Our Friend Charlie

Charlie passed away just the other day, it was only a few days into 2007.

Charlie was a little sweetheart. His hair going every which way, for what little he had; a tail that wagged like a puppy when he got excited; and a quick tongue that he used to lick every finger that came near him.

We considered Charlie our rescue rat. We used to shop at a local big box pet store, the employees were always friendly and helpful. We were all starting to get to know each other the way regular weekly visits to a store can prompt familiarity and good relations. On one particular visit to the store we saw a sign in the small animals section. The “Free, If You Buy A Cage” type of sign that some pet stores use to adopt out their older, or less popular small animals. Naturally, I went over to take a look, and was immediately smitten with the little tufted black and white critter as he casually watched others walk past his cage. I called over Mrs. Rattitude and Charlie gave her a look.

We called over one of the store associates and asked about the little guy in the window. She confirmed that he could be free if we purchased all the necessary supplies to provide a good home for him. We asked to see him. She went around back and then returned with him and called the little guy Charlie. The staff had named him Charlie. He had been with them for some time. We then reminded her that we had adopted several rats from the store and had all the necessities at home, then asked could they just simply let us take Charlie home. Another one of the employees recognized us and would talk to her manager about letting him go home with us.

She returned with a smile and the paperwork. Charlie had a new home.

We maintained a short quarantine period, just in case, then tried to introduce Charlie to our other boys, Trek and Casper.

Trek would have nothing to do with this. Casper didn’t seem to mind, but we needed unanimous agreement in their home. We tried several introductions and have the three live together. Now, either we were just too over-protective, or they really were not going to get along, but in the end we returned to the store and purchased yet another living space for Charlie. Fortunate, or unfortunate, Charlie had gotten used to living on his own so we provided a nice living area for him that had more than enough room for him and maybe a friend.

We really believe rats should have at least one companion in their home, if not more.

Charlie lived on his own for some time (Mrs. Rattitude will know exactly) before we would move him to the big house. A tale for another time, Trek passed and Casper was seeming quite lonely so we once again introduced Charlie to Casper and they accepted each other. We believed it help that Charlie was similar in markings as Trek, so Casper being older accepted him and they lived for some time together. Yet another tale for another time, Casper passed.

Charlie was once again on his own and this was not going to work for us. We talked for a few days about what to do. Do we move our newest adopted rats,Samantha and Serena, in with Charlie and risk (very high risk potential) unwanted pregnancies, or do we look at adopting two young boys to keep Charlie company.

Let me introduce Templeton, Teetu, and Inky here. They were our newest, and youngest ever, adoptions and became Charlie’s new companions. More about the Tremendous Trio later …

Charlie and the Trio lived quite contently together with few squabbles for quite some time. Then one day we noticed Charlie had a swollen back foot. We immediately inspected him and physically felt no significant injury, just very swollen. This was on a Friday night. We set up our “courtyard” living space for Charlie during the day, and carefully laid him out on a bed at night. Both areas were put together with the intent to have absolutely minimal “catch” materials so Charlie would not likely get his swollen foot caught on anything else and aggravate the condition.

Charlie was recovering quite well. About one week later the swelling was almost entirely gone, he was moving very well, having adapted to his new mobility restrictions. The plan was to re-introduce Charlie to the Trio and have them start living together again the following day, after our weekly cleaning.

All of a sudden, Charlie started running and bouncing around in the courtyard and generally looking like he wanted to explore and play. I was thinking to myself, “Great! Charlie is all set to go back home.” I opened the lid on the courtyard and picked up Charlie. We sat on the sofa and I was settling in to let Charlie play for a while. Then he started making the same sounds and going through the same motions that Casper did before he passed. Shortly afterwards, Charlie went limp, and seconds later he was gone …

I will always firmly believe Charlie did not want to be alone in his last hour and as much as I am saddened by his passing, I will remember that he lived a good life and we gave him a good home … and he was not alone when he left for the Rainbow Bridge.