My daughter had a difficult time keeping her room clean while sharing with her brother, so when we rearranged rooms and gave her the dream of her life -- a room of her own -- we asked her to keep it clean. She did so, for two straight months, and I caved in and got her a pet rat, something she's wanted forever.
This is William Charles. We got him last Saturday, along with a purple cage, pink bedding (he's a male rat, but my daughter is very female.) She fell in love with him from the first moment at the pet store.She spent hours this week working on training him. Her ultimate goal was to teach him to steal from the rich and give to the poor.
However, this morning, William passed from this earth. We'd had him less than a week, and my daughter was devastated, thinking she'd done something wrong.
I called a different pet store than the one from whence he came, and learned that most likely, he had pneumonia, and most likely, he had it before he ever left the store. I discussed symptoms with the store employee, and learned that the cute little chirping noise William had been making was actually a rattling in his chest from the disease. Gulp -- I just thought he was trying to communicate. Turns out, rats don't talk.
This employee then told me he had a rat that had just recovered from an illness and had been fully treated with antibiotics. He was in good health now and ready to go back out on the floor, but the staff had fallen in love with him and didn't want to see him get sold to a snake owner. (I don't even want to think about that.) I asked him to hold the rat, and we went down to check him out. My daughter deemed him appropriate, we spent a half hour asking questions, and then we brought William Charles the Second a.k.a. "Billy" home with us. In appearance, he looks quite a bit like William did, but where William was caramel, Billy is gray, almost blue. In fact, he's called blue.
My daughter, meanwhile, was very resistant to the idea of just throwing William's body away. I tried to explain to her that we don't own any land, being in a trailer, and so we couldn't bury him. But she just couldn't handle the thought of the rat going into the Dumpster. Am I a horrible person to say I didn't have a problem with it at all? He was wrapped in a washcloth, laid to rest in a Pop Tart box -- I figured that was good. Apparently not.
So I called my long-suffering father and asked if we could bury a rat in his yard. To his everlasting credit, he only chuckled for a minute before telling us to come on over.
First, he let my daughter choose any spot she wanted, and she chose a place on the north side of the yard, in a flower bed.
Then he took a pick ax to the dirt and made a hole.He then ran into a rock, and patiently went at it with a crow bar.Then he had my daughter place the box in the hole, he set a large rock over it, and filled it in snugly with dirt. For a crowning touch, he put a tomato cage over it, and my daughter put a homemade grave marker into place, reading "R.I.P."
The thing that touched me the most was that my father did everything he could to make this a special time for my daughter. He didn't just make a hole, he dug a grave. He didn't just throw the box in there, he asked her to do it. He didn't just sling the dirt back on top, he carefully packed it. He honored my daughter's grief and didn't make light of it. I felt ashamed for even suggesting we just throw the box away.
When I was ten, I had a pet rabbit that died. I was inconsolable for days. And do you know what -- I remember my father digging a grave for that pet, too.
Dads are just good that way. Thanks, Dad.