Monday, March 15, 2010

Angel of Mercy

Death is imminent.

Surely, it will come swiftly. Tonight. And yet, Charlie and I have been whispering this mantra to one another under cover of darkness while peeking through the slats of the boys' rat cage every night for months now, with no change.

We think it's Ratsy who's so sick. But it could be Speedy; it's really hard to remember which is which. (And yes, we are appropriately ashamed at the lack of creativity displayed by our children in the rat-naming department.) At any rate, it's not good. The thing has some sort of tumor. And although she oddly never seems to show any sign of pain, her chest bulges with an unnatural growth. Her eyes sometimes bleed. She's losing fur. And I'm sparing you the truly disturbing details.

Every morning, we brace for her departure from this world. And every damn day, she's still alive. Yes, in a world desperately short on miracles,this single, (ugly), insignificant rat is continually spared its logical, due fate. Why? What's the cosmic joke? We have no answers, opting instead to beg in one, united voice:

Good God rat, die, will you? Die.

The boys worry over her. They ask if we can transport her to a vet. They rail at the unfairness of a universe that does not value rodent health care. They go all Erin Brockovich on me, asking about our air quality and wondering aloud about lead poisoning in the paint on her rat igloo. And still she lives.

And lives.

And lives.

She's starting to smell a bit. She drinks copious amounts of water (isn't that--please Lord--a sign of liver failure?). She stares at me listlessly while I hum Spamalot's Not Dead Yet just in her range of hearing (assuming she can still hear) while putting away laundry.

Don't get me wrong. I'm an advocate of animals. You won't find a more dedicated animal lover. But I'm an even stronger advocate of mercy. (The swifter the better, in this case.) Say what you will about Dr. Kavorkian: you haven't sat bedside at a rat vigil for four months. (It's not nearly as romantic as it sounds.) And so we mulled over our 'options' (all rat versions of taking her out behind the barn and shooting her), and have (almost) decided on one. We might (accidentally and not at all on purpose) release her into the field by our house to meet her maker one way or another.

I know, I know. It's so passive. So weak, and dare I say? So yeller. We've gone soft here in the suburbs. Even so, we can't quite pull the trigger. And with our luck, she'd probably crawl her way back home anyway, where she'd live another eight years.

And so we wait. And in the meantime, we ask you all: if--hypothetically speaking of course--you found yourself needing to...eliminate...a rat, how--in theory--would you go about it, do you think?

(Please be precise.)
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