It was just a small, furry rodent, but... well, I think about these things. Finding itself at the bottom of a deep, narrow-necked garden pot and then presumably caught in a downpour, repeated but failed attempts to jump out in its rain-soaked state must have sapped its energy. I found its remains on a dry, sunny day, some time after its demise. It was still in the climbing position, still looking hopeful, even in death; a little bank vole, judging by its size and shape.
A few years ago I did at least manage to save a fellow bank vole from a similar fate. I heard a strange noise coming from an empty watering can and discovered that one had wedged itself up the far end of the spout. I slipped the rose off and waited – but not for long – suddenly, making me jump too, out it popped like a cork from a champagne bottle, and scampered off unharmed. (I always leave the watering can covered now...)
I wish I could have rescued this one too, but now that its fragile body has long dried out and is decomposing naturally and not gruesomely at all (no gooey bits or maggots), I'm just waiting to see its perfect little skeleton*. I'm strangely excited at this prospect and intend to find a way to keep it in order once all the bones are clean. That's not weird, is it? I guess I just wish I'd paid more attention to Biology lessons at school as I can't help being curious about this stuff, only we had to dissect things and work in a lab that smelt funny and it was all a bit too icky for me in my early teens. There are ways you can speed up the process – some involve warm or cold water, some use hydrogen peroxide or other solutions I believe – but as I don't really fancy donning a mad professor outfit and poking a dead creature about in a saucepan in the kitchen, I'll just wait.... All it needs is air.
Not so for the body of a dead cat in one of our local hotels. The cat, and the section of wall behind which it had been incarcerated, is now displayed behind glass in the reception area and it's quite creepy to see its mummified remains with skin intact. Over here, in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was a superstitious custom to sometimes bury live cats behind walls to ward off evil spirits, like a kind of lucky charm for the property. (The more animal-friendly version of this was to use shoes). In this part of the country they were often buried whilst the building was under construction to protect from 'witches, warlocks and fire'. When this particularly unfortunate creature was first discovered during renovation work in the 1970s, it was removed... but, soon after, a number of strange and unfortunate events (including a fire) occurred in the vicinity. Curse or coincidence? Who can say? But the subsequent bad luck was enough to ensure its return.
I must remember that when my vole skeleton finally emerges...
* I've talked about bones before here too, if you're interested.