Not lost, but gone before
The Winnie Memorial Doorway, with Zuzu upstairs, Nelly downstairs (first picture), Zuzu and Nelly together (second picture). This was the first of my Memorial Doorways.
The basic door is 10-mesh plastic canvas. It is on the right side of the cage, leading to the Biggest Aquarium and the entrancing patch of cat-free floor behind it.
Winnie (August 2001 - 30 May 2003) was the second rat I acquired, but the first to go.
The Miranda Memorial Doorway. This is the door the rats use most often: on the left side of the cage, leading to the Backup Cage and Zuzu’s ramp.
Miranda turned three at the end of February 2004, and died in early May. So she outlived younger sister Winnie by almost a year.
The Harpo Memorial Doorway is on the right side of the Backup Cage, facing the main cage. The door required some special structural work so it wouldn’t be obscured by the cage lid.
Harpo died less than a month before his second birthday, from lung problems that went untreated too long. He died the day after Miranda. It was a sad weekend.
The Eepers’ Memorial Doorway is the only memorial door that is at the front of a cage. I made this one in the Backup Cage for ease of access when spot-cleaning, but the rats soon showed me that it was another good delivery point for treats.
The eepers didn’t live long enough to get names, or even to have their pictures taken. At one point I marked them on their lower backs, so they were Circle Eeper, Triangle Eeper and Square Eeper.
The Story of the Eepers
A woman turned on her oven, whereupon a mama rat emerged and headed for the hills, leaving her two-day-old babies. The woman didn’t know what else to do, so she brought the three little pinkies to the Humane Society. I took them home in my shirt pocket.
They had just gotten the dark skin that showed they would be agouti adults. They were deaf, blind and hairless, but they had whiskers visible from certain angles, and the world’s tiniest claws and tongues.
They lived from two to three days after I took them home. I cried more when they died than I had done for Miranda and Harpo earlier the same month.
The Franny Memorial Doorway is on the top level of the Big Cage, above Miranda’s doorway. The script matches Franny’s dainty face and figure. She was the first in a series of petite girls.
Franny (February 2002 - 24 June 2004) should have lived to be over three, like Miranda. She was perky and lively, healthier than Miranda had been at the same age... and then she got liver cancer, and was gone within two weeks after I first suspected she wasn’t feeling well. She was two years and five months old.
The Cinnamon Memorial Doorway is on the left side of the Backup Cage—a door that Cinnamon rarely used herself, but popular with anyone venturing toward the ramp and sleeping bag.
Cinnamon (d. 19 November 2004) was with me for a shorter time than any other adult—six months almost to the day. I will never know what she died of; she was gone before I even realized how sick she was.
The Zuzu Memorial at the front of the cage.
I thought Zuzu, officially Isabelle (July 2002 - 12 January 2005), would live forever, but then almost overnight she became an old rat. Intelligent to the end, she chose to move into the Backup Cage, with its shallower ramps and heated basement.
The Nelly Memorial, side by side with Zuzu’s.
I grieved more over Nelly (d. 26 April 2005) than any of my other rats. She has a page of her own.
The Rocky memorial, outside the rats’ main bedroom.
Rocky’s explorations took her further and further. At last came the time she was away from home for three days, letting me catch only glimpses of her before she took off again. When she decided to come home she went straight for the water bottle. The next day she wasn’t feeling so well; I put it down to a slight injury in one front paw. The next morning she was dying. I rushed her to the vet, but IV fluids and an incubator couldn’t save her.
She died on 17 January 2006. She was only six months old.
The Booboo memorial, near the top of the Backup Cage where it helps screen the upstairs bedroom from light and drafts.
As time went by Booboo—officially Beatrice (early February 2002 - 18 November 2005) became my dark horse. Because of her build, I always expected her to die young, like Winnie. Instead she hung on for two years and eight months, longer than anyone but Miranda.
The Malcolm Memorial.
Near the end of his life Malcolm (d. 20 March 2005) became partly paralyzed, as elderly male rats often do. But he made it plain that he had no interest in retiring to the snug, heated backup cage; he insisted on staying in the hammock with the girls. Luckily Leela was an inveterate stasher, so he always had food, though I had to give him the occasional fluid injection to keep him bright-eyed and happy.
The Xena Memorial Doorway. Long after the other rats had gone on to free-hanging memorials, I held this doorway in reserve for Xena because the actual door was cut out for her benefit, two and a half years earlier when she was a shy little rat who liked to hide behind the Big Cage.
During her second year of life Xena had one respiratory infection after another; they cleared up just long enough to let her have two tumor surgeries, removing three tumors. The next year she had more surgery, finding a total of eight small tumors.
In spite of this, she remained stout and strong, weighing in at close to a pound, and made it to two and a half (early January 2004 - 30 July 2006).
Thomasina (December 2005 - 27 July 2006) was diabetic, and barely passed six months.
Her sister Susanna (d. 7 September 2007) had a comparatively full healthy life. In spite of their different colors and sizes you could always tell they were sisters. Both were dumbos: Thomasina a muted fawn, Susanna a creamy beige.
Sadly, Leela and Nyssa’s phenomenal size was accompanied by horrible tumors. Nyssa (end of January 2005 - 25 January 2007) responded so badly to surgery that after the second time, I knew I couldn’t risk it again. She died the night after I’d decided it was time to have her put to sleep.
A month later, Leela (d. 19 February 2007) had to be sent on the same one-way trip. Their memorials hang side by side at the front of the Big Cage.
The Annabelle Memorial, at the front of the Big Cage where it helps screen the litter boxes.
Some rats become more social in old age. Annabelle (June 2006 - 29 January 2009) never did. So instead of leaving her in the cage with her roommates, I took her to bed with me the last few nights. I was with her when she died.
The Teddy Memorial, side by side with Annabelle’s.
Teddy (early July 2006 - 6 April 2009) was a big squish, but he was never lazy or timid. Only days before he died, he was running around on the floor near the cage, making sure the cats knew their limits. He reached a grand age, two years and nine months—more than anyone but Miranda.
The Yancey Memorial, at the front of the big cage.
Yancey (early March? 2007 - 8 November 2009) didn’t really come into his own until late in life. After Jock and Teddy died, he became the elder statesman of the mischief—less skittish, more demonstrative in his final months. He died quietly, on the very last night before I was to move into a new apartment. So he was buried with Leela and his other old friends.
The Jock Memorial, side by side with Yancey’s.
Jock (early February 2007 - 6 April 2009) had a full life, but his rough start eventually caught up with him. He started developing respiratory problems, and may even have had a heart attack one night. He died within 24 hours of Teddy—the second of three times this has happened, always for unconnected reasons.
The Katie Memorial. I had to retouch the photo because the real thing is so scruffy. It’s on a top front corner of the Backup Cage, a perfect location for the cats to flex their claws.
Katie (March 2009 - 27 May 2009) had a fatal accident when she was only a few months old.
The Penelope Memorial, around the corner from Katie’s.
Penelope (April 2009 - 7 June 2009) was Katie’s “replacement” to keep the mischief’s numbers up. Heartbreakingly, she too died within a few weeks.
Shortly after I moved to a new apartment, I got up one day to find Grace (August 2007 - 5 February 2010) sitting on a kitchen shelf, looking very bewildered. After that she decided to stick with the cage in its new home. A few months later, she was the first rat to die and be buried in the new place.