By Rebecca Stout
The list of famous mice of the cinema is a long one: Jerry, Stuart Little, Speedy Gonzales, Fievel, Gus-Gus, and Mighty Mouse just to name a few. In fact, one of the most recognizable cartoon characters in the world is Disney’s beloved Mickey Mouse. And why not? There are very few animals more endearing than a teeny, tiny mouse. I’m not alone in thinking this, as demonstrated by their popularity in the pet trade. Therefore, it should be no surprise that there are champions of these little creatures and related species in our midst.
The History Behind The Saint Nicholas Mouse Rescue
Lucinda Rideout and her husband, James, are champions to mice. They opened up a shelter in 2010 called the Saint Nicholas Mouse Rescue for pet mice and other rodents. It’s located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Their rescue story began with a little, pink-eyed white mouse they found during a visit to their local animal control center; they later named the mouse Isabella. She had spent a long time deep within stacks of stinky aquariums filled with other rodents. She was alone and in need of love. Upon seeing the conditions of the unwanted rodents, Lucinda was inspired to open up a home-based animal shelter that catered to the special needs of mice and other rodents.
The name of the rescue originates from two sources.
“Nicholas was a beautiful white and gold mouse from a pet store,” Lucinda said. “He was the perfect mouse. We lavished affection on him and in return he would sit on our shoulder and do all the amusing mouse things one would expect. When he died, we named the rescue in his honor. The rescue also honors the original Saint Nicholas as our patron saint. Saint Nicholas, protector of small children, and the Christmas story are tied together. We like to think that every day at SNMR should be like Christmas day to our animals.”
Saint Nicholas Mouse Rescue Residents
The pets at the rescue currently consist of 15 rats, 1 gerbil, 2 spiny mice, 2 soft furs (rat or mouse), and 1 white mouse. But that is just today. Circumstances vary and, therefore, so do the numbers of rescues. At one time more than 100 baby rats and more than 30 hamsters were living in the shelter.
Animal hoarding is a serious issue. Saint Nicholas Mouse Rescue is one of the organizations that tries to step up to the challenge of dealing with such mass rescues and save as many lives as possible. Both Lucinda and James are recent cancer survivors, so the population at the rescue has been scaled back until they are strong enough to do more. I find their dedication absolutely admirable in that they still determined to crusade for animal welfare despite their dire health challenges.
Courtesy of Lucinda Rideout
(left to right) Lucinda Rideout, Morgan Ringer and James Rideout recently attended a pet expo to help spread word about Saint Nicholas Mouse Rescue and help educate people about mice and other pets.
Rescuing Is A Team Effort
On their team is another champion, Morgan Ringer. She is the public relations director, runs the rescue’s Facebook page and is the artistic resource person. Lucinda and Morgan were work acquaintances until 2011 when they ran into each other at the veterinarian’s office. Ringer was there with her two rats, and the Rideouts were with their ferrets. Finding common ground with their passion for animal rescue, they’ve been friends ever since, and by July of 2012 Ringer took an active position in the rescue.
Ringer describes a few of the ways she contributes to the rescue.
“[I] monitor our main email to answer questions or refer people to other rescues/shelters if they are looking to adopt a particular animal that we don’t have available,” Ringer said. “All adoption inquiries are forwarded to Lucinda to handle. When I can, I go out to the Rideouts’ house on Saturday to help clean cages, but with the school semester in full swing I haven’t had time to do that lately.”
Another key player on the team is a tiny female rat who sports a black and white mask on her face. She is named Flash. Flash has a big and bold personality, and her role in SNMR’s is to be the face of the organization and to fundraise. From her home with Ringer, she runs PEWsday (pink-eyed white mouse day). Each Tuesday a mouse from a Facebook fan is featured. She also promotes a fun event called Flash Friday.
“We asked our Facebook followers to help us meet a very modest one-day fundraising goal,” Ringer said. “I think the goal was about $25, as we weren’t expecting much public response. The idea was that for one day, if everyone would just donate $2 or $3 dollars, or share our fundraiser with their friends, it would add up and we’d be able to make a little deposit into our rescue fund.”
Ringer’s motto is “every dollar counts,” and she is absolutely right.
“Flash has her own Facebook account, and was very vocal in trying to raise these funds for the rescue that took her in,” Ringer said. “It turned out to be a surprising success — our first Flash Friday Fundraiser raised right around $200, I think from a handful of very generous donors — to whom Flash sent special Thank You cards.”
