Precious, raggedy old Jinx. I keep putting off your testimonial. I didn’t even tell BigBen you were gone until yesterday. Somehow procrastination made your loss seem less real.
For years we’d been adopting, fostering, and fostering-to-adoption wonderful rescue ratties from Mainely Rat Rescue. But we had a series of truly heart-breaking losses in a row, and I needed a respite. For the first time, I considered finding a reputable breeder, lured by the siren song of better health and longer life that prenatal care and better genetics might provide. I thought I found one, and fell in love with the pictures of two little dumbo sheep Audrey named Jake and Jinx for Black Veil Brides musicians.
We made pickup a family day, driving several hours, visiting a museum and eating a meal out along the way. Once there, my spirits sank. The breeder was very young in a student-type apartment with rats in multiple aquaria on the floor. Each aquarium contained nothing but wood shavings, food and water. The breeder knew and pointed out your parents, who seemed to have nothing in common other than species, but did not know health or personality histories of offspring. Further, Jake was evasive and you were almost impossible to catch despite the small tank and barren surroundings. I wanted you two out of there and took you anyway.Jake
Your brother Jake was a tease, hamming at the door for attention, than playing hard to get. He was clearly unsocialized and bit a little, but learned fast. He would roll a bizzy ball back to me, or dunk it in the food dish for me to find later and hide for him. I could ask “where is your ball/Jinx/Daddy/your treat bowl?" and he'd look right at it and, in the case of the ball, fetch it. I could do a rattie social yawn and he’d happily yawn back. But we had to put him down much too soon to PT as described in his memorial. Jinx
Only a few weeks old, you were an adorable little fuzzbutt, like a dumbo-eared version of Studio Ghibli’s dust critters.
But you already had stinkeye down to a science, and when someone reached into your cage or heaven help them your igloo, you’d launch like Monty Python’s killer rabbit. Even as a tiny baby, you were the strongest and most persistent cage defender I ever saw. Being on blood thinners, Steve donated a crimson tide for your care. You even had the audacity, after months of socializing, to bite Goosemoose's own ever-gentle Big Ben.
Fortunately, I finally found a window to your world. You had what would be called “strong food motivation” in a dog. So we taught you the command “gentle mouth” for treats, and it (mostly) worked. And you learned that “Jinx wanna fly to Mama?” meant that if you climbed into your space pod and looked expectant, Steve would pick it up with you in it, bring it to me and pour you into my waiting Ratoob. In a Ratoob I could handle and cuddle you, with or without your brother or other rats, for seriously ecstatic bruxing. You were mad soft. When you were done or needed a potty break, you'd hit the bed's litter pan then crawl back into the Ratoob for more, or head back toward your cage. It got so when you got restless we'd ask, "Jinx wanna go home?" and if you did you'd climb up the chest of the person closest to your cage and cross their extended arm into the top level of the DCN. My arm was not as beefy as Steve’s, so I'd support you until I discovered your preference--a towel draped over my arm for better traction. I don’t think you ever peed on, pooped on or even marked me (not that I would have minded).
We decided to get out of rats for financial and heart reasons, at least while we had one or both girls in college. At one point you were our last rat, and I felt your lonely loss of purpose so we went looking for an older buddy. Before we knew it, we had “downsized” from 1 to 13. We temporarily took in BigBen’s wonderful saint rats while he was healing from his accident, we adopted Holbrook hoarding survivor Roswell (renamed for his “crop circle” scar from former ringworm) as a buddy for you, and fostered some Holbrook boys. Lone female Precious went to a new foster home where Robin Wead planned to put her in with the girls but on a hunch put her in with a lonely neutered boy. Clearly they were soul mates. The MRR adoption team did their magic, and we were down to you, Roswell and Nikko (who we decided to keep as I just wasn’t sure about his health).
With each shuffle, I feared you would regress, but you were in your element with new friends to welcome and defend. Cutest of all was how you adopted Stash, the sole survivor of Precious’ litter of six and a real character.
"Having trouble, little buddy?"
"Here’s how you do it" eeeeehhhhnnnnn…
"Suebee’s mix is easy, too. Check this out:"
"Hey! Baby Stash is napping here. Back off!"
Jinx guarding and warming Stash, who’s sleeping in a characteristically odd position:
And Jinx maintaining high alert while the sleeping Stash warms his tail.
Like several of my older boys had, you started dragging your back feet. I did the HED checks one of our rat vets taught me (explained in a Gabe post), to rule out spinal injury, and kept an eye on you including regular hind end cleanliness/bumblefoot checks. You did great. You tripped once and rolled sideways off a ramp, falling 4-5 inches but unscathed. I converted your cage to a single level and you happily motored on, seeking me out and cuddling more as you aged and your hair grew patchier. We cleaned and treated a rough spot on your tail and it healed right up.
One day we had a great playtime on the bed and in the Ratoob. The next day Steve reached in for you at playtime but recoiled in horror, saying, "OMG you have to check his EYE!" Steve has the lower gore tolerance, so I expected some extra porphoryn or a bit of bedding. But overnight you had developed a horrific protruding eye, as bad as D’Lanie’s had gotten with her skull tumor. The cornea was already dried out. Your front-wheel-drive movement seemed more aimless. You appeared happy and cuddly, but not mentally “home” and I could not connect when I asked if you wanted to go to the Bridge. I was torn. Removing the eye would not cure you and could kill you, so our hail Mary pass included an eye gel which thankfully you didn't seem to feel, and powerful liquid antibiotics and pain meds that you fought like a warrior.
A few days later, the antibiotics had not made a dent in the swelling behind your eye. You still could not blink that eye yourself although I had moistened it enough that I could blink it for you to spread the gel. You were scrabbling more aimlessly and still “not home.” Although you still ate well and cuddled, I felt sure that the headache must be awful. Like poor Jake, it turned out that you had a PT that had disguised itself until the ugly end, although you and Jake had completely different symptoms.
I hate PT. I really do. I want to win the lottery although I never play and fund a huge research initiative like the one in the 70s and 80s for FeLV. Now we're down to your last two buddies--Roswell and Nikko.
You know all those stories of little pinkie souls, like Stash's 5 siblings, who never had a chance? As much as I miss you, it comforts me now to picture you at the Bridge, welcoming and nurturing them all.