Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Lest You Think Yuri Is The Only Hot Boy…

Filed under: Knitting,Rats!,Spinning — folkcat at 2:11 pm on Thursday, January 31, 2008

This was the scene I found this morning – Lola artfully draped over Leonardo’s back, sleeping peacefully.

Leo as Lola's Mattress

Yes, Leo’s really in there – he’s the patch of white fur and the tail to the left, and the stray paw over on the right.

As further proof that Lola was pretty relaxed with the situation, here’s what she did a moment later:

Lola's Big Yawn

At least, I think I’d have to be pretty relaxed to let out a stretch and yawn that large! This is now my desktop image on the computer.

As to knitting – I’m in a slump. So I’m going to try going back to spinning for a bit. I may still need some mindless knitting project to take with me to Panera tonight, but my spinning has been neglected. I started a year and a half ago, and still have projects on the drop spindles from my first days! Now that the boys don’t need their own cage, we have a little more room again in the living room – essential for spinning, since I have to pull out a different chair to use than my comfy armchair I knit in.

Crafting pictures eventually, I promise. Meanwhile, enjoy the rats, and have a great day!

Sometimes, Plans Change

Filed under: Rats! — folkcat at 5:29 pm on Wednesday, January 30, 2008

They sure did last night. It was our plan, originally, to use our time today to do the pudding orgy in the bathtub thing to get Lola, Yuri, and Leonardo together in one cage.

Then last night, I decided I wanted to snack on one of the pudding cups we’d bought for the purpose. And the cages were right here. And Lola needed some time out of the cage. So did Yuri and Leonardo. I followed my instincts, and went forward.

It was risky doing it on my lap, but the Ratties quickly moved the action into the large cage. Quickly – well, it was interesting, actually, to watch how Yuri and Leo moved in slow motion around Lola, at least at first.

So here’s how it went. I opened Lola’s cage. I brought Yuri out of his cage, and smeared chocolate pudding on the back of his neck. Lola came down on the pillow on the arm of the chair (it serves as a ramp), and began licking the pudding. So far, so good.

Yuri must have taken this as some sort of sign, because he began moving – in slow motion – towards the cage. And up over the threshold. And down onto the cage floor. Slowly. S-l-o-o-o-w-l-y. “Inch by inch, slowly I turned…” slowly.

All the while, Lola is moving back and forth. “I’m going to lick that chocolate! No, I’m going to back away and assess the risk from this intruder! Wait, he’s a boy, let me sidle up to him sideways and present my rear! Hold on, he’s in MY cage! Oh, my, smell that chocolate, I want to lick it!”

It went on like that for quite a while, Lola and Yuri in a slow dance. I took some video, but it’s shaky and, frankly, boring to watch, just two rats slowly circling around, moving in and out. Pretty soon, I decided Leonardo needed to be in the mix, too, so I smeared his neck with chocolate and put him down by the cage door.

The whole process continued like that for a while. I took video now and then, in case something good happened. Lola attempted a few skirmishes, but always backed down. There was much dominance posturing, but she quickly learned that the boys were ready and able to match her, move for move.

She wasn’t happy with it, but she learned she wasn’t going to be able to change it, either.

Yuri and Leonardo, meanwhile, had clearly decided that the big cage was home NOW. At one point I took Yuri out to check his foot – Lola had managed to grab it, and he was licking it a lot. The foot was all right, though, nothing to be concerned about. I set him down on my lap, and he made a beeline back to the large cage. To HOME.

Lola decided to move upstairs, to the main nest level on the top floor. The boys explored around, following her up, where they established a stronghold in the corner opposite the nest. This bit of video comes from that part of the encounter.

You’ll see the boys huddling together in the corner on the right, but making frequent overtures in Lola’s direction. Meanwhile, Lola continues moving closer, then backing away. After a bit, she decides to start pushing nest material in their direction, first a paper towel, then later, she drags over the entire felt bag she curls up in and tries to push it on top of Yuri and Leo.