Photos courtesy of Morgan Ringer
Flash the rat is another member of the Saint Nicholas Mouse Rescue team.
A Ferret Connection
The Rideouts also adore an animal of the non-rodent kind — ferrets. Karen Lamb of Nirvana Ridge Ferret Rescue, also in Virginia, has been a wonderful supporter of the Rideouts and vice versa. The Rideouts have supported her ferret shelter through the Ferret Giving Tree in the past, as well as given Lamb advice about rodents both wild and domestic. The Rideouts have adopted a ferret from the ferret shelter. Lamb has served as a great resource regarding ferrets. But it’s the shared experiences in regard to animal welfare that serve as morale boosters that are so valuable.
“We both volunteer at our local county animal shelters in our ‘spare’ time,” Lamb said. “We frequently swap stories of our experiences. The similarities and oddities that we share keep us laughing and/or shaking our heads at some of the things that people do — as it relates to animal companions.”
Courtesy of Lisa San-Miguel
Theodore spent some time at Saint Nicholas Mouse Rescue while awaiting a forever home, and his new owner reports that he’s leading a happy life with her now.
Theodore Gets A Home
No one can describe the success of a rescue better than someone who has been on the receiving end of an adoption. So, let me introduce you to Lisa San-Miguel and her beloved rat, Theodore, whom she adopted from SNMR. San-Miquel lost her two pet rats to illness and wanted to invite a new love into her home. She could think of no better way than to adopt from a shelter. She describes the Rideouts as a warm and informative couple who walked her through a short adoption process. When she saw the creamy, tan colored rat at the rescue, she fell in love with the cuddly little guy.
“Theodore is a very cute funny rat,” San-Miguel said. “He likes to be held, he likes getting treats, he likes to climb, and he likes to get his picture taken. Also, when I come into my room he jumps on the cage, it’s kind of like if someone wore a Velcro suit and jumped on something, it looks like that. It’s funny.”
The Rideouts’ involvement in Theodore’s life did not end when he walked out of their shelter’s doors.
“They also wanted me to let them know how he’s doing,” San-Miguel said. “I stay connected with the lady by sending her emails of Theodore. I think that it’s cool being able to show her how happy he is and how his life is now.”
Today, you can find little Theo curled up in his new mom’s lap or on her shoulder watching her type on the computer.
Courtesy of Lucinda Rideout
Proceeds from the sale of this book help the Saint Nicholas Mouse Rescue.
Using Stories To Entertain, Educate And Raise Funds
The Rideouts have been said to be terrific storytellers.
“Lucinda and Jim both have a creative and humorous way of telling stories with enthusiasm and genuine empathy for the animals,” Lamb said.
Lucinda has used her writing talent to educate others about rats, raise awareness of the rescue, and raise money for the shelter by writing a book called, “Get That Rat.” It is a sweet, fictional story for both young and old that is based on true events. Ringer, who is talented herself, illustrated the book.
“It’s a cute story about rats, which is always good since there’s a negative social stigma attached to rats — people think they are dirty, diseased, etc., which is not correct,” Ringer said. “Cute stories like this can help to change people’s minds about rats. It’s also a good reminder to people about the responsibilities of pet ownership — setting a domestic rat loose outdoors when they are no longer wanted is never the answer. It also reminds folks that rodents can be caught in humane traps without killing them.”
With a $15 membership to SNMR you can get a copy of the book. It is also available as an e-book. Sale proceeds from the book go into the rescue fund.
Running the rescue does not just require a lot of work. It requires money. Lucinda says that veterinarian costs go up to and exceed $5,000 a year. Hugs and Kisses Animal Fund, various grants from The Travelin Rat, proceeds from the book and past donations have helped the shelter stay afloat. You can help them as well by adopting, donating, liking them on Facebook, following Flash on his Facebook page, and spreading the word about Saint Nicholas Mouse Rescue.
From now on, when I see a little mouse in the pet store, or even in the wild, I will think of Isabella and how much her life meant and the legacy she left behind. I will think of a kindly couple who generously opened their home and their hearts to so many forgotten and unwanted tiny souls, and who will continue to do so despite the challenges of life-threatening illnesses. Heroes. That is what they are. Heroes to hundreds of sweet little beings and those who love them. Heroes to me.