We become attached and have the ability to love all beings, whether they be human, or animal. When I moved my daughter Tohni in last year, she came with two rats. I’d forgotten that they were part of her life. I adapted quickly, and although I never got up the nerve to hold them or let them sit on my shoulders or in my pockets like my kids did, I became fond of them very easily. There’s a reason they use rats in the lab… they are smart. These cute little roomies I’d taken in were attentive and entertaining, even from their cages. They so demanded attention. Rats have a short lifespan, and I’d taken my daughter and her rats to the vet a couple times. She then moved out, and after they left I felt an empty space in my life… I’d wake up in the morning and head to my office after breakfast, and felt that emptiness of not seeing their cage and seeing them greet me with their little noses peaking out as they’d move as close to me in their cage as they could. I’d come home and unlock the door, then the reminder that they were no longer on the other side of the door would hit me.
Vet visits are costly for rats, as they fall in the ‘exotic’ vet category, so prices are higher as you can’t just go to a regular vet. That last visit was the hardest. Swagga was dying we had to realise. My daughter had been lucky to get a much longer lifespan from Swagga as far as rat-years go but he had developed a tumour on his lower body.
On February 11th Tohni asked us to pick her up from her home across town. She’d asked a colleague to fill her shift at work, and she came to be with family and hold Swagga as he went through his dying process. Not easy… A short while after she arrived I drove her over to her sisters just blocks away. She held Swagga in a warm towel, and I got teary. I felt her pain, and I felt the pain of that little rat, as his tumour was now an open sore, and blood was dripping from it’s eyes. He smelled of death, and my bold little daughter loved him up so, and hardly let him go from her arms, despite the harsh odour.
My eldest daughter, the pet queen, had a rat that died the year before. Tohni had hoped that they would know what to do, as you can feel so helpless when someone is in so much suffering, animal or human.
Swagga made it through that night, and the next to our surprise. We consulted the vet after that first overnight, and they suggested we put him down. Driving Tohni to their office that final morning was rushed and heartbreaking. To see my daughter, so much like myself in the mother role, had me in tears. Tohni let hers flow when we got in the car, and the photo of her holding him almost breaks my heart as I see her as the little girl, that has always wanted to save the world.
We cried at the animal hospital, and luckily the wait was not long. Tohni told me she wanted to go in with Swaggs on her own, as I sat in the waiting area.
After it was done, she carried him home quietly and when we got there she wrote this on her Facebook page,
“His body is now at peace and he will be with me for eternity. My sweet, but not always the sweetest Swagga. Was always a G, and always da boss. But he loved a good snuggle and was secretly a lil baby : )
He lived a good full life born with brother Georgie in Surrey in August 2011, adopted by me and an ex that September. They were the cutest… So much energy and balls bigger than their heads.
White rats are known to have poorer eyesight than darker coloured rats and he would sway back and forth trying to scope the scene. That was how he got his name ‘Swagga.’ The gangstaness kinda just happened, it was a suitable name.
“He loved eating and was quite a lil chubster, hiding his food all over the place so Georgie wouldn’t find it. He loved almonds. He was a great rat friend and life won’t be the same without him… Especially for Georgie who was with him since birth and I’m sure is already very worried about his whereabouts.
"He got a tumor 2 months ago and it grew rapidly... Before I knew it, it had taken over his lower body. I took him to the vet and surgery was not an option... I brought him home and did everything I could to keep him clean an happy and cozy. Checking on him, holding him, giving him water... Thinking he would pass on his own. He didn't... He kept holding on. This morning I took him to the vet to put him at rest. He lay in my arms and fell asleep... I kept telling him I loved him as I pet his teeny head. His little heart stopped at 9:43am February 13th 2014.
I am burying him near Coquitlam river, which will be the hardest part. I love you Swagga."
Tohni, her sister and her sister's fiance held a little funeral for Swagga in a beautiful spot along the river. They burned sage, dug a good hole, and played flute music as she said her goodbyes.
Swagga the rat was buried with an almond, a crystal, a yellow tulip, a branch of a fur tree in a little box lined with yellow chiffon and love.