So, I’m watching this action on Lola’s part, her dragging nest material over onto the boys, and wondering what she’s thinking. What do you think? Is it:

  1. “I will BURY you!”
  2. “No, no, you sleep over HERE!”
  3. “Oh, you need soft things to sleep comfy – here take mine!”

Me, I’m thinking it was number 2.

All this was last night. This morning, Gryphon and I woke up and checked the cage in the living room.

All was quiet. But everyone was alive and uninjured. The boys and Lola were sleeping, not in a puppy pile of familial happiness, but at least within close proximity to one another. Yuri and Leo were on top of the felt pumpkin bag, and immediately next to it was Lola inside the purple felt spider bag, the opening of the bag distinctly turned away from the boys.

Close, but not too close.

Gryphon and I did a major reset of the cage today, cleaning it out thoroughly, adding a plastic igloo downstairs, putting in the Wodent Wheel for the boys to try, changing all the rugs, hammocks, and bags. All three rats found their own corners to claim, for a while. Eventually, it must have been nap time, with Lola again choosing the purple bag in the nest corner, and the boys curling up together in the pumpkin in the opposite corner.

After a little while, I watched while Yuri made his move. Slow motion again. He crawled out of the pumpkin he was sharing with his brother, across the floor to where Lola was cozily curled in the purple spider bag. Then, inch by inch, slowly he crawled in alongside her.

Lola protested briefly, squeaking a bit and pushing at him with her hind feet. But then they seemed to come to a truce.

And so, I can leave you with this picture at the end of this tale:

Lola and Yuri
Lola and Yuri, Together

Maybe not a completely happy resolution yet, but a level of tolerance and acceptance is being achieved. The boys are strong enough to hold their own with Lola, who, as much as she protests, really does want the company.

I think we’re all going to do just fine!

Hope for Broken DPN

Filed under: Knitting,Rats! — folkcat at 8:28 pm on Tuesday, January 29, 2008

After posting yesterday about my broken Brittany DPN, I remembered that they have a good reputation for replacing broken needles. So I’ve e-mailed them with the specs. We’ll see what turns up.

It also looks like the 5″ length that I prefer for sock knitting may not be discontinued, as I’d been led to believe. It was a LYS owner that told me that, so maybe it’s just that the distributor she dealt with was no longer going to offer them. The new Patternworks catalog came today, though, and they’re listed in there.

On the Rattie front, Lola got to visit in the boys’ cage yesterday. She did some dominance posturing, but mostly the encounters were, well – not peaceful, but not as aggressive as you’d expect.

On the other hand, Leonardo also took an opportunity to climb into Lola’s cage, and boy, did she get upset! She lit into him like you’d think he was a rattlesnake, and she had a nest full of babies or something. This putting them together thing will clearly have to be handled carefully…

The Rest of Reality

Filed under: Daily Life,Rats! — folkcat at 1:44 pm on Monday, January 28, 2008

The Rest of Reality

There’s more happening in my world than the Rattie Siblings – honest! I am still knitting, and even have a finished object or two that I can share, once I get a chance to get decent photos. Then there are the knitting set backs – like going back to a sock I started months ago, only to have one of the size 0 needles suddenly snap in my hand. The Brittany, 5″ size 0’s that you can’t get anymore. I frogged the sock, and am considering going back to my customary size 1.5’s (which I have plenty of) to start it again.

Reality dealt us a bit of a blow just before the holidays – Gryphon got knocked back to a grade lower than he started with (four years ago) at his full-time job, with about a 25% cut in pay. He was told on the last day of work before the Christmas break, and the change was effective with the holiday week.

Please don’t worry about the reasons – we’ve had several weeks now to reconcile ourselves to the change. The ultimate lesson here is that Gryphon, however good he is at whatever he does, really doesn’t have a mindset that works well in an old-school New England manufacturing environment. He thought he was working up to expectations; turns out he wasn’t, and they just couldn’t communicate their needs to him adequately.

The things that sucked biggest about this are that A) we’d already spent all of his Christmas bonus, which we could have otherwise used to help us get through the transition period; and B) it was Christmas break, for Pete’s sake! We were just about to go to Syracuse to spend the holidays with my folks. Our trip got delayed by a day because the day we were supposed to get ready to travel, we were too numb with shock to focus on packing.

