Thursday, October 30, 2014

Memory Ghosts


Throughout the year, I've been deep cleaning Farmhouse Villa. It's been fun and refreshing to give the old girl a face lift, but it's also been stirring up some trouble. I keep finding artifacts of my Old Lives. Some of them make me smile, but the majority of them send me into a nostalgic, melancholy mood. I miss that. I miss her. I miss him. I miss I miss I miss...

I'm doing much better at Living in the Present than I ever have before, but relics of a lifetime of memories are hard to combat. I'm not a hoarder, but I am a collector. I save scraps of paper, tickets, letters, love notes, and postcards. I tuck these things into the normal places -- drawers, closets, and boxes. But I also have a habit of sneaking them into books or my bathroom mirror/door thing or inside of a jar I once painted at a paint-your-own-pottery place for an old college roommate's bachelorette party. Then, when I set aside some time to clean and be productive, I find myself swallowed whole by a longing for the past.

It's a Catch-22. If I don't clean out these things, I can ignore them and pretend they aren't there and forget them completely. If I do clean out these things, I risk finding a bunch of hidden bombs that will crack open my crusty, black heart.

Life is full of hurts. We can't avoid them. And our long train of memories will inevitably be filled with a mixture of happy times and sad times -- some of which are false or recreated in some way. I think life is best explained by a quote from my favorite movie, Apollo 13. Life is very similar to trying to dock space equipment:

"That's three hours of boredom followed by seven seconds of sheer terror."

Except multiply that times a billion. Then you have the average human life. We spend a lot of time doing nothing, and then the special/horrifying times happen and get firmly wedged in our memory files.

As a random experiment, if you give yourself an age range, say 10–15 or 15–20 years of age, I bet you can suddenly recall at least two or three moments that are seared into your brain like cattle brands that are either wonderful or horrifying or both. Why can't we remember random, boring things instead -- like all of that time we spend combing our hair after the shower or something really harmless like putting peanut butter on toast? Life would be so much easier.

I've been making really good progress on the cleaning, but I've also been sneak-attacked by the bombs. It's not been good. And lovely fall, when my Depression begs for attention the most, isn't making this easier. I've found myself throwing away things that once meant the world to me without any emotion at all, but I've also found myself surfing youtube late at night to find music to accompany that pinch or ache in my heart. Oh yes, that tune says it all. Let's listen to it again. Really loudly. SNAP OUT OF IT! PET A CAT! GO TO BED!

I don't want to become so jaded by life that I stop collecting little scraps of paper because they might hurt later. I don't want to completely sanitize my home so that every reminder of a former life is gone. I don't want to stop being me -- a collector of memories and stories. It's part of what makes my own world interesting. After years of beating myself up, I'm finally starting to really like myself. I don't want to see my little doodads and treasures as a completely negative thing. There has to be some kind of healthy medium.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'll work on it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

UTI Cat Food Solution HOORAY!!


NOTE: I have no affiliation with Purina Pro Plan. They didn't send me anything for free, and they're not paying me. I'm just simply SUPER HAPPY about their food, and I want to share it with my readers. WHOOT!

About six months after I moved back home to Farmsville, Webster started peeing in funny places. I had him treated for a UTI and went about my business. But the peeing continued. I still miss that puffy coat. King was on special food for his gut problems, so it wasn't a quick fix with just switching to UTI food for Webbie. It was a conflict that lasted a long time, and there was a lot of suffering involved for both myself and Webster.

Shortly after Kingie died, and I got Gretchen, it got really bad. By now, I'd decided that it was my wonky well water, which leaves mineral deposits on every surface it touches. I don't even want to know what my own kidneys look like. (I now only drink bottled water.) I finally gave in and bought the vet-only UTI food for cats. Since then, Webster has had zero bladder infections, PRAISE THE UNIVERSE. However, my pocketbook has taken a massive hit. I was able to find over-the-counter "gentle food" for King's raging IBS problem, but UTI food has been impossible to find EXCEPT through a vet. And boy do vets charge a LOT of money for that stuff.

