After an exhausting day at work, Jess greeted me at the sitter’s door, hollering “Mom. Ma. Mom! Guess what? The rats had babies and Cindy says I can have TWO! Can I? Can I? Can I?
My daughter was always coming home from daycare pointing out how great the provider’s daughter had it; a big house, a pool, candy bars every day, lots of pets.
As a single mom I couldn’t do much about the house and pool, but I could provide the occasional candy bar, and a kitten seemed doable, but Oh Geesh, not rats.
Before I could say maybe, which would buy time until I could say no, the sitter’s kid brought out the cage and showed off her rodents. The sitter picked one up and caressed it.
“They’re really easy and no trouble,” Cindy bubbled.
“We could use my Little Mermaid tank since you killed my fish,” Jess said.
Those red, beady rat eyes didn’t do much for me, but I told her I’d think it over while the babies were growing enough to leave the rats’ nest.
Every day after, until I caved, we could not leave the sitter’s without a rodent update. Due to the extended visits, I was starting to experience that same juvenile jealousy of people who have better stuff than me.
So I stopped after work one day to buy some bedding and whatever it is that rats eat, and then picked up the kid and two rats. At least the rats wouldn’t give a rat’s ass where they lived.
Cindy walked us to the car and whispered, “The pet store will take any extras.”
The rats took up residence in the old pink fish tank, placed in Jess’s room. About twenty minutes later the smell was unbearable and in about thirty minutes, more rats were born. I mean, you can change the bedding and scrub the cage umpteen times a day and that stuff still stinks. And doesn’t matter if you buy them tiny exercise tubes and treats and all, apparently all they want to do is breed.
So I scrubbed and griped and made regular runs to the pet store to make “donations” until I couldn’t take it anymore. Jess was getting ready for a visit with her dad, and I explained to her that the rats were just not a good pet choice for us, and they would be much happier living at the pet store, where she could go and visit them once in a while.
“I should have known,” she said, “considering the fish…and Santa Claus.”
This was not going well.
Jess went off to see her dad, and before I could get to the pet store, a coworker who had snakes (by choice, no less) asked if I could help her out.
I agreed, as I already knew that any rats we visited at the store later would look the same, but not be the same ones. Next day I put Mickey and Minnie and Hewey and Louie and Dewey and Sleepy and Doc or whatever all the stinkin’ things were called in the car and headed to work.
About lunchtime my friend Dana wanted to see the critters so we went outside. She opened the car door and said that they seemed to all be napping. Then she picked up the Mermaid cage and tipped it to one side. The rats slid with the tilt, then back the other way when she tipped it again.
Although I always knew how the rats would meet their demise, up until this point I had chosen to believe that I was just rehoming them. Now I was clearly a killer.
The snake keeper coworker said it was cool – they were good baked too – and not to worry.
I spent the afternoon trying to work but mostly pondering my parenting failures; no house, no pool, and once again no pets (Isn’t there a sad country song about that?).
Once home, I saw an ad in the paper for a stray kitten, and made a decision to go get him. I was the best mom ever when I picked Jess up at the airport and the little guy was waiting to surprise her.
Jess named him Toes. He did not stink or contribute to pet overpopulation, and managed to live, despite me, for fourteen more years.