Thursday, August 14, 2008

Furry Funerals and Birthday Blues

I am currently acting as "hospice" for a rat that belonged to my best friend's daughter. The rat had a sizeable tumor, but not debilitating, under her arm. She now has an additional tumor at the base of her tail, and both have grown HUGE. There is more tumor than rat. But she's still eating and drinking, and seems to be in good spirits and happy with her cage mate.

I have had many rats as pets. I love them. But their final days are awful. They get sick. They get respiratory infection, stop eating, stop drinking, become dehydrated and skinny. Sometimes they go quickly, on their own. Sometimes they linger, miserably. I have taken two rats to the vet to be euthanized.

That is the decision I am now facing. Surely it's time. She looks like Jaba the Hut. I am not exagerating. Yet, she still takes food eagerly. Her cage mate will be so sad. And she will be so sad to go to the vet alone. My friend's 6 yr old daughter is preparing for the funeral. According to my friend, she "has a kind of morbid streak about death, and might really enjoying taking a peek at the corpse".

Why can't they go peacefully or mysteriously like miniature hamsters?? We had two Robo Hamsters. (I know; Robo-Hamster!!) They were so cute, and fun to watch, especially for the cats. One day I said, "Hey, I can only see one hamster", and wondered at the last time I'd seen them together. With a feeling of foreboding, I captured the one, and set to cleaning the cage, carefully searching through the litter. Sure enough, I find a partially-decomposed hamster carcass in one corner, buried in the recycled paper litter.

The discovery raised many questions. Did he sense his own demise, like an elephant, and go off alone to expire beneath the fluffiness? Or was his exit from mortality hastened, with the corpse hidden deep in the white hamster cage "earth" to conceal evidence? In the case of the latter, the suspect list is certainly short.

Some weeks later, I realized I hadn't heard the wheel in a while. I then realized the cage door was open, and no hamster was to be found. I'm sure I know which cat opened it. The one who was addicted to "hamster t.v.", spending hours a day sitting by the cage, watching the action. The question in this scenario is easy...was he eaten? I found no remains, no fur, no thrown-up bones anywhere in the house, yet if he escaped with his life, it seems unlikely, in a house of 6 felines and a dog, that he could still be holed up and alive.

So why have I had so many rats, when the "end" is so heartbreaking? They are so smart, with their own little personalities. They are definitely the "rodent of choice". And cute...oh they are so cute, especially as babies. Nearly irresistable as babies. (I have banned myself from the pet store that carries baby rats...lots of them...obviously as snake food, despite the disclaimer to the contrary...because I always feel the need to liberate a few of them.)

The cuteness factor translates to human offspring as well. Babies are so cute and sweet and cuddly. If they were born 14 yrs old, NO ONE would have another one and we'd be at zero population before the ozone hole could get any bigger.

Today was my birthday. As a single parent, I don't ask for much. I don't want to have money spent on me. I'm easy to please. I began dropping not-so-subtle hints two days ago that I would be so happy with just an extra chore done, or a special favor around the house. I called on my way home to ask my son what was for dinner. I'm happy with mac & cheese, so long as I don't have to cook it or clean up after. I stopped on my way home for the most essential item in life...toilet paper...and decided that spaghetti sounded good. I called to let him know that from the store, and asked if I had any special surprises waiting for me...

"Not yet..." Not yet? at 6:30 p.m.?? But I will by the end of the night, I am promised. Ok, we'll see. I come home and make the sauce. All he has to do is boil spaghetti and cook up the ground beef. The sauce simmers. I start water heating for the noodles. No sign of effort on his part to get up and cook my birthday dinner. What is winning over mom's birthday? World of Warcraft. Special place, hard to get to, need to do something, don't want to have to come back again. I cooked my own birthday dinner. Didn't get to eat until 7:45, for waiting for motivation to strike The Boy. 8:18 pm. No special chore done. Cooked my own birthday dinner. Served my own birthday dinner. Will now take my own empty birthday dinner plate to the sink. World of Warcraft still winning over the woman who gave him life.

Maybe when he's 18...


Merilee said...

The fact that he spoke while playing WoW is amazing. *hugs* Happy Birthday Shelli!!

Jamie said...

Wow... you are such a good writer. I didn't want it to end.