*groans*

Luckily, Purina has finally gotten into the UTI game. I was SO thrilled to see their wet/dry food options for meows with bladder issues. The problem? I couldn't be sure that it would really work, and I did NOT want the peeing in funny places to start all over again.

When I wanted to try a new food for King's bowels, I researched my options and found Natural Balance Limited Ingredients Duck and Green Pea Formula in both wet and dry options. I printed off the ingredients list for both types of foods and took them to my vet. I was in Chicago at the time, and the vet was VERY cool. She agreed that the ingredients were virtually the same as the ridiculously expensive prescription food, and she said I should go for it. So for years after that, I was able to get the special food for my cats at one of the pet chains. Easy as pie.

Talking about King so much makes me want to see him again. Here's a classic "King begs for food" photo:


Fast forward to now. My childhood vet recently retired, so there's a new vet in Farmsville. I printed out the ingredients lists for both what she sells and for Purina Pro Plan Focus Urinary Tract Health Formula and took them to her. She agreed to look at the list and Webster's history and get back to me. Shortly after my visit, I got a message from her saying that she didn't feel the Purina food was the right choice for Webster, given his history. I was very disappointed. The cost of prescription cat food costs more now than my human food for myself does. Something had to change.

Then one day, I ran in to the retired vet from my childhood. We had a little chat about the Purina Pro Plan food. He said that the vet-only food really is the best choice for the overall health of the animal. You have to weigh the cost of the special food against the cost of the vet bills you'll end up with if you don't feed them the right food to treat their issues. These were REALLY good points. Treating Webster's bladder infections has been very costly. However, he also said that Purina is a reputable, long-established pet food company, and that he personally didn't feel they would risk tarnishing that good reputation by putting out bad food for UTIs. Another good point.

The best thing he said? ---------> "It doesn't hurt to try."

So I took my giant bag of vet-only dry food and mixed it with a bag of Purina Pro Plan Focus Urinary Tract Health Formula dry food. I fed this dry mixture to the cats for two weeks and waited for Webster to pee somewhere.

Nope.

SUCCESS!!!!!

Next up was seeing how they felt about the wet food. I fully subscribe to feeding my cats both wet and dry food. It's yummy, and Webster gets extra moisture from the wet food for his bladder. Both Webster and Gretchen always eat their vet wet food, but they're mostly ambivalent about it. But the new Purina wet food? HOLY COW. The cats have gone NUTS for it. Like seriously bonkers happy.

King used to ALWAYS beg for food. Webster and Gretchen don't beg. They eat when they eat. But now? Webster talks to me for food. He rarely talks. Gretchen's Maine Coon chitters, trills, and meows are regular parts of my days, but Webster is generally quiet except for his jet-engine-loud purring. But the new wet food? OH MOMMA, IT'S HEAVENLY:

Image c/o Purina Pro Plan

I've never seen Webster so excited to eat. It's incredible. And now that we've gone through a whole case of it (they only eat half a can of it each day), and there has been NO Peeing in Funny Places, I'm extremely excited to say WE HAVE A WINNER. And now, I will officially stop breaking the bank with cat food.

SERIOUSLY I MEAN THIS FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY CRUSTY, BLACK HEART, PURINA. THANK YOU FOR MAKING THIS FOOD!!!!!!

  • Cost of one dry food bag of vet-only UTI food = $70
  • Cost of one dry food bag of Purina UTI food = $35

The deal is even better for the wet food. I'm not going to go bankrupt due to Webster's wonk bladder anymore!!!!! The lessons learned here?

  1. Do your own research.
  2. Consult more than one professional vet.
  3. It's OK to simply try.
  4. You can end up cutting your food costs in half. (actually over half for me regarding the wet food)

And now I have two kitties who lurve their food more than ever!

