Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

The Other Shoe Crashes to the Floor

Filed under: Daily Life,Mainely Rat Rescue,Rats! — folkcat at 3:45 pm on Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It’s over. Saw the doctor yesterday, and she’s concerned that continued exposure to the rats, even on a minimal basis, could put me in the hospital.

Mainely Rat Rescue is, fortunately, able to take most of the rats in to foster and be re-homed. Leo, Isabella, Laurel, Laura, Trixie, and Bailey will be collected tomorrow and transported to their next stop.

Marbles and Mia will stay with us for the moment. Marbles has his special diet, and it will take a little longer to find a placement for them that can handle his needs. But they will move on as soon as that next position is found.

The newest arrivals, Dusty and Toby, will go back to their previous owner. D&T were surrendered to us when she realized she had to downsize her colony to a single cage. Since then, her own colony has seen a couple of losses, and the cage she has is large enough to bring Dusty and Toby back to without needing a second one. She’s going to be very happy to see them again, she talks about how she misses them all the time. I imagine they’ll be happy to see her, too.

I am heartbroken. Gryphon and I have always said we’d never be without rats again. And now, they’re all going to leave us.

If you wish there were a way you could help, there is. Mainely Rat Rescue is  struggling with their cash flow a bit at the moment, and could use cash donations desperately. If you visit their home page HERE, you will see a DONATE button at the bottom of the right hand sidebar. This is a direct link to PayPal, and you will be able to donate whatever amount you desire. No amount is too small, anything you can spare will be gratefully received, and will help tremendously.

If you care to, please add in the notes for your donation that it’s in honor of Jenny’s Ratties. I’d love for them to see how much my readers care.

No more rats for me, then. As you might imagine, the blog will likely be changing after all. I’ll have to think about that and see what direction I come up with.

Meanwhile, Gryphon and I will still be doing what we can to help Mainely Rat Rescue. This doesn’t change our love for the little furballs, and our respect and admiration for the work that MRR does only continues to grow with each passing day. I’m currently acting as a diet researcher and counselor, and Gryphon is doing some behind the site IT work, helping to keep their web presence in good order.

I may also find that I have the time to occasionally make something for some of their fund-raising raffles. I’ll be sure to let you know when I do.

I’m sad, but I’ll recover. It helps to know that the rats will all find good homes, and new people who will love them as we do.

Thank you for being here. The support of my blog friends helps tremendously.

Stick around – soon enough we’ll see whatever my life evolves into next!

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Filed under: Daily Life,Rats!,Ravelry — folkcat at 1:54 pm on Monday, September 28, 2009

Hello again!

It’s been a rough few weeks here. I’ve had some big changes forced upon me recently, and they’ve included being sick and still recovering.

We’d been fostering a pair of mature, intact male rats for a few weeks. Their names are William and Carlyle. They weren’t housed together, because Carlyle, while a sweet rat, was much younger and somewhat aggressive with 18-month old William.

William was an absolute cuddle-bug. A black berkshire with unusually long hair, and a speckling of white hairs throughout his coat, his favorite thing was just to hang out on my shoulders, neck, and chest, laying down and getting skritched.

We were, in fact, very close to adopting William. But then something came up.

Over the weeks that these boys were with us, I was having worse than usual problems with coughing and allergic reactions. With my new/old laptop, I was even spending much of some days in my bedroom all day to rest and recover.

I think that the bedroom time cleared my allergies enough that I was finally able to identify a distinct exposure/reaction pairing. After being in my bedroom for the day, I went and collected William for snuggle time.

Within minutes, I began coughing, my eyes were puffy and watery, and my nose was running. I was having an allergic reaction to William, with all his grown-up hormones and the buck grease of a un-neutered male rat.

This was an unexpected and startling turn of events. We conducted experiments. Exposure to Carlyle, a 7-month old un-neutered boy, did the same.

Then the heart-breaking moment. I took Trixie out of the colony cage. A moment later, the cough began.

