It looks like poor ScurvyRat may be down for the count this time. He bounced back well from his surgeries and seemed to be on the mend, but he started breathing funny a few nights ago, as if his nose was whistling, and yesterday he was much worse, having a hard time breathing with this awful-sounding clicking, mucousy noise. It's not uncommon for rats to develop pneumonia/respiratory trouble when they're older and stressed and recovering from other maladies, and that seems to be the case.
Last night was rough, as our local small-town vet wasn't comfortable treating him any more, since she doesn't deal with exotics at all, so we couldn't get him to a vet last night. I understand her position but it also pissed me off a bit, as she wouldn't even give him any antiobiotics, as she claimed that "antibiotics are tricky with rats". Again, understandable, but it's sort of desperate measures time, and if he's in bad enough shape to possibly die anyway (and his owners completely understand that), well, it seems like you should be willing to take a shot and give him some antibiotics.
So we hung out with him last night and fed him bananas and scratched him and all that stuff. He was a little sluggish and sick, but not totally out of it, and still has some appetite and wanted to run around. He just was having such a hard time breathing and obviously in distress. Broke my heart to put him back in his house for the night and turn out the lights, leaving him in the dark, barely able to breathe, and nothing to do for him.
He made it through the night, though, and seems about the same as he was. Still struggling to breathe but he ate some more bananas this morning for breakfast, and he's still able to get around and doesn't seem to have given up quite yet. We're taking him to a vet in Austin today, even though things look kind of grim. I'm not sure what they can do for our sick, old rat, but we want to give him a chance, even if it's a two outer, if he's stubborn enough to hang around like he has so far.
Which is a lot of verbiage about a wee little sick rat, but it's more a preamble than anything. Each time he's stepped in the neighborhood of death's door it's freaked me out and wrecked me more than I'd have ever imagined. My first reaction to the extent that it wrecks me is always "That's odd, I'm more upset by this than when my grandparents died. What sort of freak am I?"
And, to be completely blunt and honest, it's true. I am more upset at the thought of ScurvyRat kicking the bucket than I was when either of my grandparents died. I know that sounds inhuman and terrible on the surface, but it's true.
But it's a little more complicated, obviously. Both of my grandparents died fairly suddenly, within a few years of one another, and in each case it was almost better that they went when they did, instead of facing a pretty bleak life due to the condition they'd have been in (in one case a major stroke and in the other paralysis and other complications from lung surgery).
I'd moved away from Tennessee long ago when it happened, so the funerals were more surreal for me than anything else. I expected I'd be wrecked and devastated when it happened, but I never really was. And it never was sort of a delayed reaction sort of emotional response, as far as hitting me later. I was very close to them growing up, loved them very much, but was pretty firm in my belief at the time that they'd lived a long life, done lots of things, and largely made the most of their time on this spinning ball of earth.
Now, though, I realize I was a pretty shallow, guarded little man, which explained my reaction more than anything. It wasn't some sort of cosmic wheel of life philosophy that prevented me from getting emotionally upset; it was that I was scared to get close to anything, for fear it'd be taken away. Chalk that up to whatever you want (only child of divorced parents; way too many personal insecurities; way, way too many botched relationships) but the end result was that I distanced myself from pretty much everything in my life. I was nice enough to people, friendly enough, but I just didn't open myself up or let myself care about anything.
Which, really, is the reason that ScurvyRat's medical woes are affecting me so much. I pretty much associate him directly with my wife, as getting a rat was her idea, and we got him right after we were married. She's pretty much solely responsible for saving me from a life of guarded detachment, from living life from the sidelines, safely esconced in a PopeMobile, complete with two-inch thick bullet-proof glass.
It's kind of an odd path to self-realization, as far as sick rats being the impetus, but it's also hard to ignore. Honestly, a small part of me wishes at times that I could go back to living solely for myself, with no other responsibilites, no other attachments that can hurt me. But a growing part of me is starting to realize what a sad little life that is, risking nothing, hiding from everything. Getting punched in the nose may hurt but it's a hell of a lot better than engineering a safe little life where the possibility of getting punched in the nose is 0.87%.
So, if I cry like a little girl at the thought of ScurvyRat shuffling off this mortal coil, it's all her fault. And I probably can't ever properly thank her enough for that, despite how much it hurts like hell at times.