Webbie:


Gretchen:


----------------------------------------

NOTE: Webster's random scratching allergy problem began well before my food experiment, so I'm confident that it has nothing to do with the food. As an update to that problem, the steroid treatment is over, and he's scratching again, so we'll be going back to the vet soon. His old vet has opened a new clinic in a neighboring town, so he's very excited to go see his old buddy again. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Preparing for the Elbonado


There are two fields of thought about the Ebola cases that have been showing up in the United States:

1. EVERYONE PANIC! WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE OF EBOLA!!!
2. We have nothing to worry about. You're all being insane. Go get a flu shot.

I fall smack in the middle. While I do NOT worry that Farmsville is going to be overrun by Ebola patients tomorrow, I DO live right across the river from the Nebraska Medical Center, which is one of ONLY FOUR hospitals in the country that are fully prepared and trained to deal with Ebola patients. The rest of the hospitals are working to prepare now, but in all reality, four hospitals = It. Facts are facts. I fully trust NMC because I've been there multiple times for health-related issues, and their care is exceptional. For reals. They're even offering free online Ebola courses for others in the medical community and the general public, which is awesome. But even NMC has admitted that they can only handle so many Ebola patients. At most, they can handle 10 patients at a time. What happens when there are 11? It's something to think about.

I'm not worried about Ebola ravaging us all on its own. I'm worried about Stupid People. Everywhere I look, I find Stupid People -- sometimes including myself. So I therefore believe it's the Stupid People who are going to spread it everywhere. I won't go in to the Stupid Actions of some Smart People who have shown up in, say, New York, and gone bowling when they're already showing the first symptom of Ebola, which is fatigue. That horse has already been beaten. But beyond the Smart People Doing Stupid Things, we also have Just Plain Stupid People Who Do Dumb Sh*t All the Time. They WILL sneeze on you. And sneezing counts as "body fluids." We also know that Ebola can live on its own on a surface for two hours. No one has to bleed or take a poo on me. They just have to sneeze and touch the ATM that I touch next. Again, this isn't fear-mongering. It's just facts. You can read it right here from the CDC.

I've taken some flack from people when I've brought up Ebola prep because they think I'm overreacting. I think they are under-reacting. It's one thing to build a bomb shelter in my back yard and stash it with 50 years worth of canned goods, but it's a whole other thing to blindly pretend like Ebola isn't happening or scary or real. One person who repeatedly called me crazy, who shall remain unnamed, (totally my sister) compared Ebola to HIV and said HIV is worse. I replied, "No. Ebola turns your insides to mush. HIV doesn't do that." Then I decided to do a little research to make sure I wasn't lying or going Dr. Blonderson without being able to back up my facts. My sister and I both totally LOVE debating each other about things and being the Right One, so I needed to quickly ensure I wasn't full of it. According to AIDs.gov, you can live with HIV for up to 10 years without getting full-blown AIDS. Ebola takes anywhere between 2 and 21 days to go full-blown with the average range for symptoms showing being 8 to 10 days, per the CDC. Also, Ebola is killing 70% of people right now. Quickly. So that's much faster than living with HIV/AIDS for quite some time, maybe even an entire old-age lifetime. It's scary stuff. (To be fair, my sister did concede that Ebola is hella scary and awful and that she just kinda didn't want to think about it right at that moment because it was super late on like a Wednesday and she was watching good TV, which is fine. LOVE YOU, SIS BIG.)

Then, because my parents owned the book, and I wanted to educate myself, I started reading The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. He said, "HIV is a . . . Level 2 agent." As we know, Ebola is a Level 4 agent. He also said, ". . . from the moment Ebola enters your bloodstream, the war is already lost; you are most certainly doomed. You can't fight off Ebola the way you fight off a cold. Ebola does in ten days what it takes AIDS ten years to accomplish." So why are Americans winning the fight against Ebola? How come they're falsely advertising that you can survive and walk out of a hospital as happy as a clam and be able to walk and talk easily and even hug the president in a VERY short period of time?

I learned the answers to these questions the other night. I watched a NOVA documentary on PBS called "Surviving Ebola." It turns out that the people in the U.S. have been receiving an experimental drug to treat Ebola. However, there are VERY FEW of these drugs available. This is because they create the drug using tobacco plants, and it takes time to grow the plants/drugs. It's not a drug you can mix up in large batches quickly with machines and chemicals. It takes live plants, which need time to grow. It takes trained workers to do this correctly. The people in the U.S. are living BECAUSE of this drug. Period. But again, I ask: What happens when it runs out?

Now that I've gone and gotten all CRAZY EBOLA on you, I'll transition into the Tornado Problem. Anyone who watches the news has seen the devastation a tornado can cause. Throughout my life, I've been very naive about tornadoes. Because one has never smacked directly on Farmsville or anywhere else that I've lived, I've grown tolerant and meh about them. I was jolted back into reality in 2008 when a tornado hit a Boy Scout camp in Iowa. Ever since then, I've been taking tornadoes more seriously. Instead of feeling the excitement of the sky turning green, I get tense.

After the Boy Scout incident, our local news people began warning us about storms with new ranges of intensity. For example, they predicted a "life-threatening event" one year. Because of that severe warning, I went and hung out at my parents' house with both of my cats. Nothing bad happened, and that's fine. I'd much rather be safe than sorry. My parents have half of an earth home. The downstairs is built into the ground. So if I ever get another "life-threatening event" warning, I'm going straight there again. But what's waiting for me when I get there? I realized my my parents and I had never really talked about tornado supplies. Even my skeptical sister has a Tornado Box in her basement! And her husband Beloved lived through a tornado that killed his Corolla! The tables had turned. Time to make a list . . .

I'm a super bad prepper. I have ZERO supplies in my own house for emergencies. Well, I have candles and flashlights, but that's only because the power seems to go out all the time in storms -- and when people hit electrical poles on my road, which sadly happens a lot. I decided, in light of the Ebola scare, to go ahead and create an Elbonado Kit. Ebola + Tornado. Catchy name, eh? Makes it less serious/scary. Pa keeps saying Ebola-nado, but I like the way Elbonado rolls off the tongue. I warned my parents that I was going to get some supplies and that I'd be expecting Ma to help me store/organize them in her basement. She said she already had some medical supplies and water down there, but I didn't trust her. She's been known to have expired cold medicine that's a decade old in her cupboards. (Love you, Ma! You're the best Ma ever!!!) But seriously, I use Ma's stash purely as an example to HELP OTHERS.

Last night, I went to check out what they had. I'd ordered some supplies and wanted to add them to the stash. You can see above that they have a NOAA hand-crank radio. I also have one of these at home that they bought me a few years back. THANK YOU. We all also have weather radios tuned to our area. I have a tendency to turn mine off so it doesn't wake me up all night, but I really need to stop doing that.

Anyway, the folks were "mostly" prepared. I was quite happy to see this Coleman lamp. Very good. Missing = extra batteries for it. I'll have Pa throw a package of batteries into the kit soon:


I ordered this 36-hour Survival Candle. It's a little misleading because if you light all three wicks, it only goes for 12 hours. The key is to alternate wicks to get 36 hours out of it. It even came with its own matches. Very nice. I also ordered some waterproof matches, but they aren't here yet:


When creating a survival kit, you have to include things that are specific to your particular disaster scenarios. Because we live in a tornado-prone area, I ordered these whistles. If a really bad storm is coming, I'll force my parents to put them on. Then when they go flying down the road and land in a cornfield, they can blow their whistles to be heard by the rescuers. These ones come without the little balls inside, which apparently makes them easier to use in the rain:


Speaking of rain, I forgot to get the easy-peasy disposable raincoats. *adds to list* We all have well-water, but if something messed up the wells, we would need to be able to clean some water. April, who often goes camping, suggested these water-purification pills:


There are 8 bazillion blankets at my folks' house, but I wanted to get mylar blankets just in case. They came in a 10-pack, so I was able to divide them up for our family's glove boxes in our cars. Now we don't need to worry about carrying large blankets in our trunks anymore. Iowa also means snowstorms. I killed two birds with one stone here:


