Two-dollar vermin can make you cry.
I was a little teary eyed when our first two rats died and they were some that died soon after that left that little vacant hole in my heart, but I never thought a rat would make me bawl or lose my mind.
I thought Slinky was going to last forever. Unlike the other rats, he never seemed to catch anything and always seemed to be in good health and in good spirits until I took him to that #!%*&$@ Rat and Mouse show. I was truly addicted to him. I read everyone else's rat stories and always had a good chuckle or a "that's cute" response, but no rat, and I mean no rat, was like Slinky. After all, Slinky wasn't even a rat. He was a mentally numb human with fur. I was so excited too! Finally I would be able to attend one of these Rat & Mouse shows, see everyone's beautiful rats, and show off my second-ugliest rat too. Maybe he'd even do something stupid for everyone to laugh at.
As it turns out, he pretty much slept the whole day and the funniest thing he did was hop into each contestant's box and one point to introduce himself. He won the soggiest rat award I think. He was also called a "bad rex" and a "bad black" by the judge everyone respected. I didn't mind. He was, after all, the best I had! Other than that, I don't remember much about the event itself (see "Rat-Pageants and the Fugly awards.". What I do remember is what took place for the next two weeks, the most miserable two weeks of my life.
What took place seemed like it was pulled directly out of The Andromeda Strain. We did as we were told and kept the rats that we took to the show quarantined. We actually took a lot, an in retrospect, too many rats to the show. In about a week, more than half of those rats just up and died. Something was going on. We contacted Dr. Bob to see if we could get an autopsy performed on one or two of them so we could obtain the medication necessary. The results didn't come back soon enough and many more died. When Grandpa died I started to get really worried. Somehow I just knew Slinky was next. There were only three rats left that attended the show, and two of them were very sick. Slinky, who showed no signs of illness, as well as the other two rats were immediately given Doxycycline shots and without a thought, I stuck him in a cage with two girls who did not attend the rats show and crossed my fingers. I left him in there two nights in a row, taking him out during the day.
On the third day, he was having the worst time breathing. I was already in tears, but unlike the rest, he held on, most likely because he was very calm unlike his very rat-like counterparts. I did nothing but hold him, scratch him, and keep him warm (see "Warmth isn't necessarily the best thing if your rat is gasping for air.") for the next 6 hours which seemed like the longest six hours of my life. He peacefully passed away unlike the other rats who literally fight to get that last breath. He looked so calm and that made it so much more painful. I continued to hold onto him and rub his belly. I couldn't let go. I couldn't stop crying. At this point he was a $5 rat. He was $2 from the pet store, and the shot of Doxy was $3. How could something monetarily worth so little cause so much pain? Heck, he's been dead for over three years and I still can't help but cry!
The lady who organized the show soon after the first rash of deaths sent an email asking how they were doing because other people who attended the show were experiencing many deaths. It seemed that a couple of rats imported from California that should have been left outside the show doors were let in because it cost so much to ship them over. Apparently those two rats were very sick. I still don't know what it was that killed all of our rats, but I hope I never see it again. Each one had died with a gluey mucous coating their throat and nostrils. As I said before, it was like it came straight out of The Andromeda Strain.
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Disclaimer: There are many non-sarcastic accounts and tips on the web regarding rat care. This is not
one of them. These are merely accounts of our experiences with rats, our perceptions of these experiences, where we've failed
and where we've succeeded. These accounts are here for two purposes: