by Stephanie Cameron
When people think to adopt from a rescue, what some may not realize is that for every animal adopted, there are many more still in foster care and some of these animals may never leave the rescue. Groups such as Rattie Ratz, a non-profit dedicated to rescuing and rehoming domestic pet rats in the San Francisco Bay Area, developed a sanctuary program so that these animals will always be safe and taken care of, even if they can’t find a home outside the rescue.
Sometimes a rat is under-socialized or mistreated. As a result, this animal may be skittish and aggressive, or it may have an extreme medical condition like cancer, megacolon or pituitary tumor. These are the type of rats that are usually placed in the Rattie Ratz sanctuary program. Once a rat is in this situation, it is placed with a rescue volunteer who will love and care for them for the rest of the animal’s life, while giving it the specialized treatment they need. Even though Rattie Ratz has a sanctuary program, their goal as a rescue is for even these sanctuary rats to find a loving forever home. Every once in a while, a very special person comes along who is not only willing but is excited to adopt a “special needs” rat.
One such adopter is Hilary, a lovely woman who has been adopting “special needs” rats from Rattie Ratz for the last 3-4 years. The below is a touching narrative of Hilary’s experience caring for these rats.
I have been an animal lover my entire life. My first set of rats were sisters and I remember how amazed I was that they would just ride around on my shoulders all day. Fast forward to rescuing a bit of everything, including field mice that lost their mom and which I bottle fed. I even saved a goat that was set for meat and now lives in the lap of luxury as my baby. I have one child and an amazing wife who loves animals and tolerates every story I share about why another animal needs my help.
Fast forward through my career. I am a RN with a Masters degree and I work high-stress jobs, so animals have always been my safe space. Growing up in an unsecure environment, my pets have always been my best friends, who I trusted more than anything. In my nursing career I passed through many places prior to finding my specialty and have worked the last 13 years in hospice. It is something most people don’t understand and can’t imagine, but which brings me great joy and understanding of how creatures, human or not, need love and comfort at the end of life.
This led me to my first true medical case with Rattie Ratz. I was interested in adopting and found a baby online with megacolon. As a nurse I knew what this meant for humans, but not for rats. Turns out it is the same. The colon gets boggy, they need a special diet and you MUST make sure they are using the bathroom daily.
The first day I did the necessary enema treatment for this little guy AND IT WORKED, I felt I could conquer anything! Templeton was THE BEST rat I’ve ever had and although – just like hospice patients – they all need you, but he had this amazing appreciation that was palpable in his love for me. We had a bond like no other. I had him about a year, which was amazing for his condition, and he died with me at home knowing love and that I would do anything to make him safe and heathy. Since then I’ve had babies with issues, including the Jonas brothers. They were shy, and one to this day is still a biter, but I love them!
Whether the problems are medical or behavioral, I have put my years of rescue experience, years of love, and years of nursing into giving these babies their forever homes where nothing is expected except to just live their best life. We keep them forever. If I take a family member in, it is for life. I continue to help where needed, but I feel proud I can do medical cases that others may not be able to handle. They get a forever home, but selfishly the pleasure and joy really IS all mine.
I thank Rattie Ratz for entrusting me with some of the toughest cases and am proud to say I am a home for rats that otherwise may stay in foster care because they are hard cases. I am blessed twice as much as the rats. They know they have a forever home, BUT I KNOW I made the difference in their entire lives and that is the best feeling you could ask for.
Rattie Ratz knows my door is always open and there is no case too hard. If you have ever considered adoption or fostering, this is an amazing agency to work with. If you haven’t had pet rats… well then you just haven’t lived, because you will be amazed at the personality each one has and the love each one gives!
Thank you everyone for letting me share my story.
Hilary P Miller RN“
If you would like to know more about Rattie Ratz Rescue you can visit their Facebook page. If you are interested in adoptable rats or volunteering for Rattie Ratz Rescue you can visit their website: www.rattieratz.com.
Check out more animal rescue stories in our Pet Perspective section & watch for more stories from Rattie Ratz every other month. You can also keep up with our pet articles by joining our KRL Facebook group. Advertise in KRL and 10% of your advertising fees can go to Rattie Ratz.
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