I got Ick!Rat the day after Christmas, 1998. I had broken an engagement 6 months earlier and I was still sad and lonely. I don't know why I thought "Rats" -- I hadn't had rats since college.
I felt like walking and I made the long cold, hike to the Petland Discounts on Northern Blvd. It is a hell-hole of a pet store: dark and dingy and dirty and smelly. They keep the rats in a tank under a table or something. A guy dragged the tank out for me, I stuck my bare hand in and the first rat who nibbled me, I grabbed.
The man said to me, "Do you have a snake?" I said, "Oh, no! He's going to be a pet." The man replied, "Oh, good! I always apologize to them when I have to feed them to the snakes."
Ick! had never been handled. He was terrified for 3 days. But he never bit. He very quickly fell in love with me. He was smart: I took him everywhere. He always behaved. He never tried to run away. In a short time, he went free-range and remained that way all his life: he had the complete run of my house all the time.
He was very businesslike. He took his role as alpha very seriously. You couldnt' joke around with him, he was too busy for that. He was as patient with Puppy as he could be -- it was hard for him to live with a retarded kid. Puppy followed him around constantly. After Puppy died, I added the Rattuses: Ick! and the Rattuses adored each other always. When the Rattuses turned out to be girls, I separated them and added the Ball Players. Ick! was very stoic about having his place turned into a locker room. And when it came time for Nomar to become alpha, Ick! was very graceful about it.
Ick! was the most common of rats: a PEW and a feeder from a pet store. But healthwise, he hit the ratty lottery: he was never sick a day in his life before the end. Rats died of myco all around him, he was always healthy as a horse. Until a few weeks ago, I never spent a dime on him for the vet. He lived nearly 2 1/2 years.
Ick! was my friend. It was nice being liked by him. He was a great companion. I took him all over New York City stuffed in a tote bag. He was always calm, brave, easygoing and trusting. He always knew no matter what noisy place I had brought him to, eventually I would always get him back home.
I will miss you, Kiddo. It's hard for me to believe I'll never see you again. Everything has revolved around you for the past few weeks: I don't know what I'll do with all the free time. I did my best and you did yours. I hope you had a great life. I hope you liked living with me.