Monday, April 28, 2008

Some of the most interesting responses I got since starting this blog were not about any person, place or thing, but about the rat on my shoulder in the picture of me and Jim Jones that I posted a few weeks back. Seems that people love rats, and rightly so, they are pretty remarkable little creatures. When I first started keeping pet rats in the 80’s it was a total punk rock thing, you know, a show up at the club with a rat in the pocket of your hoodie deal, but over the years I’ve developed a real appreciation for the kings of all rodents.

Case in point, the rat in the picture. Her name is Eloise, so named only so that we could call her “Wheezy” ala The Jeffersons. She is the daughter of the best rat I've ever owned, Curtis Mayfield LaVella. Now Curtis, who is getting up in years but is still with us, is such a great rat that we just had to keep the line going, so in December of '06 we went out and got him a wife. A quick internet search revealed that the late Curtis Mayfield’s real life wife is named Altheida, so that’s what we called her. A mere 28 days later, the Mayfield line would indeed continue, as baby after baby started dropping out of her one Saturday afternoon. We fully intended to name their 12 rat litter after all of their actual children, but could never come up with that info, so we more or less named them after their personalities. For instance, the biggest and meanest male was named Tarmo, after Estonian strongman Tarmo Mitt, and so on. We were able to find good homes for 8 of them, and kept 4 for ourselves. Rats live best in same sex pairs, so the idea was to keep a male for Curtis (which ended up being the aforementioned Tarmo, who is mean to everyone except Curtis, who he obviously respects and still grooms daily) and a girl, which ended up being Wheezy, for Altheida. We also have two other males, Virgil and Zeppo, who we call “the twins” because their markings are nearly identical. So, six rats and everything is going great until the day we saw a lump growing in Wheezy's belly. It turned out to be a tumor, which is very common in rats. Within a month it grew to almost the size of a golf ball, and even though we read that that it wasn't fatal, she was obviously in discomfort, and we couldn’t just stand by and watch her drag that thing around. So off she went to the Broadway Pet Hospital in Oakland, a place where they take rats as seriously as dogs and do fine work, for surgery. It was cheaper than we thought, and except for the week where she had to wear the comical conehead so that she wouldn’t chew out her stitches, it pretty much went off without a hitch. So yeah, I’m the kind of guy who pays to have surgery on a pet rat, just though you might get a kick out of knowing that.


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