This past Thursday, Tony and I took our beloved sweet little Frankie to be peacefully put to sleep. It was the hardest day of our days. We have lost more than 50 ratties over the years -- and have missed them all. But Frankie was special from the moment Tony first spotted her. We had stopped at a pet store ONLY to get bedding. But Tony could not resist looking at the rats. At the time, our mischief was very small (5?) because I was working in a warehouse and was not able to really care for too many more, and Tony's health was waning.
While I was getting the aspen, Tony called out for me to come see "this rat". Of course I did not want to because when you see one, you want it!!! Better not to look. I told him no and took the bedding up to the counter. Tony was insistent. "You HAVE to come see this rat!" I argued that if I looked, I'd want it, so better not to look. But Tony was adamant. Resigned, I sighed and went to look. There was Tony with his hand pressed against the glass of an aquarium containing one little black hoodie. He moved his wide-spread hand and the rat rushed to follow his move, pressing one of her paws out-stretched against his. Every time he moved his hand, she would duplicate his move, matching her paw against his palm. "Isn't she smart?" he demanded. I agreed, but pointed out I only had so many hours at home.
With a truly heavy heart, I turned to go back to the counter. "You have to look at her now," Tony said. I replied that if I looked it would be harder to say no. "But she's praying," he said. I could not help but look. There she was, sitting on her haunches, her little paws folded as if in prayer, her head bowed, eyes closed. "See?" Tony said, "She is praying for a home where she will be loved. How can you say no to a rattie praying for a home?" I could not help but look at her one more time -- and saw one bright little eye peek open only so very slightly as if to see if I were looking, then clamped tightly shut, her paws tightening as if she were doubling her prayers. My heart melted. How COULD I say no to a little rattie actually praying for a home?!!! So Frankie came home with us -- and blessed us with her love and unbelievable intelligence for four years and two months.
Tony always said she was praying so hard because unknown at the time, Frankie was pregnant when we bought her. She gave us 8 beautiful babies in such a rainbow of colors and ear types, hair and hairless, that we often wonder if she had conceived from multiple males which we have been told CAN happen. Tony would tell her she had such beautiful babies, and Frankie would sit next their nest, her little chest actually puffed out as if in pride. She would sit quietly by as we lifted each pup to make sure all were ok -- and then reach up to take each one from our palm to resettle each pup in her nest safe and secure. She was as gentle to us as she was her our children. We kept them all -- and Frankie out-lived all of them. She was so very friendly she instantly became everyone's special joy -- and made rat lovers of so very many non-rat folks. She could get in and out an anything and was forever grabbing one of our pant legs to pull on it to let us know she was "out again" so we could return her to her cage. She loved to kiss and brux and boggle -- and was a roto-dentist. EVERYONE had to have their teeth checked all the time!!! Everyone that met her instantly fell in love with her. She was a tiny bundle of unending love and joy.
Almost 3 1/2 Frankie began to grow tumors. At her great age, no vet in our area would do surgery. We were heart-broken. Karen Borga and Lindsay and Joe Pulman of the Pittsburgh Rat Club made special arrangements for Frankie to visit Dr. Mike in Cranberry Township, PA -- over 8 hours away one-way. Tony's health and our then huge mischief prevented us from making any extensive trips. The wonderful members of the Pittsburgh Rat club helped car pool Frankie to Lindsay and Joe's house until Lindsay could take Frankie into Dr. Mike. Lindsay has told us the entire Pittsburgh Rat Club instantly fell in love with Frankie as well. Lindsay laughed at how Frankie immediately tried to help her hang a hammock in Frankie's temporary cage. This was Frankie -- she LOVED everyone and always had to be doing something.
Dr. Mike deemed Frankie healthy enough to attempt surgery and removed Frankie's tumors. They were cancer. We were devastated, and yet we were so blessed at having our sweet little Frankie remain with us at least a little longer. Lindsay and Joe helped transport her home following her recovery -- and told us how much they had come to love her -- that she had won the hearts of the entire Pittsburgh Rat Club. THIS was Frankie -- the way she was. . .how she touched everyone who met her.
Not even two months after Frankie returned home, three new tumors began to grow. A week later, two more. In deepest anguish, Tony and I opted not to put her little body through anymore at so fragile an age. We chose to try to make everyone of her remaining days as special and love-filled as we could. Even at so great an age, Frankie suddenly won the heart of our four-year-old grandson, Callan, who would visit her many times everyday just to pet her and talk to her -- and Frankie would respond with a loving rattie grin, bruxing almost instantly at his touch. Even then she still made one more little rat lover!
Frankie's little body grew tumor after tumor. We were in anguish trying to decide what to do. Release her. . .or wait as her little eyes were still so bright and shiny and she was still able to get around. Someone who communicates with animals told us Frankie was not ready to go, that we should watch her ears -- that we would know when she was ready by her ears. They also said she loved us very much and did not want us to be sad, but to celebrate each day with her. And we did. She had everything to eat a rattie loves but should rarely be treated to. We tried to make every day as special for her as we could -- and tried not to be sad when we were with her. A few more weeks passed, and Frankie began to have trouble moving -- and her ears became less up-right. We knew it was time to give her freedom from the tumor mass that was now her precious little body.
This past Thursday morning I rose early to make Frankie a special breakfast of egg yoke, butter and jelly bread, and melon. On the way to her vet, Tony held her carrier, treating her to nuts and pumpkin seeds and candy and cheese. She kissed us both as we anointed her with oil and blessed her and told her how much we loved her -- how special she was to us. We told her in a few moments she would be free and whole and running with all her friends and children again -- and as her vet took her to the CO tank, we saw her little ears had turned a sickly gray, and knew what we did was right even though it was ripping out our hearts. And we wept as the door closed and Frankie went in peaceful, painless sleep.
Today we will be burying Frankie's body. We have a special place under a shady tree where her body will rest just outside the window of our mischief -- out the window Frankie loved to play on (the sill) and look out of into the woods. We will be placing a flower on top of her -- one that will bloom each year in remembrance of a most special little rattie . . .a most beloved and so very much missed little Frankie.