Two of the most common pets are dogs and cats. These animals hold a special place in our hearts. Yet, they are not the only animals people see fit to share their homes and hearts. Some alternative animal choices are mundane: fish and birds; others are a bit more exotic: snakes, ferrets, spiders, naked mole rats, hermit crabs and so on.
For my daughter, she came up with one that we objected to immediately: a pet rat, no less, if you can believe it. A family friend had bought a female rat from a pet store and learned, after getting it home, that it was pregnant! Soon she had quite the litter of little rats, and our daughter was enamored with them.
My wife and I repulsed at the very idea of such a pet. Our daughter persisted. She went to the library and got a series of books about rats as pets. From them, she learned, and informed us, that rats were actually quite clean creatures, and very intelligent. Some were as smart as dogs. Although hardly Rhodes Scholars, they weren’t mindless drones. We were also a little concerned about how Shakespeare and Romeo, our dogs, would react to the presence of a rat. Would they try to eat it?
Yet, our daughter persisted.
Finally, we relented, once we obtained a nice little cage to house the rat. Thus, Nosy joined our family. We were amazed at how sweet and gentle she could be, and our dogs actually tolerated her. It was incredible to see tiny Nosy sitting on the couch and great huge Romeo, our smooth-coat collie, standing before him, nose-to-nose, sniffing at each other.
Every Friday night, during game night, Nosy would join in. We’d put her on the dining room table, and she’d scamper about, going from one of us to the other. Sometimes she’d sniff at the cards, even chew on them a bit, and other times she’d just sit and look at them. It was really quite amusing to see her do it, it was as if she was trying to join in and play. Some of our friends were a bit nervous at the idea of a rat crawling on their arms, but they managed to contain their disdain. Amazingly, my wife was the most tolerant of all of us, and Nosy seemed to love her, truly.
Our daughter had been right, Nosy was quite the wonderful pet and we got her a nice big cage. We thought it best to give her as much room as possible – levels to climb, toys to play with, and good food and water.
Rats are rather short-lived creatures, two to three years is a typical lifespan. There finally came the day that we heard a mournful squeak from Nosy’s cage. Fortunately, it was over quick, and she was gone. Never did I think I would mourn the passing of a rat, but we all took it hard. Thus, we did what we always did for a beloved pet: laid her to rest in the garden, and gave her a proper headstone.
It really is amazing the creatures that can wind their way into our hearts.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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