Sheba and the shrew

31st Jan, 2019


Illustration by Jenny Lamont

In which DD and The Dad go the extra mile for Mr Shrew – sadly, to no avail…

It was a usual sunny Saturday afternoon, but one not exempt from chores, and so I trundled outside to take down the laundry. Sheba Shanks merrily trotted along behind me but quickly lost interest in what I was doing and became FAR too interested in something under the bits of wood and shrubbery against the wall.

Panic stations

I always worry about snakes, so I immediately told her to stop her shenanigans. Did she listen? Not a chance! She was intent on rooting out whatever it was that she could smell.

I nipped back inside to get the basket, and on my return, noticed Sheba standing still as a statue with drool pouring out both sides of her mouth. OMW, that was enough to set me into MMPM (Mad Mommy Panic Mode)!

I rushed to her side, thinking all manner of terrible things, from poison to puff adders. But she indicated with her nose (she really does this) over to the flowerbed and there, amidst the soil, was the tiniest furry creature wriggling around with all four little legs in the air.

I put Sheba on guard and dashed back inside to get some tissue to gently pick up this wee fellow. To be honest, I’m not sure who was more scared. On closer inspection, I discovered that he was a little shrew. Holding him firmly but gently in one hand, I headed back into the cottage, accompanied by my entourage, to find a shoebox for him.

Sending out an SOS

The poor tot: his itty-bitty back leg was injured, which only increased my MMPM. Expert help was needed! I immediately set to Facebook and all the animal rescuers that I know to see if they could help or point me in the right direction; and they did. (What did we do before Facebook?)

Of course, no one was available on WhatsApp at the time – arggh! I warned my local vet that I might be bringing him in and then phoned the Wildlife Division of the SPCA.

The lovely man who answered was very willing to help, although he had no idea what a shrew was. I couldn’t bear to see his face if I’d made him drive all the way from Grassy Park to the City Bowl only to be shown the teeniest of creatures at the bottom of a shoe box; I suspect he might have hated me a lot!

It’s a shrew, not a shoe

Still waiting for one of the many I’d called on for help to get back to me, Sheba and I kept a beady eye on Mr Shrew. He seemed okay, bar his dodgy leg, which really didn’t look good at all. Sheba wasn’t fessing up whether she’d caused the poor thing’s injury, but I admit to having my suspicions…

And, so, The Dad arrived home to find both Sheba and me peering worriedly into a shoebox devoid of shoes (but with one little shrew). Giggle, after nearly 17 years of living with me, one would think that this sight wouldn’t surprise him, but it did. Shrews were a little more off the beaten track for our cats (and dogs) and he looked decidedly perplexed.

Sheba and I were both horrified at his immediate suggestion to take Mr Shrew up to the forest. What?! He needed medical attention, not a new neighbourhood.  

Sometimes the ending’s a sad one

And so instead, like the man I know him to be deep, deep down, he revved up the car and kindly drove Mr Shrew and me all the way to Pinelands to hand him over to animal angel extraordinaire Margot Wilkie.

Fair warning – I’m afraid this story doesn’t have a happy ending. The next day I couldn’t bring myself to call and check on our tiny friend, but by the following day I really needed to know. I called Margot, only to be told that, tragically, he didn’t make it. She advised that Mr Shrew had a severe back injury and nothing more could be done for the little fella.

Even Sheba seemed downcast when I broke the news to her. It had been her first-ever “catch”, and, judging by her weird behaviour – she hadn’t eaten it (a surprise as she isn’t called Mrs Two Bottoms for nothing), she wouldn’t leave the shoebox alone, and she attempted to dash out the door to come with us in the car when she saw me carrying the shoebox – I think she’d come over all maternal. Sorry, Sheba Shanks, but we tried! RIP, Mr Shrew.