I said goodbye to a dear friend this weekend.
My pet rat died.
Stop flinching at the thought of a pet rat. I know you’re flinching at the thought, because I had the same reaction before I met Mickey. This is the story that changed my mind.
Once upon a time, Bonus Daughters wanted a gift idea for my birthday. I jokingly told them that I wanted a pet of my very own because I was tired of cleaning up after hamsters, guinea pigs, fish, and tortoises that did not belong to me. Rather than take the hint and start cleaning up after their pets, they bought me a pet hamster.
My hamster’s name was Murphy and he was a very friendly little hairball. Shortly after I got Murphy, I became pregnant with Baby. Shortly after I became pregnant, Murphy died. Since we only knew each other for a few short months, I should not have been upset by Murphy’s passing. But I was pregnant, so I was hysterical and reduced to tears. Bonus Daughters felt so bad that they insisted on buying me another hamster.
Reluctantly, I let them drag me to the pet store. We admired several baby hamsters and I asked a store clerk to let me hold one of them. The store clerk assured me that the baby hamsters were very cute but also very mean and there was no chance in heck that she could put her hand into any of the cages without one of the little buggers biting her. Instead, she nonchalantly placed a baby rat in my hands and proceeded to explain to me why he was a far superior pet.
I was panic-stricken. I was so shocked by this unexpected turn of events that I couldn’t even react. The baby rat used that opportunity to cuddle up in my hands. As the store clerk explained that rats don’t bite, they answer to their names, they are trainable, they enjoy the company of people and like to sit upon the shoulder of their owner, my heart melted and I forgot that I was holding a rodent.
In utter disbelief, my dear husband consented to the purchase of the rat.
I took him home and named him Mickey.
Mickey kept me company throughout my pregnancy. He sat on my shoulder for hours at a time and liked to play hide-and-seek in my hair. He learned his name and he came running when I called him. His favorite food was blueberries. He liked to play tag by running back and forth from couch to loveseat to couch. On the rare occasion that he would escape to the floor, he would timidly run back to me. He liked to bounce and run on my bed and hide under the pillows. That was great fun until he chewed a hole in hubby’s pillow and got banished from the bed.
Once Baby was born, Mickey was sorely neglected. I no longer had time or energy to get him out of his cage and play with him. I tried my best to remember to feed him regularly and sometimes offered him special treats, like half a pound of cheese or an entire peach as a way to appease my guilt.
As Baby grew, he became infatuated with Mickey. They loved to gaze at each other through the cage bars, as if they were having a heart to heart conversation that only the two of them could understand. I’m sure Baby was thinking, “I can’t wait to open that cage door and set you free. Just as soon as I’m big enough…”
Baby will never have that chance, but Mickey will forever be in my heart as a dear friend.
Goodbye for now, Mickey.