

Here are a few photos of the boys together...

Val and Tino during their first days at Whiskers Inn, 
before they figured out how their exercise wheel worked!

Tino and Val at play

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Tessa LOVED watching Val and Tino! She'd even watch Mouseville for hours when the boys were sleeping inside their tube or burrowed into their shavings, certain they'd come out any minute to entertain her with their antics! BW said that Tess was addicted to "MTV." :-)

We love and miss you, dear Tino and Val! Wherever your sweet spirits are now, I hope there is lots of yummy food, fun games to play, and nice playmates to cuddle with. Thank you for being such dear, precious little friends.

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened." 
~ Anatole France 

35 comments:

  1. Thanks for giving Tino such a cush life. I hope another field mouse gets smart and checks into Mouseville so Val won't be lonely.

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    1. It was our pleasure, Shen. He was a darling, and so is Val, who seems to be adjusting to his solitary life with little effort, scampering in and out of his tube and running on his wheel and burying his food pile and trying to bury his water dish, as usual. :-) I'm glad of it, because he's unlikely to get a roommate since we now live in town (albeit with a big field behind us which no doubt harbors mice) and in a new house with no ingress holes in the garage walls. :-)

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  2. Ah, I love field mice...the cats take a more... er ..um...'clinical' approach to mousy visitors. Glad to see that the boys had a lovely cat free life.
    Janex

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    1. I know, we had no idea how long field mice could live when kept warm, dry, fed and watered, and free from predation. I was thinking they might live as long (or less) as my childhood hamsters did, which was about 3 years. Given that they were already adults six years ago, they've enjoyed a much longer run than we ever expected! And in the environment they came from, they had more than roaming housecats to worry about. There were also skunks (who give cats a run for their money in the "mousing" department), hawks, owls, eagles - even mountain lions, though I'm not sure that's a species of cat that bothers about mice!

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  3. Aw, Laurie, I'm so sorry for your loss but am so happy that Tino had such a wonderful life. What a lovely memorial post to him, too. I loved reading this.

    I think it's a beautiful thing to bury him where flowers will bloom. <3

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    1. Thank you, Molly, I appreciate your sweet words and I agree, that the happiness for the life Tino enjoyed mitigates the sadness over losing him. And the flowers we plant there will have a special loveliness. :-)

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  4. Sooky tears for you and for Tino here. He lived a lovely life, for which I thank you. Beautiful post.

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    1. Aw, thank you Ellie C! That's so kind of you.

      What are "sooky" tears? I don't know that word, but I already want to adopt it. :-)

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    2. A 'sook' is used here and in New Zealand to describe a cry-baby. Sooky tears are sentimental tears which spring easily to my eyes.

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    3. Ah, those happen to me, too. :-) Thank you for the explanation. (I think "Sooky" would be a great critter name!)

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    4. We had a much loved German Shepherd when I was a child. While her kennel name was Jedda, she answered in the family to Sooky - big brown mournful eyes trained on her people at all times (or on their plates).

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    5. A friend of mine once had a dog named "Suki," pronounced "SOO-key." Is that how "Sooky" is pronounced? Your Jedda/Sooky sounded delightful - I know all about big mournful dog eyes trained on people or their plates. :-)

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    6. Sook, or Sooky as in Book or Booky. I know that people (who don't live with them) say that animals don't lie, but Jedda was a mistress at the art of telling people she had been given no food or attention in a looooong time. Even if she had just polished off her dinner after a long walk with plenty of games.

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    7. Ah, that's how I was pronouncing it in my head, but wasn't sure! Thanks for clarifying.

      We've had several dogs who were very good at "misrepresenting the truth," shall we say. Especially when it came to whether they'd already been fed! Their "oh, no, we haven't eaten anything in days!" routine can be SO convincing! :-)

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  5. Awwww. Tino. What a sweet post. I admire the complete love you have for all animals, big and small. You definitely gave him a great life-I'd say better than most any field mouse would ever know.
    I love the quote you chose at the end. So very true.

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    1. Thank you so much, Sue, your sweet comment really touched me. And I'd have to agree, Tino enjoyed a great life - perhaps only Stuart Little enjoyed a better one since he got to skipper a racing boat and had a sporty little car to drive! (We drew the line at motorized toys. LOL)

      I'm glad you share my love of that quote. It's very true indeed!

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  6. So sorry about Tino. Your wonderful story is a great tribute to a life well-lived, thanks to you and BW. Val's going to need a little TLC for a while ;-). xoxoxo

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    1. Thank you, dearest Spudly! I'm glad you enjoyed Tino's tribute. And Val is getting all the TLC we can give him - he seems to be doing well, thankfully!

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  7. Oh my. My condolences to all...especially Val. Thank you for caring for him...very much thank you.

