labor_04 photography by Maxine Helfman

Mice and Easy    |     Mary Spencer
President and founder of the Spencer Company; represents the mayor of Dallas on the city’s Animal Shelter Commission

I grew up in a small town, Commerce, Texas, which did not offer a lot of job opportunities for a kid. So we had to be ultra creative in coming up with paying jobs. I was hired to care for 100-plus white mice belonging to East Texas State University. I thought my ship had come in, as this was a most impressive job, working for the university. Every day, I fed, watered, and cleaned the cages for 100-plus white mice—each securely living in its own cage. The science professor paid me $1 each time I went and fed and watered the mice and cleaned their cages. Therefore, I tried to go as many times as I could each day, to make more money. My dad said I should stop at three times a day, or they might catch onto my thought process.

One morning, I ventured in the mouse room only to find that somehow none of the latches had been securely fastened from the night before, and white mice were out of their cages and racing all around the room. Very quietly, I closed the door to the main room and raced home to get my dad to help me catch all the mice and put them back in their cages. A few weeks later, when school started, the science teacher who hired me could not understand why all at once so many baby mice suddenly appeared. I never let on or shared my secret. Nor did my dad, who was a professor at the university. I never found out what happened to all the new babies. But, then again, I never asked. Not sure if this was the introduction to my passion for animals or my total belief in spay and neuter for all animals.