Sometimes I feel guilty for wishing that Mother Nature would take a bigger role in determining the life span of certain animals.
This wish was never more evident to me the other day when I walked into my son’s room and was greeted by a horrific stench that curled my toenails.
“It smells like something died in here!” I said to my son while secretly wishing it was true. As I walked over to the rat cage and leaned down closer to see if the rat had deemed the cage conditions unsafe for animal habitation, called PETA, and moved out, I plugged my nose, held my breath, and wondered how I managed to get myself into this predicament. I sighed and uncrossed my fingers behind my back. The rat was still in the cage and unfortunately, he was still breathing, even though I wasn’t.
Two years ago, our first rat suffered a tragic but timely death after living a long life of exactly 23 months, six days, and 3 hours (not that I was counting or anything). As the children sobbed over the shoe box that held the carcass of their beloved, dead rodent, I reacted as every mother would when faced with planning a funeral for a rodent. I caved and relented to their absolutely unrealistic demands that we buy another rat immediately.
We all stood outside in the rain above the small hole I dug in the back yard as I fervently presented what I feel was a beautiful eulogy to an animal I absolutely abhorred, but my children loved passionately. As my children sobbed again and threw dirt on the shoebox with their plastic shovels, I knew there was a rat somewhere with my name on it and I didn’t like it at all.
A few hours later as I paid the pet store manager the absolutely ridiculous price of $2.99 for a new rat that I felt they should be paying me to take away, I whispered, “Are you absolutely certain that this rat will not live past two years?”
He nodded firmly. “It’s unheard of for a rat to live past 24 months.”
As we drove home from the pet store, I heard the new rat (a.k.a., “Spike”) scratching in his little temporary cardboard carrier as if to demonstrate to me his boundless energy and commitment to live forever.
We are now breaking all records for the longest living rat in the history of the world. Senior rat citizen Spike proves the life expectancy rules for rodents wrong every day he wakes up, stretches, and stinks up my house.
My son announced a few weeks ago, “Spike is living so long because we are not feeding him very much. I read on the Internet that if you don’t feed your rat much food, he will live FOREVER.”
I only heard two words in that sentence. Spike and FOREVER.
I turned to my husband and muttered, “Feed that rat day and night when the children aren’t looking.”
After all is said and done, I have to give that rat credit. He’s defying the odds and enjoying his life, even more now than ever since he’s eating like a king. In the meantime, I have an empty shoe box buried in the back of my closet, the hymns chosen, a hole dug, and a minister on call … just in case.