How To Find What You Came Here For

Welcome to the worlds that populate my brain!
The short stories you find here are the product
of a vastly overactive imagination
powered by coffee and M&Ms.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Dora & Daphne

I would like to introduce you to two very special girls.  Their names were Dora and Daphne, and they were sisters.

We fostered Dora and Daphne several years ago.  We had been volunteering with a couple of different animal rescues for a few years.  At first the only animals we fostered were guinea pigs, but desperation and overcrowding prompted one of the rescues to ask us to step out of our comfort zone and take…rats.

Go ahead.  Say, “Ewwww!  Rats!?”  Get it out of your system.  Better now?

Hubby Dan was right there with you.  He agreed to give it a try, but he wasn’t excited about it.  It didn’t help that the first rats we fostered were a pair of hairless girls.  They looked like aliens.  Their skin was incredibly soft and papery – like very elderly ladies get sometimes.  And they were warm.  Very warm.

Then one of them climbed into his shirt pocket and went to sleep.  It was cute.  Too bad about that tail…but… it was cute.  Hubby’s heart softened.  We discovered their amazing intelligence, the wonderful variety of their personalities.  We watched them play and tease each other.  We fell in love with all of them.

None of the rats we fostered after that first pair stayed very long.  We had a reputation – we were quite good at taking skittish little creatures and socializing them.  We transformed them into sweet, affectionate friends that people were eager to adopt.

Then came Dora and Daphne.

Dora and Daphne were medicals.  Their lungs had been scarred thanks to an ignorant owner who’d kept them in a glass fish tank on cedar bedding.  Double whammy.  The scarring was permanent, and it would shorten lives that were already only two or three years long in the first place.  They couldn’t be adopted.

Their misfortune was our blessing.

Female rats are well-known for their energy level (think the worst case of ADHD you’ve ever seen, multiplied by about four thousand), but these girls didn’t have the breath for that.  Instead, they were snugglers.

I got in the habit of having one or both girls on my shoulder when I was at the computer.  They’d sleep, tail wrapped lightly around my throat for balance, occasionally waking long enough to climb down onto the shelf of my chest to beg for chin scritches.

Our oldest son was a member of the marching band at his high school, which meant driving to the school in the afternoon to pick him up.  I started taking Dora with me.  She’d sit on my shoulder as we drove, tail in its customary position, one tiny paw on my ear for extra security.  When my son got in the car she’d transfer to his shoulder and start grooming anything she could reach.

As much as we loved them – and they loved us – nothing compared to the love they had for each other. 

Dora was sicker than Daphne.  She couldn’t play as long or as hard, and she tired easily.  Often, when it got quiet and I’d go check on them, I’d find them in their fabric hammock.  Dora would have her eyes half-closed in an expression of ratty bliss as Daphne gently groomed her.  Dora couldn’t tolerate the rough grooming that rats usually enjoyed, and her sister understood that.  She’d carefully clean each paw, then the ears, and finally the tail, until Dora was sleeping peacefully.

They seemed to understand that they wouldn't have long with us or with each other, and they were determined to enjoy every moment.  When the time finally came, Dora and Daphne crossed the Rainbow Bridge together. 

If you've never spent time with rats...of the pet variety that's hard to truly express the sense of intelligence you get from them.  All of the bonded pairs and groups we fostered showed affection for each other, but Dora and Daphne were special.  As always, thank you for sharing this moment with me - comments and critiques are welcome!


  1. Confession....I hate rats. Fear them. Despise them. Had to slip past the video without looking because I am reading before falling asleep and I would dream of rats. Having confessed all of that I have to say that your affection came through so clearly in the piece. Sincere and heartfelt is how it read.
    Isn't it good that we are all made so differently?!

  2. I completely understand! We had a friend who is an entomologist. Loves to wax poetic...on BUGS! Gives me shivers just thinking about it!

    BTW - when my boys were very very little we bought a new stove. A few days later I was in the kitchen and a mouse ran out from under it (they'd been living in the drawer under the oven). I promise you, I LEVITATED onto a chair. Total cliche. Complete with screaming. Pet problem. Pest-type rodents - commence the screaming!

  3. This post surprised me! I wasn't expecting it to be about rats.

    But once I knew that part, I softened because of your obvious love for Dora and Daphne.

    You showed a lot about your BIG heart and BIG love and you know what? That's really somethin'! :)

  4. I must confess to a bout of the heebie jeebies when I started reading this and picturing a rat upon my shoulder. But you finally convinced me. Now, when my son asks for a rat (and a bird, and a snake and another turtle) I won't say "no" but "let me think about it".
    Kelly Garriott Waite

  5. This made me smile. So nice you could make thie final time together special

  6. I never imagined myself thinking, "I want one of those rats" but your sweet story changed that!

  7. I loved the storytelling and the tenderness and the actual footage of the sisters here. Such a well done response, thank you for sharing them so photographically with us!!

  8. We loved those little girls and they loved us! Hubby got misty watching the video.

    Rats aren't for everyone - I'd be the first to say it! But, they are without a doubt the most personable, intelligent, funny, and engaging pets I've ever owned - which includes: a huge variety of fish, guinea pigs, hermit crabs, snakes, dogs, cats, birds, and one mentally handicapped ferret.

  9. I've never had rats. They sound amazing. We have a cat though, so I guess they are out of the question?

  10. LOL Cats and rats aren't necessarily mutually exclusive...but they don't usually play well together. I have known people that can have their cat and rats out at the same time, but the cat in question suffered from terminal laziness and the rats were quite large.