Sunday, June 20, 2010


So what has been going on in my little world during my break from blogging? It is hard to know where to start but this will do for today.
I have blogged in the past about our lone representative of the mammal group in our Living Collections at the Nature Museum, Scabbers.

Scabbers the rat came to join our animal family on September 11th 2008. I had read about what great animals they were and how smart and affectionate they were but even I was impressed with this guy. I had also read about the very short life span of rats and how if they go beyond two years that is a bonus, so as the months flicked past Jamie and I started having discussions about the fateful day when it came and how we would deal with it.

When I left for Morocco I said to Jamie, maybe Scabbers could choose his time when I was away, that way I could avoid the trauma! Not being super mean to Jamie but Scabbers was very much a one woman rat, and I was that woman. So I figured being eminently more sensible than me she would be far less likely to be reduced to a weeping wreck than me! But of course life (and death) never tends to go to schedule and one week after my return, my dear sweet friend Scabbers had some kind of a stroke or something overnight and when we came in the next morning he was unable to move the left side of his body. Well tears or not, my job is my job, so Jamie and I immediately headed off to the vets, knowing in our heart of hearts that this was a one way trip for one member of our group and after using many Kleenex we said goodbye to our little rodent buddy.

Scabbers, during his brief time at the Museum had become an extremely popular character and would often attend meetings, sitting happily on my shoulder, greet visiting VIP's and take trips to local schools with members of the education department. One price he had to pay for his celebrity status was an occasional bath. Boy rats can get a little pungent sometimes! They are clean animals, they just have a rather distinctive scent! But even the bathing was taken in good grace. (This is his best 'Mom do we have to do this?' face.)

But he endured it, largely, I suspect because he got a big cuddle in a nice warm, snuggly towel afterwards!

When we returned from the vets I sent out a brief all staff email explaining what had happened and then we were barraged with emails and phone calls from all his friends - lots more Kleenex were used!
We let our emotions heal for a few weeks and then, sure enough, questions started getting asked about 'another Scabbers.'
Jamie and I shop at a local pet store once a week to pick up various live food items and other small bits and pieces and before we found Scabbers we had never seen a 'natural' coloured rat there. I would regularly look at the rats each week after we bought him too and they were always fancy coloured ones that looked nothing like him. So we went on our weekly trip to the store and, for the first time since we lost Scabbers I went and checked out the rats. I suppose you could call it fate or just plain old random luck but I looked in the tank and there he was.

Scabbers 2 looking back at me, large as life! Same grey black colour, same little white feet, same white belly. The only difference was a tiny little white dot on the top of his head!

I called Jamie over and she started to laugh. It was just too big a coincidence!
One lesson we had learned from having Scabbers was that rats really enjoy having a friend and we were in luck there too.

Well you know were this is heading don't you? We headed back to the Museum with not one but two new little friends! Diesel and Spike, the latest additions to the menagerie!
When they first arrived they were clearly still quite young and rather nervous little guys so we kept them in there two story cage for a week or so just so that they could get used to the new sights, sounds and smells around them but I was anxious to open it up so that they could start to have the free range of the area of the lab that had previously been Scabbers domain. When I first opened the cage up they were definitely too scared to come out but gradually each day they started to explore. Diesel (the Scabbers double) is definitely the bravest of the two and always first to do everything. I suspect Spike will play more of a companion role going forward, as he definitely prefers the safety of his cage.

As the weeks have gone by Diesel has certainly come out of his shell in no uncertain terms! When I come in in the morning he is waiting for me. He rides around on my shoulder as we do our rounds to check all the other animals. When I sit down to switch on my computer he likes to climb off my shoulder and run up and down the back of my chair.

Then as I start to type he climbs back onto my shoulder and carefully makes his way down my arm onto my desk.

I don't have a mouse pad, I have a rodent pad!

We check for phone messages.........

And then when the business is out of the way it is time for a spot of breakfast. So we go to the fridge to choose what type of fruit or veggie we would like. And before you freak out about a rat in the fridge, this fridge is used for storing animal food supplies only!

When breakfast has been selected and consumed

It is time to kick back and relax for a while to sleep it off

And then cuddle up with the best buddy, Spike.

Both Diesel and Spike have started to earn their keep now by doing public programs for our Museum visitors and needless to say, they are a hugely popular double act.
I think it would be fair to say that Scabbers has found a worthy successor and we have acquired double the fun and or trouble depending on which way you look at it.

Photo Credits - CJT


Kathiesbirds said...

Celeste, I am so sorry for the loss of your Scabbers! Life seemed to think you needed a deluge of sorrow in your life! Well, it looks like you have been rewarded and comforted by a double dose of rodent love! I have to say that rats are NOT my favorite living things but I am glad they make you and others smile. I like the light-grey colored one the best. If I ever get to visit you, you will have to help me get used to them. I'd rather hold a snake, thanks!

Rambling Woods said...

Oh Celeste..I am so sorry and we too have made that trip twice with our pet rats and it is so hard to say good-by to such a really good pet friend. Gosh they don't live long, but are so wonderful...I will miss reading about him ....Michelle