I'm finding it extremely difficult to write my goodbye to my little (well, not so little) rattie man Holden, so edits may be made as different memories and such come to mind.
My best rattie friend, Holden, passed away early Wednesday morning. This is the last picture I had taken of him, taken three days before he passed... over last weekend when he became critially ill. (He was lying on my end table next to my couch... he made it clear that was where he wanted be). Maybe the cold slate felt good to him... I'm not sure.
I became Holden's Mom in August of 2006, when he was about 3 months old. It was love at first sight for us both. He had a tough first couple of months with me... including two surgeries. Holden had to have surgery to have a small cyst removed from the side of his face, requiring a few stitches which made him look like a "tough guy." And, as I didn't want Holden to live a life alone, and I had four rattie girls at home, and boys that wouldn't get along, I had him neutered. Then, he would be able to be introduced to and live with four girls. What a lucky guy! He healed up nicely, introductions went well, and he moved into a large cage with Gwen, Abby (I miss them a lot), Peanut, and CareBear. They all eventually passed on and he lived alone for a long while. I then introduced him to my rattie girl Izzy, that went wonderfully, so Izzy moved in. They were like two peas in a pod and very happy together. Then, just under one month ago, Izzy became ill quicly and passed away in my arms. Holden was grieving for his loss, but he was eating / drinking, and we were having lots of playtime.
Last Saturday morning, Holden seemed to be quite ill, but I wasn't certain if it warranted a trip to see Dr. Bock or not. As I have a lot of antibiotics and such at home, I started him on meds and yogurt (all he would eat, and only by licking it off my finger). As the weekend progressed, so did Holden's illness. He began sleeping in his cage beside my bed Saturday night... so that I could check on him easily, and I was coming home during lunch (earlier this week) to check on him as well.
Monday night when I got home from work, Holden was much worse. I called Dr. Bock (who's office was closing in about 5 mins. when we got off the phone). After hearing everything about what's going on he told me to come in right away, and Dr. Bock stayed at his clinic along with one of his Vet Techs. Holden had an exam, got a shot (B12) and two other meds (albuterol to help him breathe easier, and something to help slow down his heart rate as it was working too hard) via syringe down the throat... and he was in critical condition, but we were all hopeful.
From then on, Holden was kept in my bathroom w/ the vaporizor on... to try and assist his breathing... and also to keep him away from the rest of my "furkids." I was checking on him throughout the night and getting up at 4:30 in the morning so I'd have plenty of time to hold him / spend time with him before work.
Tuesday morning, Holden stopped eating his yogurt (which had his meds in it). He had also stopped drinking. (Over the weekend, I had started mixing Pedialyte in w/ his yogurt to try and help him with electrolytes and such.) This was a bad sign... once a rat stops eating, the situation is dire. When I got up Wednesday morning, Holden was in even worse shape... could hardly hold his head up for any length of time. I was watching him closely and had nearly come to the decision to take him to Dr. Bock during "drop-off" time and be there to help Holden pass away peacefully and calmly. This is the most painful decision for me to make for my pets, it hurts me so much I can barely function, but sometimes it's something I must decide to do, for my love of them. With Holden, however, the time came where I had to make up my mind for certain if we were going to get there early, and I looked at him and couldn't do it. I told him, "One more day, Holden... let's see about one more day."
I got ready for work in a hurry, as now I was going to be late, since I had a change in plans. I got ready so quickly I had 20 minutes to spare... 20 minutes to spend with Holden. I lifted him from his cage and we sat on the bathroom floor. Within five minutes of me holding him, he started gasping through his mouth, with his teeth clacking together. This, I know, means that he is starting the process of passing away. I started to cry and talk to him, I knew there was no turning back, that I was about to lose my Holden. A part of me, however, was relieved that he would be passing in my arms, where I could comfort him during his last moments. (Though this is extremely painful for me, I'm convinced it is helpful for them / him.)
We moved to the couch and he managed to climb up to my shoulder / neck, like how you hold a baby sometimes. This is where he wanted to be a lot of the time when he was sick over those few days... I'm not sure why. Maybe it was easier to breathe? Anyway... I held him there like a baby, petting his body and his head, rubbing his ears (something he LOVED... he'd close his eyes and just lie there), talking to him quietly, and crying. His gasping become slower, yet more labored, and I could feel his heartbeat (which had been beating really hard and fast since he became ill ) slowing down with his breaths. Then, 35 minutes after I picked him up out of his cage, at 7:46am Wed. 3/19, he took his last breaths (which I felt on my neck and broke my heart even further), and passed away.
I sat with him and held him for a while, then I wrapped him in a piece of his favorite blue terrycloth, and took him to Dr. Bock's office for cremation. Dr. Bock was visibly upset with the outcome, I think his heart broke a little too.
Holden, life here at home is not the same without you. You were the one who would greet me with your big eyes, at the side of your cage, when I'd arrive home. You were the one that I would greet first thing in the morning, and the one I'd hold everyday when I got home. You were the one I'd let walk on my kitchen countertops when I was getting food ready for the rest of the ratties. You were the one I'd talk to, like you actually knew what I was saying. *half grin* Because of those "talks," you knew all my secrets and such.
I miss seeing / feeling your whole body go limp... like a ragdoll in my hands, as I gently grabbed you to take you from your cage. You'd do this everytime... limp as can be. I miss hearing you / watching you eat your treats of dog biscuit. I miss your super soft fur and how good you smelled... like berries, sometimes more like grape kool-aid. I miss watching you waddle down the couch as we played... with me trying to coax you to run. I miss saying your name. I miss holding you up in my hands in front of my face, just to look at you and give you a quick smooch on the top of your head, as you looked back at me questionably. I miss your ears, and how you'd lie there and relax with me as long as I'd just stroke your ears and pet your head.
I miss your hands, how cute there were and how dexterious. Not to diminish my other rattie friends, but I had a special bond to you. You, Holden, were to me like a dog is to other people... just a teeny tiny one with a long tail that lived in a cage until I let him out. (Rats do have a nickname of "palm dogs," and that they can very much be.)
Holden, I miss you so very, very much. There are moments when I wonder if you took my smile with you, but then I'll realize it's still here, I'm just using it less often. You are forever here with me... (and I'll be holding on to your favorite toy ball). Thank you for choosing me too.
Love, your Mama