“Obscure, plain and little…”

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My memorial painting of Anastasia, with her sister, Sugar. JSS

A few weeks ago, we lost the smallest member of our family, the timid but trusting albino rat, Anastasia. She doesn’t have much to do with trash or the Monocacy River, and I realized about a month ago that I was dwelling on my pets, and maybe even death, perhaps a little too much for my stated goals for this blog, but, with the passage of time, I’ve begun to see that to let her death go unmentioned is almost a form of dishonesty. Small as she was, we all miss her warm, little body, the strong, quick beating of her heart, and her ruby-red, curious eyes.

Of all the pets I’ve kept (and, oh, there were many in my childhood), rats have elicited the most vehement and divisive responses: either “Gross! Those tails!” or “Oh! Aren’t they the best pets!” I was devoted to mice as I grew up, and lived with gerbils, hamsters, a guinea pig and a rabbit, but never got a rat until my boys persuaded me, much too easily, a few years ago. First we had a pair of dumbo rat boys, Aloysius and Percy, who lived their short three years with patient zeal — a requirement for living with a pair of young human boys. Then, although my husband swore he would never countenance another rat living under roof, we rescued two rat girls who were destined to be snake food. Anastasia was the smaller of these two. Sugar, the other, is now lonely and squishy, choosing to cuddle rather than run off to find adventure when we let her out to play. All of our rats have had their own personalities, foibles, and weaknesses, and it is difficult to imagine that their ancestors were the terrifying vermin of the Middle Ages or to remember that their cousins remain the pests of modern cities.

Perhaps they belong in this blog more than I first though. Rats: Eaters of trash.  Spreaders of disease. Least liked member of the rodent world The Monocacy: Consumer of waste. Flowing with pollutants. Least appreciated of rivers. But beautiful in their own ways, with wonders in their depths, personalities to plumb, just waiting to be known and understood.

Rest well, Anastasia. I knew you. And I am glad for that.

 

17 thoughts on ““Obscure, plain and little…”

  1. I am so sorry for the loss of your companion, Anastasia, and I hope that Sugar accepts your comfort. It is sad that some species are regarded by many with no compassion, when all too often it is human behaviour in the first place that causes such species to become problematic to humans. I so agree with your plea for better understanding of the species (and rivers) that we fail to appreciate. Charlotte would have understood I think? Initially I missed the reference to Jane Eyre. I like your tribute painting.

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    1. Oh, thank you. Rats and vultures share their “bad reputations,” I think, which is one reason I was so happy to see that wonderful picture on your blog. Both misunderstand. I’m so glad you caught the reference to Jane Eyre, too!

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  2. Oh gosh, I feel for you. I kept rats when I was young and sad, then again when I was an adult, in uni and newly single. You wouldn’t believe it unless you were introduced to one, but rats are amazing pets, almost like miniature dogs with a similarly miniature life span. I mourned when mine got tumours and had to be helped out of their pain (almost all of them went this way) – but the years we spent together were full of mutual affection. I’m sure you will keep similarly fond memories of sleeve snuggles and those delightful yawns they do when they get up.

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  3. Thank you. Yes! They really are like dogs, devoted and curious and teachable.And their yawns really are adorable, aren’t they? (Although I know that their colored teeth are yet another thing that some people find gross).

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