I make no secret of my liking for mice. I even get a kick out of those who wreak havoc in the feed room, although I'd prefer they clean up their mess and quit chewing holes in the grain bags. In the milking room, I watch generations come and go. Youngsters no bigger than almonds venture out with older siblings and leap like jumping beans, disappearing into a burrow faster than a blink. Grown-ups may be brave and bold or timid scaredy cats. Some will poke their head out of a hole five or six times before racing across the room to the breakfast bar. I assign gender arbitrarily. Many of the same mice show up day after day so I learn to recognize them by facial or "personality" characteristics and they get names like "Flute Snoot," "Ruffles," "Brown Nose" (that's a color, not a social comment), and "Braveheart."
The ones who touch my heart most are the old ladies (or they could be gents). There is one who comes nearly every morning now. I call her La Vieja. Her fur is becoming sparse, no longer sleek, and sticks up in funny places like "bed hair." Her tail is somewhat foreshortened as if the tip has been worn down from dragging on the ground. There must have been a time when she carried it proudly. I think her eyesight is not so good anymore; she sometimes bumps into corners and, even though I'm sitting right there on the milking stand, she toddles in from the other room without noticing me. La Vieja has the dowager's hump that some old ladies get with age. With these old ones, I know the day will come when I won't see them again. I simply enjoy their company while they're here.