I’ve obviously lived with our rats for some time without noticing a problem. Apparently William and Carlyle, who were surrendered to Mainely Rat Rescue because of severe allergies in the owner’s family, were causing the same issue for me. And they’d tipped my allergic reaction to rats (which I never suspected before) over the edge into critical and highly sensitive ranges on the allergen scale. Gryphon tells me he was even afraid I was going to have an anaphalactic reaction if we couldn’t curb the problem soon.

We contacted MRR immediately, and the other foster home here in Wilton was fortunately able to take the boys in the same day. A decision was made that we would discontinue fostering as well, since our health issues were clearly interfering with our ability to take in more rats.

We have ten of our own rats: Marbles, Mia, and Bailey in their cage; Leonardo, Isabella, Laurel, Laura, Trixie, Dusty, and Toby in the colony cage.* At this point, we’ll be allowing the colony to downsize through natural attrition over time. It’s my hope that by then, I’ll be “de-toxed” enough from the allergies to be able to comfortably live with a few select rats at a time.

In the meantime, I am staying out of the living room as much as possible to avoid exposure to all ten of them for any extended periods of time. I am making a point of having one or two brought into the bedroom for me to socialize with every day. They clearly miss their Mom, but this way I can play and snuggle with them without becoming seriously ill.

This problem has inspired us to do a little rearranging in the house. Since I’m spending my days in the bedroom, we removed a small, but un-used, crafting table from the corner across from my bed. An easy chair from the living room was brought in, along with the Table-mate table that I can slide up to it for a working surface.

My bedroom has become a very Victorian-sounding “bed-sitting room”. I can now spend my days comfortably sitting in a good chair, with my laptop in front of me, a television at a comfortable viewing distance, and my knitting at hand.

Concurrent with all this, I discovered an interesting group on Ravelry that resonated with me. Called “the cave”, it’s for people who, like me, have always considered themselves something of a hermit. We get along well enough with the outside world when we need to, and even seem very outgoing at times. But our highest and best happiness comes from being able to completely cocoon ourselves, isolated from outside distractions and having to interact with people.

I’d already been coming to grips with the fact that Gryphon and I are now, for all purposes, retired from working. It was a struggle for me to feel like it was okay to do nothing meaningful to the outside world all day, not to do work that produces an income. I was accepting that this is how our life is now, I don’t need to produce an income (though we are still pursuing a disability declaration and subsequent benefits for me), and it’s okay for me to spend my day doing whatever I want.

Then I found “the cave”, and added an extra dimension to my new reality – I accepted and embraced the fact that, all my life, my true nature has been to be the hermit, to spend my time alone at home doing things that please me, and to avoid having to go out and interact with people. Being officially retired, it was now okay for me to do this, too.

I’m not cutting myself off altogether. I have balanced my hermitude by making more contact with friends. I phone just to talk, and I am making a point of getting together with one or more for lunch every week. But it’s been immensely pleasurable and relaxing to sit in my room, fiddling with the computer, or knitting and watching a program.

More than ever, I am daily achieving that immersive state where you are totally involved in what you’re doing. You know it – when you finally look up and notice the clock, you are startled by how much time has passed without you even realizing it. This is a level of relaxation that I haven’t felt in years, and it feels good!

So, no more foster rats, but we still have our own. There is some hope that I won’t have to give up rats completely. I’m embracing a new paradigm where I am achieving more relaxation, and better personal progress on knitting and other crafts.

The blog will stay “Of Rats and Jen”, but obviously, the focus may shift a bit. A little more back to the knitting and crafts, perhaps. Just wait until I tell you about the new, elaborate, challenging  KnitPicks kit I started working on last week!

Don’t worry about me, friends; I’ll be okay. Change is stressful, but this change is leading to a new, less-stress reality. I hope you’ll stick with me for the ride!

*Dusty and Toby are new additions as of a couple of months ago. They were surrendered by a friend in Manchester who realized that, due to health reasons, she needed to downsize her colony to a single cage. Dusty is a petite, sweet, Pink-Eyed White (PEW) girl, and Toby is her burly PEW (neutered) boyfriend. They were introduced to our colony the day they arrived, and got along great right from the start. Though Toby and Laura tend to squabble like an old married couple…<g>

Online Reading Suffers

Filed under: Blogfriends,Daily Life — folkcat at 9:08 pm on Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I am so behind. I haven’t had my laptop to do my online reading with since over a week ago. The backlight on the screen died, and there’s no way we can buy a replacement light at this time.

