Life of Becka

Confessions of a Dreamer

The Vigil


Last night was a very tough night. My sweet little Rocky was in serious distress. I walked past him and heard his horrific cries and realized he could not get any air.  All I could do was hold him and rock  him and let him know he was loved. For 2 hours I walked, coaxed and cuddled him while he took what I was certain would be his last breaths. At one point I found myself brought to tears during our long vigil when during a small window of easier breathing, he took a moment to lick my hand as if to say Thank You.

Rocky is one of my pet rats. He has been with me since he was 2 months old and abandoned in a shoe box along with his 4 brothers. I took all 5 of them in and over the last 3 years have sadly watched them one by one succumb to old age and illness. Three of his brethren have passed this year. Rocky and SpideyRat are the only 2 remaining.  Some might immediately think, your kidding right? pet rats? but over the last 7 years I have learned more about myself and human nature in general raising rats than many other things. You see rats are a lot like people. Often misunderstood, maligned, even discounted outright because they do not fit a traditional mold or sensibility.

My passion for these intelligent and sweet-natured animals began 6 years ago when I walked into a pet shop and out of curiosity put my hand into one of the cages. Suddenly out of the blue this curious, sweet, gentle baby crawled right into my hand with no fear, and up my shoulder where he immediately and promptly licked my ear. That day my first pet rat named Patches came home with me. For almost 4 years he and his subsequent brothers where a source of amusement, joy and love for me.

When Patches became ill with cancer, it became clear that my heart had been touched in more ways than I had ever realized. He fought so hard to stay with us. Putting him to sleep was beyond difficult, it quite truly broke my heart. As the years progressed I had other pack members, yet none seemed to have that connection that my first sweet little boy Patches and I had.

That was until Rocky came along. He looked like his twin, the same long black streak down his back, the same need to cuddle, to lick my fingers, sit on my lap. Now sadly that same long vigil has started once again. As I held Rocky in my arms last night and tried to help him find some relief, I realized that his time is coming to an end. My heart is heavy with the idea of his loss and I know my house will be a little less vibrant without his sweet and caring energy. I am, however, so grateful for the time I have had.

It is a funny thing I guess to eulogize a rat, but when you think of it, in many ways we all go through a “rat” phase in our lives. We find ourselves misunderstood, or encounter those who may not like us because of our looks or beliefs. We run into situations where a single glance, or preconceived perception of what is right and acceptable automatically keeps us out of a situation on sight. I think though that it is what we do when we have a “rat” experience that determines who we become in the long run. Like my Rocky, many have been shocked or fearful of him on sight, yet he never,ever stopped loving, caring or changed his personality.  So Rocky my sweet boy, this post is for you. You are the perfect example of looking beyond the surface to see what is beneath. Putting aside prejudice and misconceptions while seeking the truth and providing love without condition. Here is to you my pet and to the “rat” in all of us. May we always rise above what we encounter and find our way into the light in the end.

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5 comments on “The Vigil

  1. Heather
    December 20, 2009

    So sorry Becka! Thinking of you today…… 😦

    • lifeofbecka
      December 20, 2009

      First of all thank you. Crazy enough he is hanging in and hanging on. I know it will happen in the next few days but last night he seemed so close in some weird crazy way I was hoping he would pass on just so he would no longer be in pain. I don’t know how others feel about animals and emotions especially smaller ones like rats but I truly believe he knows I love him and that he is cared for.

  2. Dave
    December 21, 2009

    Hi Becka

    As fellow rat adopters (though it’s my wife’s passion, not mine), I know exactly what you’re going through. We’ve been through probably 20-30 rats in the 6 years my wife has been taking care of them, and they’re all tough. They live for such a little time and they all have such wonderful personalities.

    So know you’re not alone in this, as I know exactly how you feel. We let our rats die at home if at all possible, because a trip to the vet is so traumatic for them and we don’t want their last experience to be one of trauma. My wife has sat with many a rat, and had quite a few die in her hands. It’s really tough.

    All of my sympathy and heart goes out to you.

    • lifeofbecka
      December 21, 2009

      Thank you for sharing. I knew it might seem odd to some but would hit home with others. To be honest I am torn with this little guy because I am sure having him euthanized would be best but I don’t have the heart to take him away from his brother and the only safe place he knows.

      I gave myself through the holidays, if he is still fighting and in pain I will take him to the vet. I am shocked that he has held on this long but like you said they are tough and when they want to be here with you they do everything they can.

      Please tell your wife that I admire and respect the both of you. They are not the “norm” as far as pets go but I would not trade my experience with over the years for any other pet in the world.

      Happy holidays to you both and thank you again!

  3. Dave
    December 30, 2009

    I hope you had a good Christmas, Becka.

    I did pass along your thoughts and admiration to my wife when she picked me up from the airport. She was very pleased. 🙂

    I hope all is well with you.

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