Winter Memorials 1/2/13
I finally got around to writing memorials today. As sad as it is, it's become so necessary to my grieving process and moving on.
Blind Melon and Lynyrd Skynyrd 10/26/10 - 1/2/13
Black Pete 11/2/10 - 1/2/13
Zanna 10/1/10 - 1/2/13
We went on a nine day long planned vacation to Disney for the New Year this year. I had some wonderful friends caring for my rats while I was out of town. Sometimes though, even with the best of preparation and intentions, the worst happens. My dinosaur of a thermostat malfunctioned that week. So even though it was set on a comfortable 75 degrees, the heater temperature gauge thought it was freezing, and started working overtime to compensate. The house became a sweltering 95 + overnight and before my rat caregivers could arrive to realize the extent of the problem, four of my crew succumbed to heat stroke. Three girls survived, only because they were in the bottom cage unit closest to the cooler floor, and were rescued in time. Losing so many at once was sad to everyone involved: Me, my kids, and my rat sitters. Saying goodbye to so many is a hard memorial to write. We lost my hairless boys Skinner and Melon, and lost my big boy Black Pete and my motherly girl Zanna.
Blind Melon and Lynyrd Skynyrd 10/26/10 - 1/2/13
Skinner and Melon came to me as a matched pair, born October 26, 2010. Following my macabre naming scheme, I named them after dead rocksters (who coincidentally had great naked rat names). I went to pick them up on the road just past Atlanta on a chilly day in December. They were my quarantine pair, so they spent the first two weeks with their adopted Auntie and Uncle pending a clean bill of health. Since all of my other rats had come from one location with zero outside exposure I’d never had to quarantine before, but this ratty tatty pair had come from a new source, hence the small precaution. They were spoiled and demanding of their new relatives, and remained so when they came home with me. Some of my funniest rat moments revolved around this pair of pinknecks.
As scritty little babies, they made themselves known right away. They had crooked dumbo ears bigger than their bodies, fanny packs bigger than their ears, and faces only a warthog mother could love. We introduced them with tiny baby Black Pete, and another juvie boy Zmei to our original pair of massive black manrats Jeffrey and Tucker.
Black Pete quickly fell in love with Jeffrey, and Zmei settled in with everyone. The bald brats were having none of it. As far as they were concerned it was the two of them against the world, and as long as they never left each other’s side, that was true. The rare times I had to separate them, they both went into hissy fits trying to find one another. I learned that if one had to go to the vet, both had to go so they were calm enough to handle. They squeaked, and eeked, and screamed at every perceived slight. At half Jeffrey and Tucker’s size, they stood up to the big boys like they owned the world. During intros it was a constant marry go round of hip bumping and face offs. It took me four weeks of daily persistence to integrate them into the main colony, and reliable peace wasn’t achieved until I took them in to the vet’s for a personality adjustment.
The eeking and squeeking diminished but never completely went away. They were equal parts snotty nosed street urchins, and persnickety little married couple. They stayed together and took care of one another through thick and thin, sickness and health. They picked fights together, and ganged up on adversaries together, be it one of their brothers or big giant me.
They enjoyed scuffling inside my shirt like demented offspring of a gummy bear and the Tasmanian devil. They often liked to stash treats inside my clothing while I was wearing it, which made for awkward discoveries later. If I tried to walk away from them, they would sit on my feet to keep me from moving. They would often try to steal my fingers and pull me into the back corner of the cage into their stash pile.
Physically, they were almost identical. Initially I painted Skinner’s tail to differentiate them. Later it was their very distinct personalities. Melon was very shy around me, and cranky around everyone else but Skinner. Skinner always wanted in on the action and made sure to collect both his and his brother’s share of treats when food was being parceled out by me. Later still it was Melon’s collection of superficial scars collected on his thin skinned little naked hide.
I thought they’d welcome the addition of girls into their world, but my devoted gay married boys wanted nothing to do with them in any shape or fashion. I finally put them in a cage by themselves. They were much happier than I’d ever seen them, so I let them live as they preferred: Alone with each other.
In later months, Melon began having breathing/heart issues. I dreaded the day when one had to leave because I knew I’d have to say goodbye to both of them. Neither would have continued living without the other. So, in the end, if they had to go, I’m glad they went together, which of course is the only way they’d have it.
Black Pete 11/2/10 - 1/2/13
Black Pete arrived December 6th of 2010 with his older cousin Zmei. He was an adorable tiny little kit of a rat who had been weaned a mere day before he came home. Since he came home on December 6th, St. Nicholas Day, I named him after St. Nicholas’s devilish keeper of the naughty list, Zwarte Piet, Black Peter. Fuzzy black with a perfect pair of white kid gloves on his front paws. He was selected from an identical pile of siblings because he chose my husband. My hubby didn’t care much for rats, but indulged me my quirky passion. I was excited when he said he was coming with me on this trip, and even more so when Pete warmed up to him so quickly. Pete sat in his hand as content as you please, eating his treat and grooming his tiny ears, letting us know he was ready to go.
He first distinguished himself by being a perfectly well mannered rat boy. He got along with every rat in the cage within minutes of introductions. He was singled out by my Indiana Jones manrat Jeffrey, and once bonifides were established, they were best friends. My husband unfortunately found out he was allergic to our rats, and what had promised to be a budding heart rat situation, became unrequited love on Pete’s part. For his entire life, he would seek out my husband attention, and though the husband kept his distance for the most part, I would sometimes catch the two of them chatting through the cage bars.
