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Cheddar with grapeShe must have been a runt of the litter. Emaciated and left out in the open to die, Cheddar was squeaking her head off for attention. She called to her mother, but it was her mother who had left her there in the first place. The baby mouse hadn't even had enough time in the world to open its eyes. She was scruffy and small, about the size of a single grape.

I just happened to come across her, surprised to find that a small mouse laid sprawled on the ground beside my TV. She squeaked and squealed as I passed, hoping that I was her mother approaching. I picked her up and took a good look. She crawled incessantly, moving from finger to finger as if in search of something. I didn't know what to do. We had been fighting a burgeoning population of mice in our house for a while, but once faced with a baby who was so healthy but abandoned, I just couldn't bring myself to let her die.

I figured that the best place to start was by feeding her. I set her down in an old tank and set out in search of something for her to eat. A grape in hand, I held her still and tried to hand feed her a small piece. She lapped the liquid running down the fruit eagerly, but soon rejected the fruit. The next thing to try was the internet. Online, I came across this very site, Deer Mouse Ranch. I tried to contact one of the members, and soon had a reply. From what I was told, soy baby formula, fed with a Q-tip or dropper, would suffice as something for Cheddar to eat. And as soon as Cheddar had a sniff of the milk, she went after it with alacrity. Every two hours afterwards, Cheddar received a serving of milk. She gulped the liquid greedily, dousing her fur coat as she did.

Chadder in handThe milk did the trick, and before long, you could see the progress she made each day. Her arms and legs grew quickly, and her eyes slowly opened. As I had heard from Deer Mouse Ranch, she would have to be weaned before too much time passed, and I was beginning to feel the stress. I offered her oats drenched in milk, but she refused to eat or drink anything that didn't come from a dropper. Each time she drank her milk, I would offer her some oats. But each time, she refused. I was concerned that she wasn't being weaned sufficiently. But before long, she weaned herself. Drinking less and less milk, Cheddar naturally weaned herself onto dry food, learning how to eat oats and drink from a cap. Before long, she refused milk altogether.

The entire process only lasted a week or so, but it had felt like years. Waking in the dead of night to feed her took a toll on me, but I can honestly say that it was worth it to keep her alive.

Nowadays, all I have to do is hand her a piece of fruit and a cap of oats. She is self-sufficient, cleaning her fur and eating and drinking on her own. At night I can hear her bouncing around her cage, running on her wheel and gnawing chunks of wood.

Throughout it all, Deer Mouse Ranch has kept me informed and confident. I honestly believe that without their help, Cheddar would have died. But today, Cheddar is alive and well. She continues to grow with each passing day, and is one of the best friends I have.

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