Sunday, July 29, 2012

And She Lived to Tell the Tale

For those who haven't heard, I've spent the last month nursing a litter of rats abandoned when they were less than 48 hours old. It was a long, sleepless adventure but we beat the odds. Sadly, we lost most of the litter but 2 have thrived. Zeus and Athena have become just about everyone's babies... especially Elena, Dora and John. I won't even go into the depth to which Charlie has become attached.

Anyway... from day one we have kept the babies in a modified 12qt tote box on our bed. Their box is situated on a heating pad between Charlie's and my pillows. Yeah, rats in the bed, blah blah. Whatever. Anyone who has ever nursed babes in the middle of the night knows it's a heck of a lot easier to have said babes close by. As these guys needed feeding every 2-3 hours for the first 3 weeks, they were staying close by. Period.

This last week, they were introduced to solid food (soy formula and baby rice cereal) meaning I no longer have to get up at night. I can give them enough for 6 hours and SLEEP. It's been glorious.

Getting all that sleep though, I let my guard down.

We had all the kids over for Rachel's birthday today. Any other day, there is almost certain to be an adult in my room. This is important because we also have 2 very active (and interested) adult cats.

We forgot to kick the cats out and close the door while we were all out in the rest of the house enjoying each other.

2 of the cats attacked the box and got the lid off. By the time Daniel got to them, it didn't look like Athena would make it. Aside from several scratches and shallow gash the length of her tail, she had an injury to her head that looked fatal.

As an aside, I'm no stranger to animal first aid. I have the ability to go into perfect calm in the face of a wounded animal. One one occasion, I actually performed what could easily be described as abdominal surgery on a hairless rat almost gutted by another.(She was picked on because she was a hairless) Without getting too graphic, she had insides on her outside and didn't look like she stood a chance. Using adhesive stitches and a hell of a lot of disinfectant, Stephanie, Reese and I (yeah, group effort) patched her up. She healed beautifully and lived another 15 months as a happy, though slightly less acrobatic rattie.

*A little graphic content here*

Poor Athena looked like her skull had been crushed. She was conscious but stunned and barely moving. After cleaning her scratches, I accessed the wound on her head. The blood was pooling under her scalp and causing obvious pressure and pain. I took the chance it was a giant bruise, drained a little blood from the puncture wound and wrapped her in a sling so she could sit close to my chest in warmth and security.

I honestly expected I'd be holding her for her last breath.

Trying to type through tears...

When she started crawling up the sling and hiding under my ponytail, I felt some hope.

2 hours later, she's had a little to eat and a little to drink. She's back in the box with her brother and sat patiently while he bathed her from head to toe.

I probably won't sleep tonight... and yeah, I'm not above asking prayer, warm fuzzies and good mojo for a 1 oz baby rat... but the bruise, which looked like a black skull cap on her head, is slowly fading. Her energy is improving and I'm cautiously optimistic.

We've put so much of each of the last 27 days into preserving these little lives. I'm not sure Charlie or I could stand losing her before she's an old rattie fart.

But she's here. I'm so grateful she made it and probably won't breath easy until that bruise is gone and she's tackling her brother and bouncing like a jumping bean again... but there's hope.

When she's a big rattie and her teeth are strong enough, I have no problem letting her inform Cleo and Autumn why they should never mess with rats. One nip to the nose cured the rottie and the other bigger animals. I'm sure Athena will be up to the task.

Here's to survivors.