Last night I had the most amazing experience. In my 50 years as a pet owner, I have been with my pets when they were born and when they were giving birth. I have also been with them when they died. Sadly, in the later case, this was always as a result of human intervention. Nor have they ever been happy occasions.
(Pictures below, clockwise from top: Dot lying in my arms last night; photo of Dot taken a few weeks ago; Smudge with tumor visible; baby Dot in October 26; baby Smudge)
But last night, Auntie Dot died while resting in my lap. She was 2 years and 5 months old, which is good going for a rat. She and her sister Smudge came to live with us on October 26, 2013. Within three weeks, they were both mothers of litters (11 for Smudge and 13 for Dot). Just before Christmas that year, we returned most of the babies to the pet shop, keeping only Smudge’s Persephone (aka Pudge) and Dot’s Stumpy and Stripe (both now deceased). Smudge had to be put down on October 10 last year due to a mammary tumor that had grown too large for her to cope with.
Still, little Dot carried on with great energy and pluck. In recent months she had been losing a lot of weight and, while still eating well, didn’t seem to be able to regain it. We had seen this with our 15 year old cat Milli, who also had to be put down last year due to internal organ failure. For some weeks now, I have been checking the cage each morning expecting to find that Dottie had passed on, but each day she was still going.
Last night at feeding time, she came directly to the door of the cage and wanted to climb out to be held. So from 7pm, she snuggled in my lap while our family watched TV together. I thought she might go to sleep, but she stayed resolutely awake, not closing her eyes. Occasionally, she tried to get up and go for a walk or climb up to my shoulder, but was really wobbly on her legs, and returned to my lap. At around 11pm, after the girls had gone to bed and Cathy was still up knitting, she breathed her last breath. I turned to Cathy and said “She’s gone.”
Some of you reading this will have had the experience of being with a loved one when they die. It is a great mystery.
One moment there is life
there is just stillness.
I have not shed tears for Dottie. Her death was such a beautiful experience that I have found more joy than sadness in farewelling a beautiful animal who, along with her sister, brought a great deal of joy into my life. Dot is survived by her neice Pudge, the last of ‘blues’, and will be missed by her two step-daughters, Bubble and Squeek.