This was the computer that sat on a little table in front of my armchair, all day long, while I knit and watched tv. I read a LOT of blogs, newsfeeds, and e-mail sitting there.

Now, all my reading has to happen at my desktop computer, in a less comfortable chair, and in a spot where it’s not convenient to either knit or watch tv while I do it. So it gets to happen in small, regulated chunks of time. When I can remember to get around to setting time to do it.

As of now, I’m up to April 23 on e-mails, but only April 20 on feeds. And forget about Ravelry – I only read a couple of groups there, but Remnants, at least, is hopelessly clogged with unread/unignored threads (I do ignore a lot there when I get to look at it.)

If you send me a comment or a personal e-mail, rest assured that I cherry-pick those from the inbox to answer right away. Y’all are more important to me than the latest catalog specials from a week ago!

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Filed under: Daily Life,Gryphon — folkcat at 9:11 pm on Saturday, April 25, 2009

We’ve been having a computer adventure lately. Today was the big climax, though I’ll admit that Gryphon got to have most of the fun.

The symptoms – EverQuest 2 was frequently crashing on me. The blog publishing software I used to use was failing to publish. So was the new software I got to replace it. Attempts to update malware detector and anti-virus software failed. And when I clicked on links online, especially in my Google search results, they were often being re-directed to someplace not related to what the link was supposed to be.

Gryphon has spent a large portion of the day working on this for me. The verdict? Apparently I’m an early adopter of the very latest virus/worm, one so new that it’s only just being identified, and doesn’t even really have a name yet.  Luckily, there are already protocols for finding and removing it, which Gryphon has applied to, so far, apparent success.

For the record, if you suspect something like this, be aware – Microsoft’s Malicious Software detector doesn’t find this one.

If you’re suspicious of your own computer, and these symptoms appear familiar, Gryphon has graciously permitted me to offer you his e-mail address. gryphon@billkubeck.com Write to him, and he’ll give you guidance in identifying if this is your issue, and with getting rid of it.

Slow Times

Filed under: Daily Life,Games,Gryphon,Rats! — folkcat at 7:23 pm on Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sorry I don’t post very often these days. Truth is, things are pretty slow here in lots of ways, and very busy in others.

Marbles is as cute as ever. He had his surgery and is recovering well. We expect to be able to integrate him with the rest of the ratties in a couple of weeks.

One of my readers suggested calling the nine ratties The Ennead (en-ee-ad). It’s an ancient Greek term for a group of nine Egyptian deities. I like it. Rats almost look more Egyptian to me than cats do. I can picture them going around being pharoahs, building pyramids, and so forth. Not sure if they’d worship cats and dogs, but I’ll bet they could make an interesting Egyptian society.

I’m knitting a lot. We don’t use my knitted rat rugs as rugs anymore, they don’t cover the larger cage floors as well. But we do give them to the rats to use for nesting in. So I guess they’re more blankets than rugs now. Anyhow, the rats do chew them up, and when they get too ragged we have to toss them. Since supplies were dwindling, I needed to get back to work. The stock of new blankets is growing, slowly, but it’s growing.

We’re still somewhat in limbo on Gryphon’s situation, though there is progress. Still can’t talk about it much here, but know that he’s doing well and we think we can see, if not light at the end of the tunnel, at least a glow-in-the-dark sign pointing in its direction.

I enjoyed the first episode of ABC’s The Unusuals last week. I wasn’t sure how I was going to like Amber Tamblyn as a New York cop after Joan of Arcadia (a series I still, sadly, long for more episodes of). But it worked. I’ve got the second episode in the Tivo, waiting for me to get around to it.

I’m playing lots and lots of EverQuest II these days as well. It’s just really working for me at the moment. I’m hoping to start into Free Realms as well, a new Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) game that’s currently in beta testing. Both Gryphon and I made it into beta. Free Realms looks to be built on more of a Japanese model of an online game, more cute graphics. It’s also designed to be a very family friendly game – young children could play this without any issues. Sure, you fight creatures. But you don’t get killed, you get knocked out.

