My daughter, Trevor, has 2 pet rats: Salazar and Rowena. Sometimes I call Rowena "Ro." Trevor got Salazar first and then Rowena. Trevor is a huge Harry Potter fan (known as a “Potterhead”) and so Trevor wanted to get 4 rats named after the four founders of the houses of Hogwarts: Salazar Slytherin, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff and Godric Gryffindor. So far, we just have Salazar and Rowena. Rowena is currently 1 ½ years old.
We all love the ratties. Both my husband and I each had a pet rat when we were younger, so a pet rat is not unknown to us. We have all enjoyed their company, their quirks, their curiosities and their personalities. Rowena is certainly different from Salazar, even in the foods he eats! And while Rowena is female in the HP fandom, this Rowena we have is a male.
One of the things we do when the rats are out of their cages is allow them to wander around on the computer desk while someone is working there. They either walk around on the desk or sit on our lap or hang out on our shoulder as we are at work on the computer. There are MANY times I have been at the desk writing while one of the rats was just chilling out near the keyboard or on my shoulder. (They LOVED going into the hood of my hoodie!) We often played classical music for them via Youtube on the computer while we had another window open with whatever we were working on.
This is how it was a few weeks ago, when I was writing on the computer, Beethoven was playing on the speaker, and Rowena was chilling out near the console. But at one point I stopped typing and looked at him. He didn’t look right while he was breathing. I called Trevor over and asked, “Is he supposed to be breathing like that?” He was really struggling to breathe, his whole chest huffing and puffing. Trevor examined him and assumed he was fine. I assumed he was okay, too, but still, I worried.
A few days later, Trevor informed me that she’d made an appointment for Rowena to see the vet. She did say she was concerned about his breathing but he was also acting lethargic, barely eating, barely drinking and not taking interest in anything. So we took Rowena to the vet.
And we got some bad news.
The vet who examined him said that Rowena either had a harsh case of pneumonia or cancer. The pneumonia was treatable, but the cancer? Well, they could try giving him medical care for it, but if it was cancer, it would spread quickly and Rowena would suffer before being cured – if that was even a possibility. (I didn’t know rats could even get cancer!) We could give Rowena antibiotics to treat the pneumonia, but if he wasn’t better in a few days, that meant it was cancer. And if it WAS cancer, it was decided that he would be put down.
We were both very upset about this. We both sat there crying and just trying to process WHY this was happening. Rowena was so young. I DID NOT like the idea of putting him down at such a young age.
So we took Rowena back home and started him on the antibiotics. He refused to drink the water that the medicine was in so I had to hold him while Trevor made him drink the water. She told me that I’d have to do this again tomorrow while she was at school. The plan was to give him the medicine water 4 times a day.
So that’s what we did. And we waited.
Thankfully, the next day, Rowena did not put up a fight when I had to give him the water. In fact, he drank it down greedily. I texted Trevor about this and she started to feel hopeful that that meant he was getting better.
And, well, he WAS – for a while. The only problem was, the breathing problem continued. I guessed it would just take a little while longer for that to clear up.
But the Day of Reckoning came. The day that would determine if Rowena had pneumonia or cancer.
But since we saw an improvement, we surmised it must not be cancer. He WAS getting better. He was moving around AND eating again.
Then sometime after THAT, I found Trevor in her room with a Q-tip in hand and removing stuff from Rowena’s ear. Later, she told me there was pus coming out of Rowena’s ear. It was his right ear. And on the right side of his head was a tiny bump.
Now, I didn’t know about this, but when we were at the vet, the vet DID see the bump and mentioned it to Trevor. They did talk about it but I don’t remember exactly what was said. I am not sure if even “tumor” was brought up here.
But now that it was a topic of discussion again, and I was more aware of it now, we did consider the possibility that the bump was a tumor. And if it was leaking pus, that was Very Bad.
So we were back to keeping a watchful eye on Rowena. Meanwhile, he was still drinking the medicine water — and still having breathing problems. And now, at this point, he was starting to take a turn for the worse. Again. He once again refused to eat, became very weak and he even appeared disoriented.
We started to assume that at this point, the bump must be a tumor and that Rowena likely had cancer. I did think it might’ve been an abscess, but I was not sure if that was possible with pus coming out of his ear.
So it was decided that Rowena would be put down. Trevor called the vet and the appointment was set. We were all really saddened, stressed out and even a little angry. But we mostly kept it together as we made our last days with our little furry friend count.
Today was supposed to be the day that Rowena died. Today would have been the last day that Rowena lived.
It was a pretty sad day for a while there. I mean, the day started out good – even though it was Day 2 that my son was home from school, still sick – but it started good and then the reality of The Day set in and I started feeling pretty sad. I spent some time with Rowena. I was saddened that this was his last day alive and I just prayed for him a lot. Jesse spent time with him, too, since he was at home. We took him outside so he could experience some sunshine and walk around in the grass and explore underneath Trevor’s tree. We took A LOT of pictures. I also set up the paper bag on the table for him so he could hunker inside there (something he always loved to do) and I also let him explore a shelf of one of the bookcases. (He’s always so curious about books!) Then I just sat with him on my chest, petting him and telling him how much we loved him and that we would miss him.
Basically, I just said goodbye to him.
Jesse spent time with him, too. He held Rowena and talked to him. He made a paper heart colored red that said "goodbye" on it. He played some Beethoven music for Ro at the desk and also allowed him to walk along the keys on the keyboard so he could "write" something just like we do. (He wrote a very interesting something!)
Then the time came when Trevor and her dad got home and Trevor got him ready to go to the vet. We spent time with him together giving him cuddles and saying goodbye. We took more pictures, too. It was a very sad time.
After they left, Jesse went to play a game on the computer and I went into the bathroom to cry. (I don’t like crying in front of the kids and I knew I had to be strong for them, especially Trevor, who would hurt the most from this.) Then I came out of the bathroom thinking I was done crying but after I sat on the couch, more tears came to my eyes and I very discreetly cried a little more. I sat there pretending I was watching TV but I was really thinking about Rowena and crying about the situation.
Then I got a text message that stopped my tears. It was from Trevor. The message was in all caps – that’s the first thing I noticed – and there were 4 of them in total. I opened them and started reading. And I started to get excited and crying out with joy.
Apparently, Rowena was examined by another vet, and he DID NOT have cancer! The bump on his head WAS an abscess!! He also had an ear infection, a respiratory infection, AND some kind of skin infection. He was pretty much REALLY sick but not deathly ill. He COULD be treated! HE WOULD LIVE!!
Trevor told me they were draining the abscess and starting Rowena on antibiotics to treat the infections AND help with the pain he was in. And they were going to be sending Rowena back home – ALIVE.
I was just so very, very grateful. I kept saying “Thank you, God!” and I was so relieved and just HAPPY that Rowena would live. There was just so much gratitude and relief and joy I felt at that time.
I was excited to see Rowena again when he was brought home, alive, and looked a lot better now that the bump was gone. He still had breathing trouble, but he was moving around more now. I once again helped when Trevor administered antibiotics and I reminded Trevor to keep tabs on when we had to give him the medicines again and also when he’d received medicine.
But Rowena is still with us. He is still in our family. That is two times that he dodged the bullet. They say “third strike and you’re out” and I hope it will be a very long time before Death comes knocking for a third attempt to take Rowena away. In the meantime, we are going to cherish his presence in our lives even more and appreciate his company. I am so thankful he is still here!