I don’t even know where to begin.
I noticed Jack had a little blue crust around his nose the other day when we were cleaning out the cage. First stop: google. Google informed me it was either nothing to worry about, or a sign of really bad things to come. I wanted to believe the former, but my gut told me the latter.
I called the vet. Yes, I said vet, to see what they charged for a rat visit. One of the possible infections can be totally cleared up with antibiotics. The other, not so much. I found out it was $35 and spent the rest of the day wrestling with the idea of spending $35 on an $11 rat. Because I am a softie, I ended up deciding to take him in, but it would have to be the next morning.
Maggie had the choice to stay home from school to go to the vet or to go to school with the promise of a full report. She has mentioned many times that she would like to become a vet, so it was a tough decision for her. She opted for school. Thank goodness.
Then I was faced with taking a sick rat in a shoe box and a little boy who fears dogs into a vet office, where, of course, there were lots of dogs. I finally convinced him they were all on leashes and that I could not carry him and the rat, and we entered.
After a brief wait, we were checked in and weighed Jack on the scale. Including the rather sizable shoe box, he weighed in at .8 pounds.
The vet listened to his side for less than 2 seconds and told me the grim news. Jack would need to be euthanized.
(Side note: my husband does not know I took Jack to the vet and anyone who tells him will be dead to me.)
I asked how much euthanasia would be (because, seriously, it’s a rat and my husband would kill it for free, but it’s also a pet, so I wanted to weigh all the options.) $28 if we did it today.
Wanting Maggie’s first pet to have a dignified death, I thought about it. I asked if we could take him home so Maggie could say goodbye and then bring him back (thereby letting her say goodbye and letting me decide the cheapest best, most humane way to end his life.) It was agreed I could bring him back by 6pm and not get charged an additional office visit.
I know most of you don’t “do” the idea of having a rat as a pet. I have to tell you, from the first moments with Jack, he has been such a doll. Loving to be held. Loving to climb on our arms and necks. Loving attention. Just a doll. If there weren’t a bunch of kids’ movies based on rats already, he would have been the perfect guy girl to base a character on. I could almost hear a cute little voice coming out of him. Towards the end, he just wanted to be held. It truly was sad.
So I brought him home and was planning on keeping him in the shoe box until Maggie got home, because, of course, what he has is contagious to other rats. So by putting him back in the cage, I was risking Annie too. After about 15 minutes, I realized he had no water in the box and decided to put him in the cage for a few minutes to get a drink.
At which point he climbed into the cage, had a seizure and died.
I had to watch (from a slight distance) for a few minutes to make sure he was dead. And he was. My mom talked me through getting him out of the cage (over the phone) because I was fine with holding a live rat, but moving a dead rat was something entirely different.
And then I fretted all day about telling Maggie.
And I finally told her after school and she was pretty OK. As in:
“Ohh, mom. I’m so sad for Jack. Can we get another one?”
Yeah. Then when Mike got home she said “Jack’s dead. We gotta go bury him in the back yard. Come get me when you have changed your clothes.”
And they buried him. And Mike stepped on the grave when he was done to mash the dirt back down. And then Maggie stomped on it. And then Nick stomped on it. I’m pretty sure they were dancing on his grave. Not at all sure how I felt about that.
But she has had nightmares and is processing in her own way. She asked last night if we could dig him up and check on him in a few days. Uh, no.
And now we are left with Annie. Who is a bit freaked out. And never really cared for us anyway. And might be on her way to a shoe box in the yard if she catches the pneumonia.
RIP Jack – with us from June 3, 2009 – July 8, 2009. I’m glad we took a chance on you, because if Annie was all I knew about rats, I’m pretty sure I would not like rats.
(And for full disclosure, now that I have seen what the vet did for Jack, I’m pretty sure I can self treat at home in the future…)