We pick up our next foster ratties this weekend, and may also be providing transport for another pair of girls to get to their new adoptive home. Still waiting for details on that.

YAMD (Yet Another Memory Dump)

Filed under: Daily Life,Folkcat's Fotos,Holidays,Rats! — folkcat at 9:49 pm on Friday, April 3, 2009

My phone has been busy again!

March 16, 2009: How Holidays are Made

It’s mid-March. You are a supermarket baker. You have a bunch of plain, undecorated gingerbread men, and an excess of green icing. What should you do?

If only there were some holiday in mid-March. With green for a theme color. Where little people were appropriately symbolic of the day.

I know! It’s Gator Man Day!

Yeah.

March 18, 2009: We Have Achieved Acceptance

Laura and Isabella prove that ‘Bella has achieved full acceptance into the family.

March 24, 2009: Let’s Brand Whoever Branded This

Seriously, Betty? What’s up next – Eskimo Helper?

March 25, 2009: It’s PaGino’s Time

The seam down the side of their cups creates some amusing portmanteaus:

Baby-Sitting Tinty Time
Birthday Timnner Time
Night Tids Time
Game TiBirthday Time
Movie Timight Time
Friends me
Tired Timme

and my personal favorite:

Ganward Time

March 31, 2009: And Some May Be Anyhow, Depending on What They’re Here For

Our little Captain Marbles is doing well. In the first two weeks we’ve had him, he just about doubled his body weight. Now he looks more like a normally proportioned rattie, instead of a big rat head on a teensy body.

This past Tuesday morning, he went in for THE PROCEDURE. Yes, that one. The vet’s office was one I’d never visited before, but they work with the rat rescue. While distant (an hour’s drive), they were easy enough to get to.

If you are in the neighborhood for other reasons, however, please be careful where you park!

As for the Captain, he’s recovering nicely. If anything, he’s actually been friskier since the surgery than he ever was before. Which is saying something for our hyper-active little superhero.

April 3, 2009: Useful Supermarket Photo

It’s hard for Gryphon and me to keep milk around. We don’t drink the stuff, we don’t have cold cereal in the mornings to pour it over, and while we will cook with it, the occasions are few enough and far enough between that we always wind up throwing out all or part of a bottle.

We’ve been wanting to keep dry milk in the house, but we’ve discovered a problem with that. Nowadays, the dry milk manufacturers only package the powder in bulk in the giant, makes-20-quarts packages. Not an amount we’re likely to use before it goes bad! Any smaller quantities are pre-packaged into handy, 1-quart, pre-measured packets.

Gryphon and I are likely to only ever need to mix one, maybe two cups at a time. The rest of the quart, if we used their assumptions and made the whole thing, would go bad in the fridge. Or we’d have to measure out the smaller amount, find a way to close up the top of the paper/foil packet, and hope to avoid bugs or spillage.

We finally decided today to buy one of the smaller boxes filled with the 1-quart packets. We’re going to open all the packets, dump the contents into a jar, and spoon it out as we need it.

The only hitch in this plan is the the smaller box doesn’t include directions for mixing any quantity of milk other than the full quart. But…aha! The giant 20-quart box with the bulk powder inside has a chart for making several different volumes, from one cup to the entire 20 quarts at once.

Whip out the handy-dandy cell phone, aim it at the back of the box, and voila! I now have my own directions chart to make any amount of dry milk we want. Here, feel free to take a copy for yourself!

Camera Phone Picture Dump

Filed under: Crafting Miscellany,Daily Life,Folkcat's Fotos,Shopping Adventures — folkcat at 9:37 pm on Monday, March 9, 2009

Wow, some of these go back a bit.

December 8th, 2008 – Target store at the north end of Nashua

Click for larger image

We found these fused plastic recycled totes for sale for $5.99 each. I was amused and slightly annoyed. Fusing shopping bag plastic together to make a sturdier plastic to make totes, and even clothing, with has been a big deal in the indie craft movement since at least Spring 2008. This can be done at home with a simple iron and ironing board, and maybe some teflon pressing sheets.

