Saturday, November 19, 2016

#15 - Adopt an Animal from a Shelter

Rats! I got two of them today. Meet Nasdaq (the albino) and Dow Jones (the hooded). Here is my friend Lindsay holding them. She'd never held rats before, and despite being a real animal lover, had her reservations at first. 

I have to admit, I don't blame her because, hell... they're rats. I think most people probably have an innate aversion at least to some degree because we probably carry in our genes the warning that, "hey, that thing harbours the plague!" and even if today they don't carry horrific deadly diseases, anything that calls an industrial garbage bin its natural habitat is unlikely to be thought well of by the human race... but these are fancy rats, which means they've been selectively bred for over a century and are many, many, many generations removed from wild rats (or, as I like to think of them, "thug rats,") and are thus much more sophisticated, high brow, and cultured. 

My two guys are brothers (no need to guess about a rat's gender - the females are significantly smaller and lack the absolutely massive scrotums the boys' have at the base of their tails. Unfortunate, but true.) I decided on male rats because they're known to be more docile/affectionate and less "busy" than the females, who tend to want to spend more time running around and playing with each other as opposed to curling up on their human's lap. I also decided to get two instead of just one (despite the very real awareness that this makes me, by definition, a "crazy rat lady," because rats are incredibly social animals that normally live in packs, or colonies, and since I spend a lot of time out of the house most days, I think it would be cruel to leave one of them alone for long stretches of time. However, they still require human attention/affection, much like dogs and cats do, which means when I'm home in the evenings I'll be taking them out of their cage to play with them and let them snuggle into my hoodie while I'm studying. I'm also looking forward to the possibility of training them to come on command (rats learn their names and can learn many of the same tricks that dogs can). 

I've always wanted to adopt an animal from a shelter (or "rescue" as some like to say to make themselves feel extra heroic) because there are so many animals of all kinds (cats, dogs, bunnies, hamsters, cockateels, and the list goes on) that are in need of homes because people gets pets and then treat them like any other "thing" you can buy at Walmart and then toss when they get tired of them or find they actually require some work and attention. The Vancouver Animal Shelter has quite a few animals for adoption right now, and, of course, so do other shelters, rescue organizations, and the SPCA. 
On the wall at the Vancouver Animal Shelter

But do you know how easy it is to get a couple of pet rats compared to say, a dog? 

I decided, like, yesterday that I thought it would be cool to have a pet rat. All you have do is walk into the shelter, find the rodent room, pick out the cutest ones (but let's be honest, rats are all clones of each other, so any two will do), sign a couple of papers, hand over $5 for each of them, and leave. You can be the proud owner of a couple of fancy rats less than an hour after coming up with the idea. Want a dog? Expect paperwork comparable to that of adopting a child. And fees that are also a lot higher than for a pocket-sized furry friend. A purebred dog from a breeder will cost about the same as a used Toyota. My rats, with tax, cost me less than a six pack of beer. 

Why don't more people get rats as pets? They're as intelligent, trainable, and affectionate as dogs, but are totally quiet, litter trainable, and don't require exercising. And unlike hamsters, gerbils, and even guinea pigs, rats are least likely of all rodents to bite. They actually enjoy being handled, which means they're great first pets for kids. I know hamsters are infinitely cuter (my mother says my rats' tails give her "the willies"), but as the shelter worker said when she was showing me an absolutely adorable little dwarf hamster this afternoon, these little bastards can and will draw blood. He's actually bitten everyone who's tried to touch him. Who wants that? Hamsters are like rattle snakes packaged in bite-sized bundles of adorable, while rats are like labrador retriever puppies packaged in hateful bodies with eyes that say, "come closer and let me suck out your soul." At least the albino ones are. Poor little guys. They just want to be loved, but damn, Nasdaq's freaky eyes are going to take some getting used to. 

Anyway, another item off the bucket list. This one rather suddenly, and without too much forethought, but sometimes life is like that. One day you're just living your rodent-free life, and the next you're sleeping with a couple of rats not three feet from your bed. (I'm going to be single forever, aren't I?)

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