A year in the life of our Miss Riley


We’re coming up on a very tough time of year for me. Three years ago on June 20th, we lost Xander. Riley’s one-year is coming up a month later, July 22nd. It only hurts when I think about them, but I miss them every day, and their loss is a hole in my heart.

I’ve customized my Facebook Memories to not show me anything from June 10th to August 31st. When the Memories first started popping up, they were a mostly nice surprise — a photo of Riley would pop up and I’d remember the circumstances surrounding taking the photo. But recently, it got into posts about Xander not eating, or Riley getting fussy about food. I relive these moments often enough without Facebook reminding me.

Today is World Pet Memorial Day, so I’ll remember them all.

Riley, my Princess Miss. Xander my protective bruiser. Penny, the cat who came to stay for a while. Daisy, my in-laws’ gorgeous Golden. Chase, my dad’s sweet greyhound. Percy, my first escape artist rat. Gryphon, Galileo, and Byron, the inquisitive but more introverted rats who followed. Kerwyn, the mouse who would keep me up at night running in his wheel. Darwin, the frog that came to me in college from a head of lettuce. Tommy & Tuppence, nun finches who cheered me with their songs and died way too soon. My seventh grade science teacher’s menagerie — Tootsie the ferret, who pooped in my desk; Toby the turtle, who also pooped in my desk; Chip and Dale the chipmunks; the tree frogs my mother almost killed the year I was allowed to bring them home over the holidays and had to leave them in her care for 2 days. ¬†Mickey, the hamster who would eat the seeds from my watermelon. Teddy, my childhood poodle to whom my grandfather would sneak beer.

I am grateful to all of these creatures, who brought love and laughter into my life.

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Throwback Thursday: Percy


Meet Percy. He was my first-ever pet rat (I’ve had 5), and I got him under rather unusual circumstances: one of my college roommates had a boa constrictor and Percy (and his littermate Darcy) were actually intended to be snake food. The snake (which for some reason was named Baby even though he was freaking huge) was in a somewhat dormant period and didn’t want to eat. My roommate handed the box of rats to me and said, “You need to keep these in your room, or I’ll never be able to feed them to Baby.”

I have no idea what made her think I would be able to hand over rats I’d met, but the next day, I handed her money and told her to get new rats when Baby wanted to eat and under no circumstances was I to ever meet them.

Darcy, sadly, didn’t last the week. Percy almost didn’t either, but I found a small animal vet who was able to save him: he had pneumonia (Darcy had it too) and would be on tetracycline off and on for all of his life (hence the eye droppers in the shot glass in the photo). But in spite of that, he was a smart and happy rat, the first and finest of the rats I cared for over the years.

He would climb all over my bedroom, then curl up in my lap while I was studying. He wouldn’t run in his wheel; instead he’d lay across it with his food. The routine was go to his bowl, pick out a morsel, then go to the wheel to sit and eat it, repeat. When I wasn’t at college, but I wasn’t with him, he became Houdini. He used to break out of his tank and apparently go looking for me. Once he did it when our house was filled with boxes as we prepared to move, and my mother despaired of ever finding him again, but he came out and sat by his tank, waiting to be given ice water, as if it was perfectly normal for him to go on walkabout.

Apparently I have a history of pets with extremely strong wills!

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