Target’s tag claiming that “It took a combination of ingenuity and technology to create the Retote bag.” gives no credit to the source of that ingenuity – the independent crafters out there who are always finding new ways to use items that would otherwise be discarded. As for the technology required – like I said, an iron, ironing board, and teflon pressing sheets. Not exactly high tech. And certainly not invented by anyone at Target.

December 24, our living room ceiling:

A few years back, we had a nasty leak in our living room ceiling during the winter. The roof was bad, and there was a weak seam along a wall where the apartment above us is a couple feet shorter than our living room. Ice formed and backed up into the roof space there, and came in over the spot where my desktop computer was sitting at the time. (Fortunately, over to one side. Only a box of tissues and two thick books about HTML coding were soaked.)

The roof got fixed at some point, but massive amounts of ice and snow still accumulate in the area. I get paranoid about it every year, and every so often I’ll take a picture of the ceiling stain so I have a reference point in case I suspect it’s growing again.

February 19, Nashua Social Security Office:

My first time ever Kinnearing someone. I don’t know that I did it right, though – the picture is straight, in focus, and you can see my entire subject.

While Gryphon and I waited for our SS appointment, this delightful older woman came in. The colorful details on her coat are entirely handpainted.

I believe it’s a safety measure – the coat is full length and black, and the handpainting is all in metallic paints, which would provide some reflection for headlights at night. Brilliantly and stylishly done, and it gave me a nice smile.

March 8, My head:


View One


View Two

Yes, we cut that much off. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a long, long time.

I grew up with long hair. I remember that my mother never cut it until I was in grade school some time, and then she did it before my father got home from work because I think he would have protested.

Most of my adult life, I’ve kept my hair somewhere between chin and shoulder length. For years now, I’ve cut it myself, with whatever scissors I had at hand, and working entirely by touch. No one I’ve talked to about it ever thought I did it myself, or at least they were too kind to say so.

Lately, though, I’ve been annoyed by even the chin length hair. It can still flop forward and get in my face and eyes, still get caught in my mouth. Still bunch up oddly under my head and irritate me at night.

Sometime around a year ago, Gryphon had found a professional grade electric clipper at a rummage sale for $1, complete with manual and everything. He bought a little of the oil used to maintain it, and ever since has been cutting his own hair. When I decided I was ready to go short, I asked him if he’d be comfortable tackling my hair.

He said yes. And so, a couple of days later when the stars aligned and we both felt up to it, I sat down in a kitchen chair with a towel around my shoulders, and he started cutting.

On that first attempt, we didn’t go short enough. My hair has a natural wave to it, but an asymetrical one. As a result, the hair on the right side of my head did a nice little wavy dance towards the back of my head. But the hair on the left side of my head stretched out into the atmosphere, like a cantilevered balcony. I seriously considered adding some hair product for strength and building a little woodland diorama up there.

So the next night, we sat me down again, and removed more length. And the cut you see in these photos is where we wound up. There’s still enough length that my waves look kind of cute and flirty, but I don’t have any architectural structures flying off the sides of my skull.

For the first time in my entire life, I can wake up in the morning, run my fingers over my head, and I’m done. In the shower, “a little dab’ll do ya” is finally true for me. The first hair washing after the cut, and my hair dried faster than it ever has.

Best of all, it’s a look that works for me, is versatile, and we can do it ourselves at home, without having to spend money on it.

Nothing new to report on the ratties. They continue to eat and play and squabble. Isabella is definitely just one of the crowd, no two ways about that. We love them all so much!

Octo-Ratties!

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Daily Life,Gryphon,Rats! — folkcat at 9:11 pm on Saturday, February 28, 2009

Two weeks ago today, Isabella came home with us.

One week ago today, I did what I always wind up doing. I abandoned my “slow and cautious” approach to integrating her with the other ratties, in favor of the “rip the bandage off fast” method.

All eight ratties spent a couple hours together in the bathroom last Saturday afternoon. Gryphon and I cleaned and redressed the main cage during that time.

The Seven Little Ratties and Isabella, having spent the time in the bathroom not killing each other, were placed in the cage together. Isabella soon took up residence in one lower corner of the cage.

