When Your Pet Rescue Becomes a M*A*S*H Unit

Recently I’ve been in touch with area rescues and I’ve found a common thread among them all. Every rescue is like a mini-hospital; caring daily for sick animals with cancer, tumors, respiratory problems, bad teeth, infections of all kinds and behavior problems. Everyone tells the same stories of animals found abandoned in parking lots or surrendered with horrific health problems.  At any time of the year, I have at least seven sick animals that need medications. Weekly, sometimes daily trips to the veterinarian are the norm.  Every rescue has a tale of man’s inhumanity to animals and each rescue is full to capacity with the silent victims of neglect. I jokingly told a friend that I run a MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) unit. I’ve thought about adding a small seven to the house number on my trashcan so it would read: 4077 and add the word M*A*S*H underneath.  My rescue didn’t start out as a mini-hospital--a place for litters of hamsters, rodents with behavior disorders, and lately ferrets with adrenal disease. The original criterion for admission into my Saint Nicholas mouse rescue was simple: unadoptable MICE.   I have since found that most species specific rescues also take in other kinds of animals in need as well, so my rescue is not unique.  I’ve seen the cycle of life, from birth to death, and all of the signposts of aging and sickness along the way. Death claims my charges, breaks my heart, and then more come along in desperate need. I open my heart and the cycle continues.  There is a complete turnover of animals every two years because almost all of the rodents that come to my rescue are adults, most with health problems.  Many of their lives have been shared with Pet Tails readers, while others have not. Each one has enriched my life. My naïve idea of a cute little rescue to save shelter mice has given way to the knowledge that there are many kinds of animals in need in our area and rescues just like mine trying to take care of them. One little fellow, a year-old, fancy dumbo rat, came to us from animal control.  I opened his cage door and he peeked out at me with large, bright, dark eyes. He climbed the metal rungs of his door and trusted in me to catch him. I picked him up and looked at his thin fur and horrible scabs from scratching fur mites that covered his body. It made me sick. Mites and lice are a result of filthy living conditions, such as an uncleaned cage. Poor nutrition makes mice and rats weak and vulnerable to disease.  A little soap and water, changing cage bedding, and a bag of good food go a long way to prevent creepy critters such as lice from causing harm to your pet. Without further inspection, the dumbo rat came home with me.  He had a white blaze on his gray forehead; the rest of his body was pure white. He looked like a typical hooded rat to me but he was really what is known as a Bareback. The next day the veterinarian dabbed our dumbo rat with a spot of Revolution and gave Endoflaxin for his skin problems. The plastic cat carrier we used to transport him became an isolation ward that was placed on the kitchen table far away from my other rats. He remained wrapped in a towel to stay warm because of his sparse fur. We mixed the medication for his scabs in mashed bananas that he greedily ate with gusto. We named him Mr. Frodo. His big dumbo ears reminded me of the hobbits of JRR Tolkien’s fantasy works The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings. Mr. Frodo became a handsome boy with sleek soft fur. I was not prepared for the next medical crisis with this little fellow. Four months after taking Mr. Frodo into my rescue, he slipped backward and down the short ramp in his cage that led up to his food station. He tried again and slipped downward once more. I picked him up and found that his hind paws no longer worked. “What now?” I asked. The veterinarian who examined him said he still had feeling in his legs and possibly an anti-inflammatory would help restore his movement. He had one dosage of his medication in the morning; by evening he refused to eat. His tongue became swollen and he was under stress. I massaged his shoulders and told him what a wonderful boy he was. He trusted me and showed his love by bruxing (teeth grinding) and boggling (happy rat eyes). I held him until 10:30. He would return to the veterinarian hospital in the morning but before morning came, he died. I often wonder if the neglectful care he had before, contributed to his early death.   Mr FrodoMr. Frodo’s story is typical and expected when taking care of the animals who meet the qualifications for being admitted to Saint Nicholas rescue. They give great joy while alive and then sorrow with their passing.  My heart has never become hardened to the effects of losing the tiniest mouse or the largest rat. I can only hope that their lives were made happier and that they lived longer under my care.  As I said good-bye to Mr. Frodo, two abandoned young rats were found by animal control in a dirty cat carrier, placed like unwanted trash, next to a dumpster. The two unnamed rats were young. One was solid white the other solid black. The white rat huddled in the corner of his cage out of fear, while the black rat brought it scraps of food and comfort. They had fur mites and the prospect of their adoption was bleak. There are always too many rats for adoption in shelters. That day, the unnamed rats were given names, Ping and Pong, and admitted into Saint Nicholas Rescue. The cycle of life continued. 

Year Published: 

  • 2013


  • December-January

Author Name: 

Author Bio:

Lucinda Rexford Rideout is a graduate of James Madison University with a degree in Library Science and currently resides in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She is President of Saint Nicholas Mouse Rescue and volunteers at the Virginia Beach Animal Care and Adoption Center. Her main focus is on the awareness of rodent care issues. Memberships include: East Coast Mouse Association, Friends of Virginia Beach Animal Care & Adoption Center, and Small Angels Rescue. Contact Information: 407 Lake Havasu Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23454