We went to visit the rat at the vet's yesterday. Yes, I know, that sounds ludicrous and I'm fairly certain the rat is totally indifferent to our presence. But when the vet's receptionist calls you and brightly tells you you can visit between 3 and 5, do you not appear to be the most heartless bastard in the world if you don't visit your (well, not even your rat, but still) beloved pet? Yes, yes you do. But then if you do go and visit a rat, you look like the kind of mad, socially difficult middle aged woman who has a picture of their cat embossed on their fleece. Really, you can't win, and suddenly you're standing in a veterinary surgery, trying to make conversation with a rodent.
So anyway, we went, and if there is a sadder place than the room where the vet is keeping him, I do not think my heart could stand it. It is small and heated to that dispiriting, debilitating fug you get in retirement homes and it smells of animal fear and disinfectant with faint base notes of poo. The whole room is lined with cages: along one wall is a series of tragic dogs in cones of shame, pugs with runny noses, whimpering bichons and confusingly proportioned, lumpen mongrels, like bags of Cadbury's misshapes. Under the work surface near the door is a cramped, folded up, silent Great Dane, staring out like a Chekov character contemplating the distance to Moscow. Perpendicular to dog wall, is a wall of hunched, appalled, cats. Most of them have their backs turned to the wall. Unlike the dogs, they do not have a little frisson of anticipation and turn our way when we walk in. Oh, the sad, sad, hopeful, sad eyes of the poorly dogs.
In the 'miscellaneous' corner, a large turtle in a tiny aquarium, ramming up against the plastic repeatedly (the turtle lady was in the waiting room when I brought Peanut in - she had 5 turtles, a tortoise, a dog, cats, a squirrel (??), and a long rambling tale about who had bitten who. I felt quite comforted in my mad animal lady status). A very still, unblinking bearded dragon. Two shuffling tortoises half hidden under a small heap of hay.
"Take us home" everyone was saying, in their own, uniquely distressing, ways. PLEASE TAKE US HOME. I know it's for their own good and so on, but oh man, they were all so miserable.
Peanut was in a small cage with L's pyjama top for company, next to a quivering chihuahua. He didn't seem that sick (less wheezy) or upset, but he has a big wound on his back that is entirely new and the vet seemed not to have a clue where it had come from and now it's going to be like those people who go into hospital for a routine procedure and die of MRSA and L is coming home on Sunday night and I am experiencing some anxiety about this sequence of events. Please pray for me that the vet doesn't kill the rat? The unhappy experience of Julius is still quite prominent in my mind (if you don't want to hear about the attempted manual reinsertion of a tortoise penis, amputation, stump massage and - spoiler alert - death, do not click that link).
(This is a jolly Friday afternoon tale for you, isn't it? Death, amputation, grotesquery).
Update: I went back to visit AGAIN today (alone, L would not come with me, presumably not wanting to be associated with my aura of crazy old woman).
'What have you been up to this week?'
'Well, I shouted repeatedly at some hens until I thought I had lost my mind and went to visit a sick rat daily.'
I insisted on seeing the vet this time, who is about 20 and who plainly thinks I have invented this rat-loving "son" to appear more normal, when in fact I am a peri-menopausal loon who lives in squalor and has befriended an actual rat from the gutter, attracted by the stench of rotting food in my kitchen. He wants to keep the rat over the weekend but isn't too worried and says we can probably take him home on Monday. I am still running MRSA doom scenarios in my mind, however. Also, how much is this all going to cost? I estimate "enough to buy a sufficient number of rats to knit myself a horse made of rats and ride it around Brussels".
And that is the story of my day, barring some slapstick with a roll of wire and an extended fantasy about buying a château with my friend F. I have finished writing about noodles, thank god.
20% Unpleasant herbal beverages
20% Searching for a voluminous and very cheap ginger wig for Facegoop
20% No fucking clue what happened to this week
20% Impatient for my larger child to return in spite of rat issues
10% Impatient for dog not to bark hysterically every time I say the word "Right"
10% Impatient for gin.