I learn today how there is yet a thread of woolly feeling not yet cut away from the dead Grit heart, because by 5pm I am brought to tears by a paralysed mouse. Not any old mouse obviously - not one that shiftily slips around the skirting board after nightfall, finds the trap and swiftly snaps out of time and place - this is Pet Mouse, two years in, two years of care, all come to the inevitability of the dead end.
In my defence, I wasn't expecting it. I was just dropping Squirrel off to her sleepover. Instead of the normal greeting (cup of tea, celebratory game of Cluedo), I was met by a family coming-to-terms with a tiny skinny bag of inert fur, a feeble grasping claw, and one glassy eye.
I cried. It wasn't the mouse. It was watching how the family household stopped while San held that ridiculous scrap of next-to-nothing. That possibly touched my weakness. How humans can care, tenderly, over life's tiniest scraps. Maybe I had forgot how people did that. San cradled the mouse in her cupped hand. Mouse was wrapped in a lint duster, warmed in case the chill shivered on her bony body. She lay with one paw held out and one blind eye staring. Her live side twitched and her good eye blinked. San stroked her carefully, nose to tail with her thumb, and held a pipette of water to the tiny whiskery mouth.
When I come home I watch Sparky, the Grit family hamster, here under my disapproving gaze. She is industriously spinning on her wheel, happy on her rounding road to nowhere.
How I'm not looking forward to that day of Pet Hamster Death. How I hope, when it comes, that I never did succeed in cutting off that woolly touch of care and understanding for all tiny things beloved by children. I pray I don't emerge that morning, late, too many unobtainables jumbling against my over-ambitious to-do list, to thoughtlessly blurt, 'What? The hamster's not moving? Must be dead. Leave it in the cage and I'll chuck it in the garden later.'