May 2: Sad rat story

Connor (11) took his beloved, almost two year old rat to the vet today. She’s getting a frequent bloody nose and is losing weight. He looked in her mouth and said there’s a tumor pushing down on the roof of her mouth, nothing he can do.

She has maybe a month, maybe two.. but when she’s suffering, C. can bring her in and the vet will euthanize her. The vet said (in front of my kid) that it involves an injection directly into the heart, and he doesn’t let pet owners watch because it’s kind of disturbing. I kind of wish he hadn’t said that but he was a nice guy anyway.

Con wanted so badly not to cry in front of the vet, but he’s so sad. When we got home we took Rattus outside under the blooming crab tree and let her wander in the grass in the sunshine. She still is eating and seems kind of OK, only she washes her face a lot which I think means it’s painful, and her eyes look a little bugged out. DS will have to decide when it’s time. The vet made it clear that she won’t just slip away — it will be unpleasant and drawn out.

So he’s cried on and off, spent some time with her, but it makes him really sad now. I reminded him that she’s not upset or afraid, and that we can make sure she has good treats and a comfortable end to her life. He’s been so good to her. When we were outside he blew away dandelion seeds to make a wish. He said he wished she would have “an easy time at the end of her life and a good afterlife”.

We’re doing a few looking-ahead things. He’s getting library books about chinchillas, which the vet says can live 12 years. And he’s planning to make a clay sarcophagus, rat sized, with an eqyptian-mummy-looking lid only with a rat face. I can cremate the remains in the pot, in my kiln, as the vet won’t do it.

I know some people hate rats but I have a kid who is going to have one of those life lessons, whether he wants it or not.

Plus he has strep this week.

Any ideas to help him out? He’s writing about it in his journal.


May 3: A better rat story

So I was up until one in the morning reading horrifying accounts of heart-injection euthanasia for rats, and looking up home options for doing it a gentler way. Rat lovers boards said, “If the vet won’t let you come in for the euthanasia, just say no.”

I looked into a homemade carbon dioxide chamber, or overdoses of meds. I talked to Connor about it this morning, but he was all conflicted and upset about the whole thing.

He took her outside to play in the grass, caught her bugs to eat like always, but looked so sad the whole time, since time seemed so short for her.

In desperation, I called another vet (Dr. Paul Pipher, a good guy who camps in sub zero temps every year to be the Iditarod vet.) He used to be Connor’s scout leader, and knows us pretty well. I asked if he could please, please do a general anesthesia before the heart injection… he says he always does. I was relieved and told ds about it, and we agreed that’s how we’d do it when the time came.

Then, later this morning, Molly came yelling out of Connor’s room– something was really wrong with the rat. We went in to find fresh, bright red blood (lots of it) all over the rat’s bedding, chest and front paws and flowing out of her nose. Con and I agreed that it was probably time for her to go, and that if this was what it was going to be like for her, we needed to put her down right away.

So off we went to the scout leader vet, Rattus in a box, Connor crying and petting her.

The vet was so kind, talked sweet to her, petted her. He asked if we wanted to bury her ourselves, and Connor said yes, and decided we’d wait in the waiting room for him to bring the body out, rather than going in to watch.

We waited. We were both in tears, me mostly feeling badly for Connor who really adored this rat, and has had her on his shoulder or in his shirt every day.

After 20 minutes or so the vet comes out, but no box.

“Interesting development”, he says. “Once she was out, before I did the injection, I decided to have a look at the tumor in the roof of her mouth”.

No tumor. Apparently she has such a bad overbite that despite the chew sticks we gave her, the bottom teeth grew so long they were PIERCING THE ROOF OF HER MOUTH. Thus the weight loss, the bloody noses, etc.

He cut the teeth off off, let her wake up (she’s still a bit groggy, he really had her under) and brought us in so he could show us the holes. He gave us antibiotics for the next week while her mouth heals and off we went, my son just as happy as he can be. PLUS the vet says two years is not that old for a rat, that he’s seen some four to six.

The sibs were thrilled to see him coming home with a live rat instead of a body.

She drank a little bowl of Dannon actimel when she got home, and is napping now in a clean box of cloth diaper rags in her cage.

Damn, I’m relieved. I had even considered doing a secret midnight benadryl thing to save DS the trauma… glad now I didn’t.

Yesterday’s misdiagnosis: $16
Today’s vet visit with antibiotics: $70
Happy kid: priceless.