I have a hairless albino rat; her name is Penny. She hates apricots, taunts my cats, and watching her eat a shelled peanut with her two tiny hands is one of the most sincerely innocent things I have ever seen.
Tomorrow I have to put Penny down. I'll miss her tiny face, but it's her time to visit The Rainbow Bridge, and after tomorrow she'll be free from sickness. I've made peace with it.
Penny's been through a lot in her short life. A few months ago, her sister Joan passed away. I didn't think Penny was going to last, but she did. She taught me one of the most important lessons I've ever learned.
Last Winter, I almost lost Penny. Literally and figuratively. I live in a bachelor apartment, and because I have two cats, the rats stayed in the bathroom. Everyday, when I came home from work, I'd open their cage, and they'd climb up to the top and just sit. Never straying, just wanting a little bit of a different view.
One day after about ten minutes of activity time, I heard my cat Ned screaming and carrying on at the door. So I opened it, and my heart stopped. I saw water splashed all over the toilet seat, and inside the toilet, a tail escaping down the drain. I called my Mom, and I couldn't even speak; I was sobbing. All I thought was, I killed my pet. The idea of my girl suffering in any way killed me. As soon as my Mom heard me crying, her and my brother Paul were basically in the car, on the way over. I was beside myself. I just sat on my couch, staring, for about an hour. Waiting to not be alone, and to have someone tell me what to do next. I knew in my heart that she wasn't alive, and I just needed to get her out so I could respectfully bury her in my Mom's garden, with the rest of our little friends.
My brother called me when they were downstairs, and asked me if I'd come down and let him "take care of everything", so I wouldn't be more upset. I fought for a minute, but then I agreed. My brother is the most selfless, wonderful person I've ever met. He'd genuinely do anything to "make it better". My Mom and I sat in the car for about half an hour, and then I went upstairs to see if Paul was okay. He was on his hands and knees, and had completely taken my toilet apart. He wasn't wearing a shirt, and looked so confused that it stopped me in my tracks. Paul has OCD. He struggled with it so badly when he was younger, and I'm so proud of him for how far he's come. Still, for him to be topless, covered in filth, was a very daunting, almost impossible thing to handle.
"She's not here, Sarah."
I told him she had to be. Paul got on his hands and knees, put his ear up to the porcelain base, and said, "I hear her. I know you're not going to believe it, but I hear her."
I certainly didn't think Paul was lying, but I really did think he was trying to somehow make me feel better. I got into protective sister mode, and tried to convince Paul that she was gone, and that it would be okay. He was insistent, and told me I needed to lift up the toilet so he could peer into the bottom. By now, about an hour and a half had gone by. There was no possible way my Penny could have survived, so by now it was all about a search and recovery mission.
After hopelessly trying to explain to Paul that I couldn't physically lift the toilet, I grabbed it, hoisted it up into the air, water pouring everywhere, a deconstructed bathroom completely destroyed. He peered into the bottom, and I've never in my entire life experienced the feeling that I did, when Paul yelled, "She's alive!"
I started crying. My Mom,who doesn't really swear, was standing in the kitchen, crying, saying, "My *expletive* heart can't take this." My brother was crying, and all of a sudden I see a small, dirty face, peek out from around the corner of the bottom of the toilet, look at me, and my legs almost gave out. My Penny. I reached in and grabbed her, gently removed her, and held her high in the air. We cheered and laughed and cried, and were just in complete awe. We hugged, and my Mom started peeling a banana to give her, while we just watched her in complete silence, wondering, How?
We put Penny back in her cage, and her and her sister just sat there eating a banana, like it was just another day. We knew we had just witnessed something spectacular, but she was just concerned about consuming her massive treat.
Penny had been inside the toilet for an hour and a half. Rats can hold their breath for a long time, but not that long. That tiny creature that a lot of people disregard as insignificant, somehow managed to find an air pocket and hold on until my brother could save her. That was a genuine miracle.
I felt so strongly that Penny's story needed to be told, because it was the first time in my entire life, that I have ever assumed the absolute worst, and received the absolute best. There's no greater feeling. With work, relationships, and life, there's not many times that a person can go through where they feel the lowest low, and end up getting the highest high. Penny forced Paul to put aside his very real, sometimes debilitating issues, and showed him that he could do it. Penny showed me to never give up. So whatever you're going through in your life, please know that there is always, always hope. Even if it's small, it's there, and sometimes that can be enough to pull through and overcome anything else.
I'm going to really miss my shiny Penny. But I'm so glad I got to meet her. I didn't plan on getting a rat, but she was one of the few ones left at the store I work at, because everyone thought she was ugly. I think she's beautiful; my little diamond in the rough. Her red eyes remind me of little shiny gems, and her body reminds me of a fruit wrinkle.
Please, never give up. It isn't a cliche saying. It's something everyone should try and remember, even when it seems impossible. It's obviously easier said than done, and it's something I falter sometimes trying to implement it into my life. But everyone's fighting their own battle, and on their own specific journey, and sometimes it's really awful and seems completely hopeless. But just try and find that air pocket, and hold on, because there's always hope.
Have a good night everyone. Love you, My Shiny Penny.