She defended her spot, and her right to be there, vehemently. All who approached – and they all did, really – were met by a white rat with bared teeth, reared up on her hind legs and squealing. She did not hide, she did not run. Nor did she attack in return. Merely insisted that she was there now, and they could deal with it.

Isabella rapidly gained confidence over the next few days, expanding her defensive perimeter, finding quiet moments when she could get to the food dish unchallenged, and approaching other rats first, instead of waiting for them to come to her. After a year and a half of living without ever seeing another rat, she was now in a cage with seven furry beings like herself, and she was determined to stay.

By Monday night, Leo was seen intervening between Laurel, Laura, and Isabella. By Tuesday, ‘Bella was going where she wanted in the cage.

Wednesday afternoon, Isabella was seen curled up in a hammock along with her greatest enemy, Lola.

Sadly, I have no picture of that moment. But I did take photos today as all the ratties gathered around the fruit-and-veggie dish.


l. to r.: Lily (almost off screen), Laurel, Isabella, Leo, Laura, and Lola

And there’s Isabella, right in the center of things, making sure she gets her share.

Isabella has already decided that some spots are the most fun. Like this dryer vent hose we’ve attached in the lower levels, so that it snakes around the cage.

Dryer vent hose is:

  • cheap (under $5), so you can replace it as often as the rats rip it to shreds
  • Easily mountable in the cage (we use zip-ties. Poke holes through the plastic of the hose on either side of a wire, and attach to the grid of the cage. Use sturdy pliers to turn the bare ends of the wires into a loop for safety.)
  • Lots of climbing and nesting fun
  • Can be arranged differently every time you replace it
  • And is easily remodeled by the rats, as you can see from the window that Isabella has created above.

For the record, that’s Lola lounging in the hammock below the hose.

The other ratties have been enjoying themselves lately, too. This hammock was a gift from the adopter of Brynn and two of her girls. As you can see, Lola and Laurel find it quite comfy.

Leo has found the addition of Isabella to the harem has made all the girls look fresh and interesting. Here he canoodles with Trixie beneath a child’s plastic step stool the rats use as a hut.

He’s in the true lap of luxury here, as we can see in the end view of the scene. Trixie is giving him a loving, attentive, all-over grooming.

Lola has stood down from being ever-vigilant about Isabella’s intrusion into the cage, and in addition to the sleeping above, she is spending time with her other favorite activity:

Eating.

The other rattie not seen in these photos is doing well, too. He’s just a little more camera-shy. Yuri is intermittently sociable, and most often prefers to stay in his little hidey-huts. Rattle the treat tub, though, and he’s a speed demon coming to get his share of the goodies! The trick is that it’s almost impossible to control a large, hungry male rat, hold a treat, and operate a camera at the same time.

In our personal reality, Gryphon and I are doing as well as can be expected. Gryphon has another change in his medicines to endure, and the transition is being difficult. We’re doing things to improve our diet, like actual meal planning (gasp!). Just a loose plan for dinner, mostly, with me planning my lunches, too.

I’ve always resisted meal planning, because I couldn’t imagine deciding today, for instance, that I’d be in the mood to eat spaghetti on Thursday. What if Thursday came, and I didn’t feel like pasta, but wanted tuna salad instead? So much for the meal plan!

In practice, however, I’m finding it works. Some of the things it’s improving:

  • We won’t be “shopping for shopping at home” anymore. This is where we don’t plan meals, but rather, just buy things we know we like to have in the house in case we feel like eating them. Meal planning then becomes a matter of looking in the cupboards and deciding “what looks good tonight.” Sometimes something doesn’t look good for a while, and it sits idle in the cupboard.
  • In relation to that, we don’t spend time wondering what to have for dinner and simply settling for something because it’s easier than making up our minds.
  • We can know ahead of time how much personal energy we’re going to need for meal preparation. If Sunday night is a more complex meal, we can relax and schedule other chores to happen on other days, saving ourselves for the effort of cooking.