As Pete grew, he distinguished himself in other ways too. He proved to be the healthiest rat I have owned. I never had a tumor, cyst, URI, or other similar problem in his entire life. I was honestly hoping to see him live well past his third year. Temperament wise, he surprised me with how discriminating he was in his affections and how attached he was to familiar routines. Though he was always gentle and easy to handle, he never warmed up to me or my oldest son. He saved his love for my husband, and to a lesser degree my younger son. In his cage, he devoted himself to his big brother Jeffrey. In the beginning he was a tiny shadow protected from unwanted attentions by the worldly Jeffrey. As he grew, he was an eager shadow, trying to learn everything he could from his mentor, and following his lead faithfully. As Jeffrey aged, and tiny Black Pete attained his full, massive, two pound girthiness, Peetamungus began looking out for his favorite brother tenderly. He was always by his side, grooming him, keeping him warm, and making sure he had something to eat.
When Jeffrey succumbed to an unfortunately situated non-malignant bone tumor, Pete showed the extent of his devotion with a sudden and uncharacteristic personality shift. He clearly grieved his best friend, and took it out on every rat in the cage. I ultimately neutered him to see if it would help with his confused feelings, which it did. He settled more calmly into alpha rat of the cage, but true to his discriminating heart, had little to do with the remaining boys other than to remind them of their place.
Soon I was asked to bring home a quintet of girl rats, who I dubbed the Skittle Girls for their colorful and varied personalities and coats. One of these girls was a younger half sister of the earlier mentioned Zmei. Zmei had taken a dark folklore dragon name. So, I named her after the poem Custard the Cowardly Dragon. Custard my little butterball of a black eyed Siamese girl loved people. A sweetheart and lovebug to humans, she was terrified of rats. She had been kept isolated her entire life and didn’t understand other rats. I decided to try her with my well mannered reserved gentleman Pete.
Pete fell in love for the third time in his life. From the first kick to the face, he was devoted to this prickly and insecure little girl. He spent hours soothing his pretty angel. He tolerated every hiss and hip bump with bemused besottedness. It was Pepe Le Pew and his Le Femme Le Skunk Le Petite Flower. After a couple of weeks he wore her down, and she accepted him tentatively into her circle of ‘acceptableness’. I anticipated many long months of Morticia and Gomez style love from these two sweet rats, but unfortunately a mere four months after bringing Custard home, I had to let her go because of aggressive mammary tumors.
Pete was alone again. I decided to try introducing him to the my four remaining females, who had remained separate only because of Custard’s rat phobia. Initially things seemed promising, but Pete, with his love of routine and suffering from one upheaval too many, retreated from these girls to hide in his hammock. The youngest girl was indifferent, but the two middle Skittle Girls grew increasingly offended with his marginal presence. Zanna, my oldest skittle girl took to him right away. A mere two weeks before we lost them, I chose to separate Zanna and Pete from the rest of the girls, and let them live out their lives as a couple. Pete, though he didn’t take to her as completely as he had his previous loves, seemed to find comfort in her presence.
Zanna 10/1/10 - 1/2/13
Zanna was one of three rats I didn’t name. She, and long time cage buddies Darcy and Devon I’d known for a long time, so to me, they were already named when they came into my care and nothing else would fit. She was littermate to Zmei, and half sister to Custard.
Zanna was a pretty little satin Burmese girl, and presented herself as quiet ‘spiritual’ leader of the trio at first- the calming influence. My other two girls were more opinionated. Black Aggie and Custard came to me not yet members of this cozy trio. While Custard never warmed up to them, special needs Black Aggie soon found her place with the Skittle Girls, and Zanna showed her how to settle in with the rest.
Other than her striking good looks and quiet sweetness, Zanna never really stood out from the rest of the girls. She was reserved and content to lounge in her favorite places in the cage. She just struck me as the ‘old lady’ of the bunch. Occasionally running her wheel with Devon, and just generally being a sweetheart.
It wasn’t until she met Black Pete that she really showed her mettle. Pete was thoroughly henpecked by the three younger girls. He quickly retreated to his hammock and refused to come out. Over the course of two days, the girls became more and more aggressive in their attempts to push him around. At some point during all of this stress, gentle Zanna decided that she liked this big pushover lump of a manrat. So, when no one was looking, she climbed quietly up into the hammock with him and cuddled over him like a blanket.
Then I watched the most extraordinary thing. She draped herself across him for an entire day, and if any other girl came close enough to try to climb into the hammock she would nip the pushy offender in the nose. She refused to let any of her sisters near enough to do her sweet Petey harm. When I saw that the aggression was increasing to the point of being a problem on the part of my two D girls, I gave Zanna and Pete their own cage. They were as happy as they could be. Lifelong caregiver Pete finally had someone to take care of him for a change, and Momma Zanna was more than happy to do her part. Once again I crossed my fingers and anticipated that finally my Petey boy would have a happy ending and live out his days with his girl. Two weeks was not nearly enough. But, in a way, I got what I’d hoped for. They were together until the end.
We are left with our final three Skittle Girls. I am for the first time without A Ghostboy. I am enjoying their evolving personalities and the closeness between them. I am enjoying whatever time I have with them.
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Hanging out in the Land of New Feetsies:
Melon, Skinner, Black Pete, Zanna, Custard, Tucker, Jeffrey, Zmei, and Windham.
Last edited by Storyseeker; 01-19-2013 at 04:50 PM.