April also recommended this type of emergency food rations. I seriously don't think I'll ever need to eat these, but it's nice to know something's available just in case:


I'm very pleased by the creation/expiration dates:


Next, I moved on to testing Ma's First Aid Supplies. I was VERY proud of her for having them around in the first place -- in a designated spot. I was also VERY proud that they were NOT from the 80s. However, some of them had gone bad. You think that bandages can't "expire," right? Wrong. I tested one of these bandages out, and the sticky tape would NOT come off of the edges. They expired in the early 2000s, but you wouldn't notice anything was wrong until you went to use one of them. The discoloration was a sign, but the inability to separate from the tape was the nail in the coffin. Into the trash:


Same with these moist burn pads that expired back in 2009. The cooling gel wasn't very cooling:


I have no idea about this stretch gauze. Can gauze "expire"? I've done a little Internet research and learned that it's not so much the gauze that expires, but the packaging can expire and cause it to break down and not be sterile anymore. This puppy didn't have an expiration date on it, so I decided to keep it (although I will be purchasing more):


There were two other boxes of bandages. I took out one of each and tested them on my hand for a few hours. Both stuck well, so I'll be keeping them even though they're old. The butterfly packaging is VERY yellow, but they still stuck:


I was tempted to consolidate everything into Ziploc baggies, but then I would lose all of the expiration date info. For now, I left these things alone. This basket was full when I started, but I tossed 90% of what was inside. POOR MA:


To round out the kit, I made a list of the supplies I felt my family would need the most from the Red Cross First Aid list. Due to the Ebola part of Elbonado, I'm also going to buy a few bottles of Nyquil, a few packages of Alka Seltzer Plus, a few bottles of Tylenol/Advil, and a HUGE thing of hand sanitizer because the goal is to NOT HAVE TO GO TO THE PHARMACY if people start getting Ebola around here. I'd like to get sick and treat myself at home if I get a cold or a flu. Or, I suppose, Ebola.

One of the worst things about tornadoes is that they can last a long time. Well, the tornado itself doesn't last very long, but the storms do. Hours and hours of sitting in my parents' back hallway has taught me to always bring a book. But just for fun, I tossed in some logic puzzle books I had:


And some pencils:


Ma has some face masks around due to allergies for when she's gardening or doing heavy dusting. I put some of those in the stash:


And my #1 Let's Tease Blondie About Elbonado person -- my sister? She gave me this newsprint-fashioned myAir mask and package of replacement filters as a present. Gee, thanks. Ahem. (Whatevs. It's seriously a totally useful thing thing to have.) I brought this back home so I have at least one Ebola-related item in my own house:


Now the only thing we need is a large, plastic tub to waterproof the supplies labeled: IN CASE OF ELBONADO. We need to replace items in it every 5 years or so to make sure we keep up on the expiration dates. And even though Ma has gallons and gallons of well water saved in the house, it's recommended by the CDC that you switch out your water supply every six months.

There. I feel better. I feel like I have a little more control, and that's all I wanted. If the Elbonado strikes, there's really nothing I can do about it, but I can ensure that my family is prepared in the best possible way. Not like that silly plastic and duct tape thing Bush tried to get me to do all those years ago when I was living in Chicago. Yeah, like that would have helped.

*rolls eyes*

And yes, I got the 4-strain flu shot on Friday.

---------------------------------------

How about you? What is your -nado? Find your disaster here from the Red Cross. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

(UPDATED) The Short But Lovely Life of Charlotte Blonderson


UPDATE: The leader of the forum I keep mentioning is known as Norman's Mom. She's been caring for, breeding, and owning mice for over 30 years. After reading this post and seeing the late photos of Charlotte, she let me know that Charlotte's "double chin" was in fact lymph-node cancer. I will admit I was suspicious of that double chin, but she would never let me touch it, even when I was holding her. I think I had a lot of denial going on right there at the end. I'm grateful to know this is what the problem was so that I can recognize it if any of my other mice get it. Thank you, Norman's Mom, for all you do for mice owners and for helping me navigate this new world of mousie ownership.

-------------------------------------------------------

I brought my trio of female mice home from Petsmart back in August. Last Sunday, October 19, 2014, Charlotte passed away. I'm sad to lose my sweet girl, but she was old, and it was her time. When I first got her, I had no idea how old she was. She seemed quite chipper and youthful, and I mistakenly assumed that all of the pet mice in stores out there are quite young -- like one or two months. Wrong.

Miss Charlotte was already at the end of her lifespan when I got her. Petstore mice tend to only live between 1-2 years because of poor breeding (especially when the mice are only being bred as feeders). Petsmart doesn't sell "feeder" mice. They sell pet mice, so it's possible that these girls had just been at the store for a very long time. It doesn't really matter why they're older, it just matters that I didn't understand I'd be faced with a death so soon. I had the leader of the Fun Mouse Forum guess at their age ranges using photos of them next to quarters. She said Agatha (brown) is the oldest at 10-12 months; Charlotte was just a tad younger; Alice (white with brown bottom) is around 5-7 months. So I have much older mice than I wanted, but it's too late now because I'm in love.

I did shed some tears, but instead of getting really upset about Charlotte, I'm trying to stay positive and remember that whole Circle of Life thing and feel happy that she's free to run through the fields of Mousie Heaven and eat as many snacks as she wants. Charlotte started out "slimmer" but she got VERY FAT during her stay with me. It's my fault because I kept accidentally leaving peanuts in the food. They didn't really look like peanuts, so I didn't realize that's what they were. I saw her nomming on them all the time and finally figured out that's how she was packing on the pounds. I removed them about a month ago, and she started to slim down again, so at least I can feel good about that. (Mice shouldn't have peanuts or striped sunflower seeds because they are fattening and can also cause the meecers to develop allergies at any time.)

Anyway, let's look at some photos of my sweet girl. I was least attracted to Charlotte at the store because she's a Pink-Eyed White (PEW), and those tend to remind me of medical experiments. I only got her because she was part of the existing trio, but she started to grow on me and rapidly became my favorite. (Yes, I know mothers aren't supposed to have favorites, but I totally do.) She had a cute teardrop shape when she arrived:


She was SO happy to not have to eat that crappy pet store food anymore:


I ALWAYS busted her in the food bowl:


She also developed a deep love for the strawberry, as did Agatha and Alice:


Here, Charlotte's on the right. Alice is the one with her head tucked in. They were constantly in there snoozing together:


Charlotte tried very hard to keep up with the others on the Flying Saucer, but she always inevitably ended up in the middle, frozen in place while speedy Alice used her as a hurdle:


In this photo, you can see that she was starting to show her age. She was getting fatter and looking a little more scruffy:


If she hadn't already passed her 28-day pregnancy watch, I'd have assumed she was preggo. She was starting to get lumpy:


She also developed quite the double chin, but it was adorable:


Charlotte remained active even though she was aging. The new coconut was a favorite:


WHEEEEEEE:


Right about this time, I started to get worried about Charlotte. She was moving slower, playing less, and acting very geriatric. She always seemed quite tired and somewhat annoyed by her incredibly excited sisters:


On October 2, I asked the Fun Mouse Forum how to best care for an aging mouse. I could feel it in my gut that she wasn't going to last much longer. Charlotte was showing no signs of illness or injury, no wheezing or coughing, no odd stools. She was just "old." I wasn't sure if you're supposed to put them down or not. The forum leader told me that "getting old is not a disease, it just is." That's a very good way to put it. She said to just let Charlotte live out her life. So I did.

