This article is from the Winter 2003 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
Our Pets & Friends
By Pat Bromberek, Portage, WI
On a bright, sunny day in May 1999, I received a phone call from our local animal shelter asking me if I would be interested in adopting a rat needing a home. “Of course I would!” was my immediate answer. The rat was not at the shelter, but I could call the family that had him and let them know I was interested in taking him. I called them and soon I was outside the house.
I was not prepared for what I was about to see upon entering this place—utter chaos!! Two playful ferrets were running around the living room. They climbed the couch where three Chihuahuas were lying and proceeded to run over them causing the irate dogs to take chase after them (which, having 9 ferrets of my own, was their intent!). The lady proceeded to yell at the yipping dogs; the lady’s husband asked me if I wanted the ferrets too because “they’re destructive!” The lady told her husband “no way!” The ferrets began nipping at my ankles so I too would join them in their play. I just stood there. “Where’s the rat?” I started to wonder if the rat was running around loose too! “I’m sorry, but the ferrets really are mischievous and as you can see, they really cause a ruckus around here.” I smiled and said I had ferrets too. “Take these!” remarked the hubby. After a dirty look from his wife, we finally got around to the rat I was there for in the first place.
The couple’s son (about 10 years old) brought the rat out in a big clear plastic ball (the kind ferrets and chinchillas are supposed to roll around in). He was a black and white Hooded and was scratching ferociously on the smooth, but holey sides of the ball. “Is this what he lives in??” I thought, and evidently I spoke my thought to the boy and his mother. “Oh no, he was living in an aquarium, but we’re keeping that. We bought the ball for Jerry to play in but he never did, so since we have no use for it, you can have it,” she said. “We got Jerry in Chicago last year, but I don’t spend time with him like I should, and we want to make sure he has a good home,” the young boy chimed in. “Jerry . . . Jerry-Rat,” I thought to myself. I took a good look at the squirmy little guy, wanting to take him out but afraid to as the two ferrets and three dogs burst into the living room again, running and playing as they all ran over furniture and everything else in their way.
“I will take him,” I told the boy’s mother, and I told her I was parked in front of their house, a black truck. “Put Jerry in the front seat of her truck,” the mother replied and her son disappeared outside carrying Jerry in his ball. After a few minutes of chatting with the lady about what Jerry was fed, etc., her son came back in. He was sad to see Jerry go but I assured him Jerry had a good home and would get plenty of attention, and if he wanted to, he could visit Jerry. The boy smiled and I left the house shortly after.
I got in my pick-up expecting to see the ball Jerry was in on the front seat. No ball. I looked behind me on the back seat—no ball. Jumping out, I looked in the back of our pick-up camper—no ball! “Where is Jerry??!” I panicked, thinking someone may have stolen him. I ran back in the house, “I can’t find Jerry!” I screamed. “What?!” said the boy’s mother who promptly turned to her son, who, in turn, was standing, a little bit nervous to say the least. “I did put Jerry in her truck.” All three of us dashed outside. “That one,” the young boy pointed. “That black one, like you told me to.” There were two black trucks—mine and someone else’s, who had pulled up behind me after I went into the house. This black truck was parked exactly in front of the house, whereas mine was in-between theirs and another house. The three of us ran to the other truck, peered in the window of the front seat, and saw Jerry laying quietly in the big plastic ball. I quickly got him out of this truck and placed his “traveling cage” safely in my truck. The poor young boy apologized for his mistake. The main thing is that we found him before this other truck drove away. Who knows what this truck owner would have done to Jerry? I cringe to think about it.
Safely home, I put him in his new home: a big wire cage with toys, a nice box to sleep in, a wheel to play with, and lots of good things to eat.
We got very attached to him. He was so friendly to everyone that handled him, and he never peed or pooped on you when you did hold him. We took Jerry along with us when we went on vacation, and we even tried to give him a roommate. As laid back as he was, he was not gung-ho with a buddy, so we left him alone and he just seemed to prefer it that way.
In November 1999, I took Jerry to the humane shelter to have his picture taken with Santa. Santa seemed a little reluctant at first. When he saw Jerry, he said, “A rat??” “He is a lover and he won’t poop or pee on you,” I assured the jolly old elf. Gingerly, he took Jerry, and I prayed that he wouldn’t poop and pee, after all, he never did before so what’s so different about now? Unknown to Santa and me, the photographer snapped a photo. “I couldn’t resist,” she said, “the facial looks were too much for me not to photograph. If it turns out, it’ll be a classic!” She then took the Christmas photo along with Nosey (our black greyhound who was adopted by us from this same shelter): Nosey sitting by Santa, and Jerry-Rat sitting on the palm of his hand. A few weeks later, the photos came back. The one picture taken without Santa’s knowledge did indeed turn out to be a “classic.” The other photo turned out well also.
Sadly, around June of 2000, Jerry-Rat started to slow down a bit, and I knew that it would be just a matter of time when the Rainbow Bridge would beckon his entrance to this paradise. In August of the same year he quietly crossed over, shortly after we said our last goodbyes.
It’s been nearly 2 years since he passed on, and I miss him (as I do all of our rats that are deceased). However, I still have that big clear plastic ball that he came home in. Whenever I look at it, I swear I see Jerry-Rat lying in the middle of this ball, ready to go home.