We’ve been at it for most of a week now, and so far, so good. Gryphon’s going to cook a nice baked white fish dish we found in our local newspaper for our Sunday dinner tomorrow. Next week, I’ll figure out what’s good in the cupboards and cook something. The rest of the week, we rotate among dishes that use the current meat specials and things in our cupboard. Some nights we plan for minimal effort – there’s a frozen entree night in the schedule, for instance.

All in all, life is finding its way to work out. Things are still rough, but we’re taking our new reality much like Isabella took the challenge of turning the Seven Little Ratties into the Octo-Ratties. We’re facing it down, refusing to let it overpower us, and taking our rightful place in the new paradigm.

Folkcat & Gryphon, Plus Seven, Plus One

Filed under: Daily Life,Mainely Rat Rescue,Rats! — folkcat at 7:06 pm on Friday, February 20, 2009

I seem to drift further and further between posts. Things have just been very hectic for us lately.

I’ve been meaning to get to the main subject of this post for almost a week now. But before I do, I should talk about today.

Today, February 20, is our sixteenth wedding anniversary. Gryphon and I talked this afternoon about how neither of us has ever managed to keep anything – a job, a friendship, anything – going as long as we’ve been together. I think I’m safe in saying that we love each other more with every passing day, that I am his reason for getting up in the morning, as much as he is mine.

We’re going to celebrate quietly at home. Going out takes more money than we can spend, and besides, these days we’re too worn out by excursions for it to seem like a happy thing to do for fun. No, we’ve bought a couple of gourmet chicken pies at the local supermarket, and a prettily decorated rum cake to have for dessert, and we’re going to bask in each other’s company and spend time with the rats.

Speaking of the Seven Little Ratties, I’ve taken some pictures this week that you might enjoy.

We have an exercise ball for the rats, but it’s never been a success. At least, as long as we tried to make them use it as an exercise ball.

Turn it into novelty bedding, however, and they pile in:

Only four rats are visible in the photo, but by my count there were six rats in the ball at this moment. It’s so tricky getting them to hold still for a photo I had to take what I could get!

Meanwhile, if you’ve wondered just how Lola works her magic on me and gets me to take her out for a snuggle anytime she desires, feast your eyes on this photo:

Believe me, it’s absolutely futile to attempt resisting that look!

Lola herself turned two years old on Wednesday, making her officially our oldest rat yet. She shows few signs of slowing down, although she is more inclined to desire time out of the cage without those young whippersnappers climbing all over and walking on her head.

At last, the big reveal!

And now, the news we’ve been sitting on for almost a week.

Hold on a sec.

Darlin’, could you turn around please?

That’s better! Everyone, this is Isabella. Isabella, these nice people are going to become your newest fans.

Here’s the story. Gryphon and I were so taken with Persephone, the little “going to be Siamese one day but now looks like a PEW” girl who was adopted along with our Perignon, that we started thinking. Pink-Eyed White rats (PEWs) have a hard time finding adoptive families. A lot of people find their color boring. Others think their pink eyes are creepy looking.

MRR deals with this by having a policy that PEWs in their care are always adopted out with a more colorful rat as a partner. They also occasionally offer specials on adoption fees for adopting rats with pink-eyes.

Gryphon and I decided we had room enough, and love enough, for another rat. We made up our minds that we would do our bit by always trying to include one PEW in our rat family.

I went looking at the available animals on the MRR site, and spotted Isabella.

Isabella’s story is special. She was rescued from a laboratory when she was only 21 days old. That’s only about a week after her eyes would have opened. She would have just started eating solid foods.

The young woman who rescued her is a college student. She clearly took good care of Isabella. ‘Bella lived in her human friend’s dorm room for the first part of her life, allowed to free roam. She became very attached to her person, and is very friendly with every human she meets.


Isabella explores her new home

Sadly, her human’s circumstances changed. As her person went to school in New York City, she wasn’t able to bring Isabella with her. Isabella learned to live in a cage, at her grand-persons’ house.

Her human came home whenever she could, and gave Isabella a lot of attention. But the grand-persons’, as much as they like her, weren’t able to give her as much socializing as she was used to. ‘Bella’s human decided the right thing to do was to let Isabella go to another home that could play with her as much as she deserved.