Charlotte always liked to hang out on the "lip" of whatever hide she was in. The other girls would fly over her and in and out of the coconut or the strawberry. Charlotte would tuck in her ears to keep from getting hit and patiently let them crawl all over her and groom her:


In this photo, you can see why I was certain she wasn't long for this world. She was sooooo tired this night, and Alice and Agatha were all LET'S PLAY AND BE PSYCHOS!!!!!! Poor, old girl just wanted to sleep:


She was losing weight from the no-peanuts diet, but you can still see her double chin:


Agatha is photobombing the old lady:


I had to remove this blue wheel from the tank because Charlotte would get stuck, and Alice would run so fast that the centrifugal force would splat Charlotte against the wall with no escape. One night, I decided to put her in the play bin alone so she could run if she wanted to. She plodded along slowly for about five minutes:


What is this? I can run (walk) by myself without anyone squishing me??? SO FUN:


But then she got all tuckered out and just wanted to sit:


So I took her out and let her sit on my lap. In her last month, she was tame. She would walk onto my hand and let me hold her:


I let her get down and explore the ugly bedspread for a while (the bedspread is there specifically for my animals). She didn't move very fast, so there was no chance of escape:


Then I put her back in the tank alone while the other girls went crazy in the play bin together. She waddled over to the gourd for a rest:


Then I put in the Cheerios, which are her favorite. She made a waddly beeline for them:


Overall, Charlotte's favorite thing was the strawberry. The other girls chewed through the lining to make little pockets to sleep in, but she was always there at the lip hanging out or snoozing:


Seriously, Agatha, I just want to sleep:


Here is Agatha grooming her. It's so adorable when they start grooming each other:


This is the last photo I have of Charlotte. She's snuggled up on the left, facing the back. Alice is in there with her:


Because information is power, I'd asked the forum leader to tell me what might happen if Charlotte passed while I wasn't around. She said the girls would most likely try to bury her. I came home on Saturday night around midnight, and I didn't see Charlotte, so I assumed she was in the gourd. I had a sinking feeling because the gourd was packed full, but when Alice saw me, she went running into the gourd, and I figured she wouldn't go in there if someone was dead inside. I was exhausted, so I went to sleep. I now carry a lot of regret about that. When I woke up, the gourd was still packed full of newspaper and bedding, and Charlotte was absent. Just as expected, she was in the gourd, and the girls had "buried" her there.

Female mice are best in a trio. They need each other badly. A solo female mouse will likely die of depression and loneliness shortly after one mouse in a duo dies. Agatha and Alice will be OK because they still have each other, which is comforting. I briefly considered going right out to get a new mouse to put in quarantine, but I have a lot of things going on right now, and I'm not sure I want the cycle of mice to go on forever, so I'm going to give it a little time. I struck gold by bringing home three healthy mice the first time -- no mites, no upper respiratory infections, no fleas, no problems with each other. I don't want to upset the relationship between Agatha and Alice right now, and I think my heart is a little too squishy to replace Charlotte so soon. We'll see. For now, I'll stick with the duo and give myself time to think.

The strawberries only last so long. Inevitably, the girls make a huge mess out of them, and they become quite stinky. I always have a spare strawberry around for when the current one is shot. I moved Agatha and Alice into the play bin and then gently moved Charlotte into the strawberry. I placed her aside, cleaned the tank thoroughly, and put a new strawberry in there for the girls. Then I took Charlotte over to my parents' house. Pa dug a hole, and I placed the strawberry in the rich, wonderful farmland of Iowa, right under a tree where the sunset shines each night. Charlotte will go back to the earth in her red, snuggly home.

Let's remember her in better times. Here is sweet Charlotte when she was younger back in August. So healthy and cute:


This is how I'll remember her, guarding her sisters in the strawberry, right there on the lip to make sure everyone is safe. Ears perked up! Full belly! Ready to snuggle! Goodbye, my dear:


I cleaned the gourd thoroughly and placed it back in the tank. I briefly considered getting rid of it, but then I remembered how much the other girls enjoyed it. Ever since Charlotte died, they've been sleeping in the gourd -- carefully shoving all of their nesting material up against the door and then climbing in the back window. I don't think it's a coincidence. They've abandoned the strawberry and the coconut for now. Perhaps they also just need a little time to mourn and be close to Charlotte in any way they can.

Don't worry girls. You still have each other! (Agatha: brown; Alice: brown eyes with white fur):