Return to the Ratropolis website. Like us on Facebook.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bobo Had a Tragic Fall

Me and Bobo on Halloween
This is the hardest post I think I will ever have to write. I didn't want to write it. I wanted to wait a few days for the pain to deaden, so it would be easier. But somehow I feel like it has to be written now, while it is still real and immediate.

Bobo was out playing with the other rats in the rat room yesterday evening. I was sitting on the loveseat watching television while they played around me. Bobo is a very social boy and always jumps on and off the loveseat to say hello, then rushes off to do rattie things again. He's a flyby greeter, always on the go.

Or, I mean, he was.

Yesterday, he was jumping around on the love seat, when he suddenly got a little too close to the edge and he tumbled off and fell to the floor. It was a very short distance, less than the distance from my knee to my foot. One of the floor mats that I made was on the floor where he landed. I didn't think anything of it, because he jumps on and off that sofa like nothing all the time. But my baby didn't get back up.

I bent over to see what happened and found him curled on his side on the ground. He twitched a tiny bit and then just didn't move again. He was gone. Just like that. I couldn't believe it. I was in shock. I got out my stethoscope to listen for a heartbeat because I thought he couldn't be gone just like that. Maybe he was just in shock. But there was no heartbeat. I had to listen to the other rats' hearts to make sure the stethoscope was working. It was. Bobo was gone. I couldn't understand it. Things like that just don't happen. At least, they shouldn't ever happen.

He had to have landed wrong - on his head or on his back. I don't know how that could have happened, because he was like a cat - always landing on his feet. And he didn't fall very far. It was suggested to me that maybe he had a seizure or something, because rats are very adept, and I would really like to believe that, but Bobo had no history of seizures and I really think he just was over excited and misjudged the edge of the love seat. I want to believe that there was something else wrong and that this couldn't have been prevented, but I just don't believe it. It was one awful, terrible moment in time that I just can't get back to do over.

I would like to write something about how to cope with an accident like this, but I can't, because I  don't know how to cope with it. I've never lost a rat to an accident. I am devastated. I am heart broken. I am angry at myself that I could allow this to happen. I was supposed to be giving him a better life than the one he was rescued from, and now he is gone . . . way too soon. Naturally, I can't help but feel that this is all my fault. There were a million little things I could have done differently, that wouldn't have ended up with Bobo in that exact position at that exact time. Of course, I couldn't have known before it happened that it would end like this. But the one thing that became clear is the fact that the floor mats weren't enough to protect him and keep him safe. His environment was unsafe, and that was my responsibility and my fault.

I had spent a lot of time thinking about the floor of the rat room in the past. It is concrete, so it is hard. I had thought about putting comforters down, but that carries the risk that the rats will burrow underneath them and then we might step on them by mistake. Also, comforters can be easily chewed and the batting or fiberfill inside can be stringy and dangerous. Cushions get chewed and pushed around and the spongy foam can be dangerous and messy and can absorb urine and be hard to clean (I had tried this and it didn't work out). I thought about the puzzle foam mats that can be interlocked together to cover a floor, but they would be quickly chewed and there are articles on parenting websites about these mats containing dangerous chemicals. So ultimately, I decided to make the floor pads similar to the way I make the cage liners - a layer of fleece and a layer of furniture pad. They are soft and pretty thick but easily washable, and if the rats burrow underneath, they are pretty obvious and easy to avoid stepping on. However, this apparently was not good enough.

To fix this, I am going to try a gymnastics mat to cover the area where the loveseat is. I don't know how well this will work, but it is the best idea I have been able to come up with. If they fall off the loveseat onto the mat, it should provide enough cushion to prevent serious injury (if it can protect a gymnast, it should be able to protect a rat). The cover is vinyl, so it should be easy to wipe clean without rat urine soaking into the padding. There is the risk that it may be chewed, but I am hoping the vinyl will protect it and that supervision will be enough to keep it intact. If it does get damaged, duct tape should patch it up. I did try to find information about the safety of the foam inside the mat. It is a different type of foam than the supposedly dangerous foam used in the puzzle mats, and I couldn't find any websites reporting associated dangers with the gym mats. These gym mats are also used as toddler mats (for children learning to walk), so I am hoping that means they are at least child safe. But just because there is no information out there, doesn't mean it is safe. So I will have to be vigilant and make sure the rats don't chew through the cover and get at the foam.

Anyway, I want to say that, Bobo, I am so sorry. I failed you. I wanted to give you a good life and tragedy took you from me too soon. I feel completely responsible for what happened - for not making your rat room as safe as it should have been; for not moving you off the loveseat before you fell. I always tell people that we learn from our mistakes, but it hurts so bad to learn this way and I am so sorry it was you who had to suffer for it. You were loved and you will be missed. This is a nightmare that I really wish I could wake up from and get a do-over.

I hardly ever post pictures of me (I hardly ever take pictures of me), but I just had to share this one last picture Bobo and I took together on Halloween (above). I can't believe we won't ever take any more. I thought dealing with prolonged illness was hard, but it is no where near as hard as losing a rat to an accident that just shouldn't have happened at all.

Goodbye, Bobo. Play hard over the bridge.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry for your loss. Your story touched my heart because I've had rats injured in falls, and I've had high energy rats who have to jump and fall everywhere. If you bubblewrapped their whole world, Bobo wouldn't have been thrilled every time he successfully completed a leap. He was playing hard before he went to play hard on the rainbow bridge where I'm sure he's still swinging and jumping.