A Furry Hole In Our Hearts

Originally posted July 2, 2007

We’re animal lovers, the Texas Gal and I.

We’ve got three cats (or they have us, more likely), and they are only the most recent: We were each owned by numerous felines in the years that predated our forming a household in 2001. We’re on our third hamster. And for Christmas 2005, the Texas Gal decided she wanted a pair of rats.

So since Thanksgiving that year – Christmas came early, at least on the rodent front – we’ve had two rats. First we had Wilbur and Orville (the Rat Brothers), and then Wilbur and Darwin, after Orville apparently had a stroke.

And tonight, we have Wilbur.

We’re not sure what happened with Darwin today. When I went to give the rats their pellets around one o’clock this afternoon, he didn’t want to eat. He lay there in the upper level of their cage, breathing rapidly, awake but not moving. I called the Texas Gal at work, and we took him to our new veterinarian’s office. Darwin stirred a little bit on the drive over but not anywhere near as much as a healthy, inquisitive rat should.

As we drove over, the Texas Gal told me she’d thought he’d been breathing a bit rapidly the night before, but she’d watched him for a bit and hadn’t noticed anything else.

By the time we got to the vet’s, Darwin wasn’t moving much at all. When the vet palpated his stomach, he squirmed, but that was it. The vet said Darwin’s lymph nodes were enlarged, and his lungs sounded wrong, too. He was, said the vet, a very sick rat. So there wasn’t much question about what we had to do.

I held him while the vet gave him a shot, and we both petted and cuddled him as he left us.

I have to admit that when the Texas Gal said that she wanted rats for pets, I was skeptical. I love animals, but I didn’t see myself becoming attached to the rats. I was in tears, though, as we said goodbye, as I am as I write this.

As I grieved this afternoon, I wandered through my music, trying to think of a song that would be an appropriate memorial for Darwin. I think I found it.

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