Thursday, December 11, 2014

Living With Rodents: Part One

Babysitting Rodents

Anyone who knows me knows I do not like rodents. If you are going on vacation, do not ask me to babysit your rodent.

I once agreed to babysit the rodent of an extended family member while they were on vacation. I thought it would be a pretty easy gig. That is why I said yes without consulting Jeremy.

Jeremy may have seen the writing on the wall beforehand regarding the babysitting of this rodent. I told him that we were babysitting the rodent, but not to worry because I would be doing all of the work.

Jeremy looked askance. He asked that the rodent's cage to be placed far from sleeping and eating areas. He was concerned about the odor and allergens involved with babysitting a rodent.

One of the things I did not anticipate was that this previously healthy rodent had become quite ill. The onset of the rodent disease process predated the babysitting. It had nothing to do with me.

The extended family members went on vacation, leaving the rodent in my care. They were a little bit concerned about the health status of the rodent. But they were not worried enough to change their vacation plans. They were also not worried enough to take the rodent with them on vacation, even though I think they could have shown this rodent a very good time.

I took a gander at this sick rodent. I was worried about the rodent passing away while I was babysitting. I did not want to have to make that kind of phone call.

No one likes making these calls. I rehearsed it in my mind, just in case.

I'm going to ask you to sit down. I'm afraid that I have some very sad news. Your rodent has passed away. I hope it brings you comfort when I tell you that I believe that your rodent is in a much better place. He went peacefully.

I did not want to have a dignified burial for the rodent and take photographs of the proceedings as keepsakes for my extended family members. Nor did I want to put the rodent in a Ziploc bag in the freezer so that the extended family members could say their final goodbyes when they returned from their vacation.

If Jeremy did not want a rodent habitat anywhere near places where he eats and sleeps, I did not think he would agree to make our freezer into a temporary morgue.

I was going to have to make every attempt to keep this rodent alive.

When I babysit, I take that responsibility seriously. Usually, I am babysitting a human being. I listen carefully to the instructions from the parents. I'm very careful while I am babysitting because as I have said many times before, I don't want anything happening on my watch.

If the child is old enough to have a conversation, they usually ask if they can do something ridiculous and potentially dangerous while I am babysitting because my mom and dad let me do this all the time. Yeah right, bud. Nice try. Not on my watch.

I like to think I have a real knack with children. How hard could babysitting a rodent be?

It turns out that it was a little bit harder than I anticipated.

I dutifully approached the rodent habitat at the designated time to feed the rodent. I had rodent food ready. I also had some medicine for the rodent. I knew how to work the latch at the top of the rodent house.

I gingerly opened the latch to the habitat. I was getting ready to put the food inside. It was at that point that the rodent became very excited, God love him. He was smart. In spite of being close to death, he was very hungry. He perked up. He came running over to the food and in the process, his skin - fur? - brushed up against my fingers.

I latched the top of that house as quickly as I could. I am not proud of what happened next.

There was me screaming because the rodent's fur touched my hand. There was an overwhelming sense that I could not go near the rodent cage again. There was Jeremy saying oh for Christ sake! in a very impatient tone. Not yelling, as he is a man of peace. But definitely in a firm, raised voice.

I did not feed the rodent. I did not give the rodent his meds. It turned out that Jeremy did these things. He did them for the rest of the family vacation.

Jeremy did not divorce me.

Sometimes you do something so bad that you realize that you don't have a leg to stand on. There is nothing you can do but say you're sorry and then be extra nice to the person you've offended for the next several days.

If Jeremy hired a lawyer and then filed for divorce, I'd have to get my own lawyer. But there wouldn't be much that counsel could do. Yes, I agreed to babysit the rodent without discussing it with Jeremy. Yes, I said I would do all the work and then did none of the work. You're not giving me much to go on here, the lawyer would say.

Everything turned out okay. The important thing was that rodent stayed alive until the extended family members returned from vacation. I don't remember how much longer the rodent lived. He could still be alive for all I know. Or that could be a different rodent. Hamster, gerbil, squirrel, rat. They all seem the same to me.

The extended family members took Jeremy and I out for dinner after their vacation to thank us for babysitting and also for collecting the mail. I wondered if I should stay home and just let Jeremy go. Don't be ridiculous, Jeremy said.

You could consider everything I wrote up to this point as a cautionary tale. If you are a rodent loving person, then by all means go ahead and babysit one. Knock yourself out. But if you are not a person who likes rodents, then I would just say a polite no to people who ask you to babysit and call it a day.

Living With Rodents: Part One is the first in a four part series about life in NYC with rodents. Watch this space for parts two, three and four in what promises to be an interesting, informative and somewhat entertaining first hand account of my relationship with rodents.

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