Pet Rat Two: The Death of Amos

Amos died at three, old age for a rat. She was Gordy’s daughter. Gordy died in the prime of life when someone stepped on her head and cracked her skull, accidentally. Amos developed a giant growth on her side, which I read is common for rats in old age. I figured it was maybe time for her to go, but I wasn’t sure how people handled end of life decisions for pet rats. I would have felt ridiculous taking her to a vet to be euthanized. I carefully read the labels of rat poisons, and a guy at the store recommended one that would kill rats deader than shit. When I told him it was for a pet, his attitude transformed completely. It always struck me funny that combining the word pet with rat could make a guy so viciously eager to play his indirect role in supplying me with poison to burn a rat alive from the inside out, or however rat poison works, instantly passionately concerned about the comfort level of the same animal, a rat.

I’m not sure if I was going to figure out what to do or if I was just letting the clock run out as long as she didn’t seem to be in too much pain or too uncomfortable dragging around this giant tumor off her hip, but I returned home from a weekend to find her dead in her cage.

When her mother, Gordy, died, tragically, accidentally, we buried her in the Olentangy river, and I knew Amos should sink into those same waters. For Gordy’s funeral, we put together this service in an unplanned flurry of activity. I don’t recall any discussion. Our loved pet had died and this motion had us suddenly gathered at the peak of a bridge over the river in this surreal moment that most of us, men around twenty peering over that rail watching that rat casket descend, can vividly recall now twenty years later. Gordy’s funeral accomplished everything a bereavement service has the power to accomplish. We felt shocked and sorry to lose our pet, we felt sad and said goodbye, and we left the bridge invigorated and thrilled to be alive. We really did, crazy as it must sound, I wrote about Gordy’s funeral, if you’d like to check it out, in another post:

I wanted to duplicate that moment for Amos and recreate it for me. I put Amos in a casket and carried her to that same spot on the bridge. That summer I had the habit of taking long, slow walks, more like strolls, around campus, listening to Yanni, and questioning the difference between being awake and being in a dream, so it wasn’t difficult for me to get in an appropriate spiritual mood for a funeral. I said goodbye and dropped her in. I wanted her to slowly sink out of sight, which is why I had placed her in a sealed plastic carton, but the seal was air tight. She splashed against the surface of the water but wasn’t going anywhere. Trying to improve on Gordy’s descent, which was really us watching a box sink, I had the great idea of putting Amos in a clear plastic box, so she was staring up at me, stiff, with her dead eyes.

The Olentangy isn’t exactly white water, that river is so still it will appear to flow both ways. The surface water will flow against the current when the wind is right. It’s also fairly wide and Amos was smack in the middle. I felt a panicky helplessness. The sun was already setting. My first thought was that I simply had to figure out a solution to this disaster, and then the thought evaporated. It was the worst funeral ever but funerals of loved ones, or loved pets, usually do suck. Gordy’s was a rare exception. So I shrugged and walked home. I knew someone would one day find her, and someone probably did, and they would be shocked and then wonder how a rat got in a sealed box. They would never know she had been a pet.


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