Being well known pet rat lovers, we received a call in late August asking us to adopt a friend of a friend of a friend's pet rat. The present owner was returning to college and his dorm does not allow pets of any sort. At first, he bequeathed the rodent to his elderly grandmother, but she proved to be horrified by the rat's presence in her home. She called our friend for advice. Our friend populates her Chatsworth home with husky, friendly dogs and has several cages of exotic birds she cherishes. Knowing our pet rat history, she immediately contacted us.
Poe and MannyWe'd been rat-less for two years. Manny died in 2009. He's still in the fridge awaiting burial. Sealed in plastic, he's right next to the ice cubes and above the frozen chicken stock. I miss him. I don't look at him or anything, but it affects our ice production.
Diane and I debated whether to take this new rat into our home. The debate did not last long. We agreed immediately. One small problem: the rat's name was "Buddy" and so had been the name of our dearly departed dog, a black dachshund/beagle/pit bull mix whom we once cherished. Both of us knew we'd have to change the name. Even Buddy had been previously named "Snoopy" and there was no living with that cliché. We tried "Benny," but "Buddy" was just perfect. And so it was.
I was assigned to drive out into the valley heat to adopt Buddy the Rat. Now I love the valley when it's cool weather, but I avoid it all summer long. Yes, there are exceptions such as friends, funerals, theatre, and a number of excellent restaurants, but they are exceptions. This adoption would be both a suitable and noble exception. Plus, I have air conditioning.
I had already decided to call him "Freddy." We'd never named a pet rat "Freddy" or even "Freddie." Also, "Freddy" was the name of one of my father's best friends. But mostly, it kind of rhymes with "Buddy," so hopefully that could help the new rat make the transition easier. Buddy the Dog did.
I entered our friend's dog and bird house and found respite from the raging heat outside. The dogs were happy to see me, but the birds could've cared less. I found our new pet rat living in a plastic litter box. The previous owner had given the rat the entire apartment to roam in and trained him to use a litter box. So, since leaving his owner, he had been living in his toilet. I couldn't wait to get him home to our huge pet rat cage, nicknamed the "Ritz" by the manufacturer. The Ritz has three levels above the litter with food and water sources above as well. Lots of room to run around and, most importantly, lots of air to breathe.
The high walls of the plastic litter box were topped by an improvised cardboard roof. Buddy/Freddy tried a few times to pop through the roof and explore the car, but I caught him and put a heavy object on top to keep it closed. I wasn't ready to play with him. He might have jumped out the window or gotten lost in the car. Not that I couldn't eventually find him, but training or not, he might've pooped all over the upholstery.
Freddy is home with us now. He lives in the Ritz between our desks and has a full view of the television as well as each of us. For the most part, he toilets in his cage, but we've found a few errant poops beneath my desk chair. He rests in my hands, atop a towel for sanitary safety sake, receiving my massages. He crawls up my arms and rests on my shoulders. He crawls behind my head from shoulder to shoulder. He returns to my hands and gets the neck rubs he cherishes. Freddy is our new pet rat.