Gryphon’s job hunt is on in earnest, and looks promising. Meanwhile, we’ve undertaken cost-cutting measures. Things will be okay, we’re just in one of those truly sucky transitional periods while reality figures out what it wants to be next.

Rattie Progress

No, they haven’t been put in together yet. Lola, Yuri, and Leonardo will have to settle for ogling each other through the bars of the cages for a few days more.

Lola and Yuri
Lola and Yuri Make Eyes at Each Other

Meanwhile, Yuri and Leonardo are getting a chance to get used to their new life without having territorial struggles with Lola to work out at the same time. They’ve come to enjoy time under a blanket on my lap enough that yesterday, they both voluntarily crawled out of the cage using my arm as a bridge.

And in perhaps the ultimate sign of Rattie acceptance, twice now Yuri has pee-marked my arm. If you’re unfamiliar with pee-marking, it’s what Rattie’s do to indicate any of several things – “I like this place,” I like this rat/person,” “This is a safe and familiar spot”. Any of those meanings, as directed towards my arm, is all right with me!

In case you’re concerned that all the pictures lately have shown Lola behind bars and the boys out of the cage, don’t worry – Lola’s been getting equal attention and time to roam and play with Mom and Dad!

Tuesday marks three weeks since the boys had their surgery. Gryphon and I are probably going to make the big move on Wednesday. I’ve got some Swiss Miss chocolate pudding in the fridge – each rat will get a good smear down their back before being put into the bathtub with the others. I’ll then supervise while Gryphon re-dresses the large cage. Then, assuming we are shown no reasons to keep them apart longer, all three will go into the same space together. Fingers crossed!

Someone Made My Day!

Filed under: Blogfriends — folkcat at 1:48 pm on Thursday, January 24, 2008

Carol over at Knitting Knot surprised me last night with an award!

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I was so touched – thank you, Carol!

It seems that the protocol is that I now have to pick ten bloggers who similarly make my day. Only ten? Wow…this is going to be hard…

Okay, in no particular order, here they are. Some of these folks are real world friends that I don’t see often enough. Some are blog friends I’ve come to love as if I saw them in person every day. Some are just people who tell really inspiring and interesting stories about their lives. In each case, my heart beats a little faster and my eyes light up when I see that they’ve published a new post:

There are so many others I could name, so I hope no one feels slighted for not being on the list. I love you all!

About a Boy (or Two)

Filed under: Rats! — folkcat at 6:08 pm on Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Things are progressing well in the Rattie Kingdom here. Lola is going nuts trying to figure out who the interlopers are next door.

Lola at the bars
Lola Says, “I Smell Stinky Boys!”

I think she’s figured out they’re not going anywhere. If I hold one of the boys up near her cage, she gets frantic and tries to bite them through the bars. She even reaches her paws through like she can pull them into the cage.

Today is two weeks since Yuri and Leonardo had their surgery, so it’s another week before we can put them together with Lola. Given her past aggression, and her current aggressive overtures, we’re going to be cautious about it. I’m sure two sturdy, young boys can hold up to her advances, though. Besides, they outnumber her.

We’re not going to just suddenly throw everyone into the same cage together and hope they work it out. No, first we’re going to try a trick of smearing all three rats’ backs with some yogurt or chocolate pudding or something. Then, everyone gets tossed into the bathtub together, while Gryphon and I supervise to make sure no one gets hurt.

The theory is that the desire for the yummy treat will overwhelm the initial instincts to assert dominance, and that we’ll wind up with a mutual pudding-washing session. Fingers crossed!

Meanwhile, Yuri and Leonardo are adapting very quickly to their new home. Yuri was actually vocalizing on the second day here, making little happy chirpy noises. Neither Star nor Sable did that for months, and Lola only occasionally vocalizes even now after 6 months with us.

Yuri and Leonardo’s personalities are shining through clearly. This picture actually shows the difference well:

Yuri and Leonardo, Day Eight
Yuri the Bold, and Leonardo the Mellow

Yuri is always the first to come check things out when the cage door opens, while Leonardo tends to stay back and see what develops first.

