Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sad News

Calhoun, AKA "Yogurt Nose"


If I keep writing such sad blog posts my blog may need to be renamed "SadRatBlog".

I had to put my poor little Calhoun to sleep recently. It was one of the most gut-wrenching decisions I've ever had to make.

Those folks with pets know that as much as you love all your pets, once in awhile that special one comes along...that one that stands out from all the rest. He or she may not be the brightest or the prettiest or the best behaved, but there was something about them that endeared them to you more than all the others. For me it was Calhoun.

Calhoun was a rat who marched to his own drummer. He thumbed (rats don't actually have thumbs, but go with me on this metaphor) his little nose at convention and polite behavior. He did what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it and there was very little argument.

For example, rats need to have time out of their cages every night or they can get bored. I bought a big corral for Adams and him to play in. Adams loved it. He would play with his toys and eat his snacks and have a grand old time.

Not Calhoun. He wanted OUT. And out he got. Over and over again. I tried putting him back in every time he jumped out and telling him firmly "no". He laughed.

I put a sheet over the corral and held it down with big paper clips. Within a day he figured out exactly how to jump so he would be between the paper clips and could wiggle his way out.

He quickly learned the concept of my back being turned and would take full advantage to make for parts unknown.

I finally gave in and let them have free-range of the condo for about an hour a day. No biggie for Adams. He would sniff around, then mostly go and sit beside the couch. He occasionally follow me into the kitchen for a snack, but he never ventured far or got into trouble.

Then there was Calhoun. Open the fridge door? There's Calhoun trying to jump in.
Pleeeeze let me in!

Want a snack? Calhoun would pester you and pester you and then sometime help himself anyway if you were not forth coming.
This bag was zipped shut. He didn't chew a hole in it. HE OPENED THE ZIPPER.

You had cereal and Calhoun wanted cereal? Calhoun took cereal!

I learned to be careful with any recycling or trash. If Calhoun was out, I always double checked the bag before anything went down the shoot. With lightening speed, he could jump in the trash barrel, chew his way into a trash bag or hide in something that was about to leave the house.  I once almost sent him off in a bag of craft supplies I giving away.

I had to pull up the floor of my vanity because he got under there and wouldn't come out. I no longer have a cabinet to hold my stereo equipment because he managed to get behind it and I had to take the whole thing apart to get him out. I nearly had to take my heat pump apart because he managed (when he was sick and practically at death's door) to get inside it. I banged on the outside of it, and his little head poked out a hole on side. I've lived in this condo for 13 years and never even knew there was a hole there.

He would bully and beat up poor Adams, steal his treats, not let him near the food dish. Adams still followed him around like a little lost puppy. I think he was smitten by the Calhoun charisma, too.

Then one day, Calhoun started acting old. He slowed down, stopped eating as much and generally seemed run down. It came on too fast just be attributed to just getting old, so I took him to the vet. The diagnosis was pituitary tumor.

Little by little, he changed into a different rat. He would sit on my lap for hours at a time, where before he would get antsy after just a few minutes.  He wasn't that interested in food. He would only eat peas for days at a time.  He wouldn't go far if I let him out of his cage. He would try to run on top of his PVC pipe, but he couldn't get up on it anymore. I tried to do a little "reasonable accommodation" and I put his pipe against the wall and would hold him from the other side, but he couldn't keep his balance and would get frustrated. He could still walk the length of pipe on the inside and would do that everyday, but less and less and slower and slower.

He started walking in circles and seemed confused at times. He would spend long stretches pacing in his cage and staring into corners. One morning I put him in front of his pipe and he stared at it for a few minutes, then turned his head away and just laid down. I knew that he had given up. I decided that the time had come for me to help end his suffering, so I made an appointment at The New England Wildlife Center, where his vet, Dr. Mertz "The Odd Pet Vet" has a practice.

Dr. Mertz was wonderful. He let me take everything a my own pace so I could wait until I was ready. He let me put Calhoun's entire travel cage along with his familiar bedding and snacks into a chamber that  would release a gas that would put Calhoun into a deep sleep before he would be euthanized. He just closed his eyes and went to sleep. Dr. Mertz let me chose to stay or leave the room when it was time to put him down. I chose to stay. Dr. Mertz gave him two little shots and he was gone. He didn't seem to feel a thing.

I brought him home and Art and I buried him in the Rodent Graveyard near Adams and Mr. Rat.

We came back inside and talked about how he would be missed and what a great rat he was. Then we laughed because all the stories we could think of were of him being a little pain in the butt!

But he really was a unique little animal and I will miss him.


  1. so sorry about Calhoun, Lynne

  2. I come here from time to time and was sorry to hear about this too. I know how much you love your rats, and I had to have a family pet put to sleep a few years ago that tore me up for weeks. I had to make the decision because my sister was totally devastated.

  3. Your rats are beautiful. So sorry for your losses. It's painful. I'm afraid one of my boys is heading downhill and it makes me so sad.