Quite a while ago, before we were married, my wife talked me into a pet rat. We had been going to the Block Museum at Northwestern and watching classic movies and she wanted to name him Bogart. We’d just seen The Big Sleep. He was Bogart on the way home, but he was Basil by the time he was in the house. For better or worse, of course Fawlty Towers is one of my definitions. Once we got cats, rats became problematic. No disasters, but some near ones. Still, we’re suckers for rescues and our current bunch of rats are rescues. There are three. There were four, but one of the twin sisters died a few months ago. So there’s Ella Rose, Sugar, and the Twin. The twins names were Annie and Lily. We tried calling the twins Lilianne, but it didn’t take. We never knew how to tell them apart anyway. Ella Rose is my favorite, even though we haven’t bonded. Four rats, three cats. No easy way to bond with the rats without the cats getting too interested, at least not with life going on, which sucks. Because this post isn’t about rats in general, it’s about the three rats. Ella Rose is either sick or dying. She’s been very sick before, but miraculously bounced back by the next afternoon. It was our first experience with a rat getting better instead of worse. I think Ella Rose is just from better stock than some of our previous rats; usually females get terrible tumors, none of our current rats have gotten them. Colorado pet rats might just be healthier than Illinois ones. But Ella Rose is in bad shape. She’s got respiratory problems, lots of mucus, but she also is physically weak in her hands and feet. It sucks. She can’t get to the food bowl, she can’t get to the water. So I got her some applesauce. Sugar and the Twin are keeping their distance, but they’re also staying somewhat present. We found the other twin dead with no warning. In the past, when a rat has been getting this near the end, we’ve been able to quarantine them. But the current rats recovered really well after the death of the other twin. They’ve bonded, which is why when we got them as rescues, I thought we were only getting two. My wife knew I wouldn’t want to break up the bonded rats. Because I’m a sucker. Ella Rose has her applesauce and the other rats are letting her eat it by herself. When she leaves the little box to get it, Sugar watches out for her. When she’s sleeping, the other two protect her. It’s rather awesome and rather amazing. Heartbreaking, but awesome and amazing. Rats are really neat. Now I do need to get Ella Rose some fresh applesauce.

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