But if what develops happens to be a couple of fingers dipped into yogurt, all bets are off, and Leonardo is right there alongside his brother!

Yuri and Leo Love Yogurt
Yuri and Leonardo Love Yogurt!

The boys have also displayed a distinct fondness for kleenex, fighting to see who gets to yank them through the bars and drag them to the nest corner. I guess some things are fairly universal among Ratties!

They’ve gotten so used to me now, too, that I’ve been bringing them out to play on my lap under a blanket. They show the same love for a knit made of Lion Brand Homespun yarn that Star and Sable did (and Lola does), so I spread my Homespun sweater on my lap, lift them out of the cage, and put them underneath. They go crawling everywhere, shoving the sweater where they want it to be! They’re young and have so much energy we’ve never gotten to the point where they decide to crash and snooze on my lap yet, but they clearly enjoy the outings.

Rattie business aside, I’m starting to feel like I can catch you up on the rest of our lives. Real Soon Now. This post is already long enough, and I don’t want to detract from the warm fuzzy cuteness contained within!

See you soon!

One Week Later

Filed under: Rats! — folkcat at 6:29 pm on Sunday, January 13, 2008

We still miss Sable, all of us. Lola spent a lot of the week depressed and refusing to come out of the cage much. She just curled up on one of Sable’s favorite nap spots and looked forlorn.

I had trouble dealing with the loss. Couldn’t focus, haven’t crafted all week.

All your kind words and good wishes helped immensely. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! You are good and true friends.

We had hoped to have the next generation of rats in place before Lola had to be alone, but we also hoped we had more time with Sable. Her passing caught us by surprise.

Much of the week was spent on escalating the search for new companions for Lola, me, and Gryphon. I scoured Craig’s List several times a day. I sent e-mail to the rattery we were on a waiting list with (and heard nothing back from them). I contacted one rat rescue mid-week, and another one on Friday.

The Friday contact was golden! I heard from them by the end of the day, we were approved for adoption almost immediately, and….well, just click through to see the results!

(Read on …)

Sable Rattie

Filed under: Rats! — folkcat at 4:12 pm on Sunday, January 6, 2008

I know many of you have enjoyed reading the adventures of the Rattie Sisters here – Star, Sable, and later, Lola. Unfortunately, I have sad news to share.

Our older rat girl, Sable, passed away last night. The cause was respiratory failure due to old age. She was about 1 year, 10 1/2 months old.

Sable had been obviously in distress the last couple of days, needing to be held almost constantly, dashing about occasionally as she tried to find comfort. We gave her whatever we could. Much of my time has been spent sitting in one spot, holding her on my lap or in my arms.

She started to completely refuse food on Friday night. There were bouts of difficulty breathing, and she frequently lay still in odd places because she just exhausted herself moving. She spent Friday night in the smaller cage in Bill’s room. Sable was in enough discomfort and distress that Bill didn’t sleep well.

Last night was my turn to keep watch. She spent a lot of time quietly stretched out on a pillow under my blanket, with my hand cradling her. Around 2:30 a.m., I noticed that she was beginning to actually gasp for air.

I woke Bill up, and we sat holding her together. About a half hour later, her breathing slowed, then finally stopped. Sable was at peace.

Her sister, Star, having succumbed to seizures, strokes, and tumors in August, Sable was the last of the pair of rats that got us into the Rattie world to begin with.

Sable climbs the window screen
She was an adventurous explorer.

Inspecting the yarn before use
A diligent fiber inspector.

Sable in the Kleenex
An avid nester with a strong preference for Kleenex as a building material.

Sable checks out the camera
She was always ready for her close-up.

Sable and the Rattie Birthday Cake
Or a special treat.

Nose to nose with Mom
She loved her mom.

Dad's a soft touch
And her dad.

Best Buddies
And her sister, Star.

Putting the newbie in her place
She even came to tolerate the interloping youngster, Lola.

I miss her.

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Sable Rattie
Feb. 18, 2006 – Jan. 6, 2008