Thursday, January 1, 2009

Petty matters

I have rats up my sleeve.

But it's okay. I'm not a panicky girl, and anyway, these rats are pets. Michael got them for Christmas. They're cute little things, and he named the Salt and Pepper.

Michael, David, and Curtis are building a little Lego playground for the rats, so I decided to offer them (the rats) a warm, cozy place to wait while their little funhouse is completed. {Ha! They keep sneezing these cute little sneezes and their whiskers tickle!]

Hm. Looks like Salt might take a stab at typing something; she's eyeing my keyboard. Oh- nope. She just poked her head back into my sleeve.
Michael didn't realize that I had taken both the rats and was a little concerned when he realized they were both gone. The conversation went something like this:

Michael: Wait- where did the other rat go?
Maria: I have them both
Curtis: Well, I can see where one of the rats went- right there on the Legos.
David: What?
Curtis: One of the rats went potty on the Legos
David: Why would a rat go potty on someone's Legos?
Curtis: Clearly someone needs to teach the rats better manners

I think Curtis is having more fun than either David or Michael. Maybe that's not super surprising, because he's an engineer.

Angi told me two days before Christmas that we were going to get Michael a pet for Christmas. She and Dad came home from the store on Christmas Eve with two cute bay rats and promptly ran them to Angela's room where they spent the night. Angela couldn't resist, and tried to block off an area on her bedroom floor for the rats to run around in. Not five minutes after she let them out of their cage, the rat that became known as Pepper escaped under her bed.

I spent the next half hour laying on the floor and hanging upside down off Angi's bed to try to coax Pepper back out to where we could catch her and re-cage her. Once she was safely back in the cage, I thought it was a great idea to leave the things alone for the rest of the day, let them acclimate, and not scare them.

Midafternoon, I headed to the kitchen to start making Christmas Eve dinner, a rather involved affair. Once the scalloped potatoes were ready and the roll dough was made and rising, I had a feeling I should go back to Angi's room and check on the rats. When I tried to open the door, I met with quite a bit of resistance, as though something was wedged underneath the door, like we do to keep rats from sneaking out under the door. Bad sign. Then I heard Laura's voice in the room and told her to open the door for me.

When I finally got through, I found a very pouty-faced Laura sitting in the middle of the floor and only one rat in the cage. By way of explanation, all Laura said was "She peed on my hand. Then she ran away."

This time it was Salt who escaped. After we managed to capture her and put her in the cage, we all agreed to just let them be until we gave them to Michael.

[Ha! Right as I was writing about Salt escaping, I heard Michael yell out a rat on the loose alert and was informed that Salt was hiding under the couch. We tilted it back and I got to hold it in place while Michael and Curtis crawled under it to rescue the errant rodent. But everything is under control now]

{And Curtis is quoting scripture to the rats now; "if the Salt hath no savor, it is henceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden underfoot." In the context of the rats' names, I find that rather gruesome]

The biggest concern whenever my family gets pets is the omnipresent cat that we've had for almost eighteen years. The cat, Hazle, is technically mine, since I'm the one who begged my parents for one (way back when I was six), and it has outlived, and in many cases eaten, all of our other pets. We've had hampsters, gerbils, other rats, and small lizards that have all become cat food. I've walked in on a few scenes where I found the cat sitting on a gerbil or lizard cage with a tail hanging out of his mouth. Those situations are always traumatic for the little kids, because there's not even a body to bury in the garden.

I think the only pets that were ever 100% safe from Hazle's desire for a nice entree were the fish, because they were in a completely enclosed tank, and the hermit crabs, because he was fortunately too intelligent to go after things with visible pinchers. Even the iguana that my brother Mark kept as a pet for a while wasn't safe. He let the iguana wander free in his room with the door shut, and one day he came home to find the iguana dead from a battle with the cat. (Although we're not sure exactly why Hazle did it- did he really want to eat the iguana, or did he just see it as a threat?)

Once, Michael and Mark got a pair of little lizards that they kept in a cage together. We had to reason with Michael that the cage was the best place for the lizard. He wanted to have his lizard sleep on his pillow next to him.

Another time, when I was very small, the only pets we had were a big tank of fish. We thought that was pretty cool, though, and we loved going to the store to get new fish for our tank. We loved guppies, neon tetras, coolie lowches, and a 2-inch shark that lived a lot longer than the other fish. Then we discovered that we could buy newts for our tank, which was awesome, of course. The only problem with the newts was that they found a way to escape from the tank and got loose a fair amount. Sometimes we caught them and sometimes we didn't. Occasionally we would come across a dead newt while we were cleaning out closets and things.

The fish tank was in the room that I shared with my brother Tim. We were probably about five and three, and we were playing school. Since I'm older, I was the teacher. During Tim's early life, he had an obsession with dinosaurs. He knew all their big long latin names and he had a huge collection of plastic dinosaur toys and dinosaur books. We both happened to look up at the same time and we saw that one of the newts had escaped from the fish tank and was slowly making its way across our floor. I didn't have much time to register this before Tim jumped up with a shriek and ran out of the room, yelling "Mom, Mom! There's a baby dinosaur in my room!" Too bad we never had a real pet dinosaur. It would have made his whole childhood perfectly happy.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Nice memories! I think we should call the cat "omni" now.