Isabella is an older rat (1-1/2 years), a pink-eyed white, and a solitary rat. She hasn’t even seen another rat since she left the laboratory, though I’m told she once met a pet rabbit and tried to play with its nose! All of these qualities make it harder to find a home for her.

Until Gryphon and I came along, wanting a pink-eyed rat to love.

We first saw her listing on Thursday. Saturday afternoon, Valentine’s Day, we met Isabella’s owner, and collected our new Rattie.


Grooming my fingers

All the photos you see of Isabella were taken within the first ten minutes we had her home. I played with her in my arms and on my shoulders while Gryphon set up her temporary cage. In no time at all, she was licking my fingers, and when I made little clicking noises with my tongue, she turned her head and gave me kisses on the lips.

It is our hope to have Isabella move into the main cage with the Seven Little Ratties. It’s a slower process than usual, however. As an older rat, she is considered a larger threat than a younger one would be. And as a rat raised in isolation from other rats, she has some social instincts, but no practice at inter-rattie social skills. She probably comes across as “odd” to the other rats.

So we’re taking the integration as a slow, steady process, trusting our instincts and making small improvements where we can. One day, they’ll all be together.

Of course, we’ll have to stop calling them the Seven Little Ratties then. How does Octo-Ratties sound?

Whew!

Filed under: Daily Life,Gryphon,Mainely Rat Rescue,Rats! — folkcat at 5:12 pm on Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I know, I know – I’ve been conspicuously absent from this blog. Well, I’m here now, and ready to bring you up to date!

Things have been busy here. A couple of Sundays ago, we had the Great Rat Baby Exchange, passing along babies from Brynn’s litter who were destined for other foster homes, and collecting a little girl from another litter, Persephone, who would be paired with Perignon for adoption.


Perignon and Persephone

That’s our Perignon on the left, and Persephone on the right. ‘Seph, as we came to call her, looks like a Pink-Eyed White (PEW) rat, but she’s almost certainly going to grow into Siamese markings. Right now, she’s a lovely cream color, with soft pink eyes. I used to be put off by the appearance of PEWs, but now that I’ve met a rat who, at least for now, is one, I actually find them quite attractive.

Peri and ‘Seph didn’t stay for long. Even before we brought Persephone home, an adoption was in the works for these girls. This past Sunday, one week after ‘Seph came to stay with us, we delivered the pair to a delightful 11-year old girl. Their new human is already head over heels in love with these little ratties. Their new names are Ginger (Peri), and Nutmeg (‘Seph). Which are so darned cute I wish I’d thought of them! I just might have to go to the spice rack for the next litter I raise.

Over the last week, we also delivered the remaining members of Brynn’s family, including Brynn herself, to their new homes. Everyone was just thrilled with them, and I am getting regular e-mails and photos telling me how well they’re doing. We made some people very happy, with Brynn’s help!

In other news, I’ve been stepping up in my role with Mainely Rat Rescue. I’m in training to become an adoption counselor. I think I’ve reached the probationary period – they had me make first contact with a potential adopter for the first time last night! If this pans out, I’ll be right on the front lines, so to speak, helping people who love rats connect with the rats who need them most.

I’m also operating a Twitter feed for Mainely Rat Rescue. I’ll be providing links to featured rats for adoption, newly available rats, and perhaps unknown features of the MRR website. If you’d like to keep in touch with what’s going on at MRR, you can follow the Twitter user @MaineRatRescue and get all the news. (www.twitter.com)

On the subject of our personal health – Gryphon finally got to see a neurologist last week, who agreed that he does have a neurological issue. There are a few possibilities – none of the options include cancer or such, thank goodness. He’ll be undergoing some testing soon to rule out possibilities.

And then there’s the Seven Little Ratties. They seem much pleased by the gradual disappearance of all those strangers in the cage next door. Lola particularly has been demanding extra time with her humans – I often look over to the cage to find her laying on the shelf closest to me, with her nose stuffed into the space between the bars, and gazing longingly in my direction. At which point I always laugh, open the door, and take her out for a snuggle.

Lola is happy. She has me well trained!

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