OK, so, to some, it might seem silly to spill tears over an elderly rat that isn't even ours, but this dear creature was one of my kids' first attachments to an animal. Indeed, it was rat-sitting that showed me how much my children would get out of having pets, oddly, especially Gabriel. Rats make terrific pets -- smart, social, don't smell, don't bite, very individual, some are trainable, great to play with, fairly allergenic if you're so inclined. And easy to sit for, though I lost that honored status when I adopted two young unknown cats.
So tonight we talked about euthanasia, what that means, how it happens. Gabriel immediately asked a very pointed and logical question: "Can humans do that?" I had to explain that euthanasia is a lot more complicated with humans, between laws and the Hippocratic oath and religious beliefs -- but now they know Oregon is a "special place." This led to yet more discussions about what mothers would do for their babies, how animals honor their babies' lives and humans do too, despite laws and religion and other such intellectual complications.
I saw Scabbers two days ago, and she sure was hurting....stumbling, having a hard time moving around. The kids and I talked about how Nature is, how animals in the wild have to be able to survive on their own or die, and that poor Scabbers would likely have died long ago if she weren't being fed and taken care of by humans.
It's amazing what great lessons animals are, though I made a silent prayer of thanks that our cats are so young and we won't have to experience that lesson first-hand for a while yet. Still, this little animal is responsible for a lot of discussion, affection, learning and experience -- quite a full life for a little rat!