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    1. Thank you so much, veganelder! And your gratitude is very touching. As you well know from all the wonderful care you take of your animal friends, it's absolutely an honor and a delight to love and care for our fellow critters. :-)

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  8. What a sweet story about your mouse friends. Can't help thinking that it will be quite an adjustment for Val. -- barbara

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Barbara, and appreciate your visit! Though we're certain that Tino's absence is being felt, Val does seem to carrying on as before. I checked on him last night before going upstairs to bed, and he was playing all his usual games, and this morning's evidence shows he enjoyed a lively and athletic night. :-) I think it really helps that in his last few months Tino was too frail to participate in their usual frolics and kept to himself more - that's probably made for less of an adjustment for Val now.

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  9. I'm so sorry for your loss of sweet Tino - I hope Val doesn't grieve too deeply. Thank you for being so very decent to them. They hit the nonhuman lottery when they stumbled into your caring home. <3

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    1. Thank you very much, dear Bea! The concern for Val expressed by you and others is really touching, and as you can see in some of my other replies, Val seems to be doing well. I'll pass along everyone's love as soon as he wakes up from his rowdy night. :-)

      Caring for these sweet little guys is and was always our pleasure. I love what you said about them hitting the honhuman lottery - we like to think so too. Thank you!

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  10. So sorry to hear about Tino. But, you paid a wonderful homage to your little friend. What an extraordinary story of how they came to live with you...I hope Val can find a new buddy.

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    1. Thank you, Rose! I'm glad you enjoyed reading Val and Tino's story. As a mouse (and ratty) mom and foster-mom, I know you've got lots of extraordinary stories yourself, and also know firsthand how sweet these wee critters are, but how big their loss feels. I doubt Val will end up with a new buddy (no mice in this garage so far!), but that might be just as well at his age and after only sharing his space with Tino. He seems to be getting along well, and sticking to his familiar routine. I guess most of us find comfort in doing that. :-)

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  11. oh no, poor little tino...rest in peace :(

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  12. I'm so sorry for your loss, and for Val, too. But what a sweet story and thank you so much for sharing it! I'm sure your flower bed in front will bloom beautifully :) I LOVED the story of how they played their game on the exercise wheel! And the pics too - they are absolutely adorable :)

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    1. Aww, thank you Sweet Potato Mayas! You are sweet. :-) I'm glad you enjoyed Val and Tino's story, and their photos, and wish you could have seen them playing that game on their wheel! (I thought I'd gotten video of it a long time ago, but couldn't find any. I may have lost it in a hard drive crash a few years ago). Anyway, thank you for your kindhearted comment, we really appreciate it (and so does Val!)

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  13. So sorry for your loss. What a cute pet.

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    1. Thank you, Fiona. Tino was very cute indeed, with quite a sense of humor. :-)

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  14. What a beautiful tribute to little Tino. You did such a nice job and it truly felt like a celebration of his life. I'm very sorry you've lost your little friend even though I know you were expecting it. I agree that Val must surely be missing him too and I hope he will transition to his solo existence OK.

    I'd forgotten that Mouseville has been the Whisker's B&B first and that the previous tennants were always really clear they wanted out. (Little did they know what they were going to miss out on!)

    I remembered that photo of Val and Tino before they figured out what the wheel was for! Too funny. And also the one of Tessa which is definitely my favorite photo. She's so engrossed!!

    I just had to read this post first once I saw the title and again, I think this was a beautiful tribute.

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    1. Thank you, Jo, your comment is beautiful and very much appreciated!

      So far Val is doing well, he's definitely staying active at night and not moping around! I think he had time to adjust to playing without Tino when Tino became so much less active in recent months, so that may have made it easier for him. You're right that the other mice didn't know what they missed out on, but they clearly desired freedom over comfort and safety and we aim to please our guests, even if what they desire is an early check-out. :-) We just drew the line at turning anyone out into bitter cold temps or bad snowstorms. We know that the mice have perfectly adequate ways of dealing with that sort of weather, of course (like coming into our garage! lol), but we couldn't in good conscience force them to call upon those survival techniques! Not when we could offer them a warm bed, food and water for a couple of days.

      Tessa has incredible focus (OCD might be more accurate!), and MTV was definitely one of her favorite subjects to focus on! Val and Tino didn't seem to mind, in fact they usually ramped up their activity and its entertainment level when they knew they had an audience! :-)

      Thank you again for your visit and wonderful comment ~ talk to you tomorrow! :-)

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    2. Nothing to add but wanted to say I really appreciated your comment back too.

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SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

  • INFERNO ~ Dan Brown
  • MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD & EVIL ~ John Berendt
  • MY NOTORIOUS LIFE: A NOVEL ~ Kate Manning
  • ONE SUMMER: AMERICA, 1927 ~ Bill Bryson
  • QUIET: THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT CAN'T STOP TALKING ~ Susan Cain
  • THE BEAUTIFUL CIGAR GIRL ~ Daniel Stashower
  • THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY ~ Erik Larson
  • THE SHADOWS, KITH AND KIN ~ Joe R. Lansdale
  • THE TIPPING POINT ~ Malcolm Gladwell
There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"