Last Monday the North Koreans revealed that they had been hiding the death of their “beloved” dictator Kim Jong Il from the world for two days, probably so that power could be transferred smoothly to his son. Jong Il was a crazy little guy who seemed obsessed with creating nuclear weapons and taking over his part of the world, sort of the personification of “The Brain” from Pinky and the Brain, the 90’s cartoon. That show featured two genetically enhanced lab mice who opened every episode with: Pinky: “Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?” The Brain: (In an Orson Welles-meets-Vincent Price voice) “The same thing we do every night, Pinky—try to take over the world!” I bet the nightly dialogue at Kim Jong Il’s crib was not so different.
Anyway, I must confess that this week my world has something in common with North Korea and Pinky and the Brain. I, too, have been keeping the secret of an untimely death. And I have much greater knowledge of rodent misadventures than you might suspect.
Similar to a communist state’s secrecy about the whereabouts and/or existence of its leaders, my family hasn’t always talked openly about the presence of a pet rat in our home. If you visited, you knew, but we rarely volunteered the information, lest you think we are a little odd. Like that fact wasn’t already common knowledge. So today I officially acknowledge that we have been rat owners and that earlier this week our beloved rat, Ratty, passed away.
Rats have gotten a bad rap throughout history. Many people shudder at the thought of them. Several times I added and deleted the fact that I owned a rat from my writer’s bio. You know, the part that says, “Scott lives on a park in Indianapolis with his wife, kids, dog…and rat.”
We were skeptical about rats at first, too. It took my wife a little time to get over the tail. But my family found that the truth is rats are not only very
smart, but surprisingly playful, full of personality, and affectionate. They are clean, don’t carry diseases,
and don’t bite. They can make wonderful pets, like our Ratty did.
Ratty was a constant source of entertainment. When we’d let her out of the cage to get some exercise she was fearless with our 60 lb. Rottweiler mix, Eleanor. She climbed and rode on the dog, groomed her claws, stole dog food and comically packing it into her little rat cheeks. She followed us around the house, stood on our feet when we washed dishes, and would climb up on a chair if you were sitting there, just to be near you.
Kim Jong Il was known to have a penchant for cigars, cognac and gourmet food. Our Ratty had a taste for the finer things, too. She loved to turn over any wine glass lying on the floor and drink the residue, and even try to sneak a drink from the glass in your hand. She wouldn’t touch certain seeds in her rat food mix, but any human food, no matter how old, was gourmet to her. And though I never saw her smoke, I’m certain she would have enjoyed a good chew on a cigar.
Now the world knows. Our beloved rat is no longer a secret. She was an excellent pet and a little blessing from God. And though she didn’t try to take over the world like her rodent brethren Pinky and the Brain, Ratty did, unexpectedly, take over our hearts.
I’m so sorry for your loss, and I know EXACTLY what you mean about shifting the fact of your rat ownership into the shadows on occasion, particularly for academics and writers, whom normal folk already consider just a little odd.
Here’s a link to my own blog at Dovetail Rats that you might find interesting – and reinforcing! I hope your family will consider adopting a new pair of rats when the time is right. They’re happier in pairs or trios. There are so many wee beasties out there in need of a home, and it sounds like your home is one of the truly exceptional ones.
Be proud in your grief. Rats are astonishing creatures,and your family demonstrates discernment in choosing to share your life with one. And hey, Beatrix Potter kept rats, as did Teddy Roosevelt. Grace Slick has rats. Clint Eastwood keeps rats. How cool is that?
Very sweet! People who do not have pets never understand the special place they have in our hearts!
Blessings and Happy New Year!
Thanks Danielle! Blessings and happy reading this year!