In which the writer's troublesome but beloved rat passes away
Hermann is dead (long live Hermann). Apologies for the facetious delivery of the news to my thousands of readers who I know are deeply invested. I’ve been in a terrible funk this week.
To cut a long story short, Kotti’s death brought about a rapid decline in Hermann’s health. He stopped moving his hind legs, took to dragging himself slowly around the flat using only his front legs, until he gave up moving entirely.
Going into more details about his decline seems disrespectful to him, so let’s just say he was obviously very sick and that keeping him alive would have been -- I would like to say “inhumane“ -- but this word suggests humans have some moral standard that is superior to animals. And that’s just bullshit to be honest. Humans suck.
Well, some humans. The vet and her assistant were very nice. You learn a lot about people when you find out their feelings on the world’s most perfect creature. I’ve seen it all. Disgust. Wonder. Admiration. Cautious intellectual curiosity and the kind of curiosity that grows quickly into warmth and affection. “I don’t think Hermann likes me,” said my roommate, trying to figure out which snacks she could win him over with. “Don’t worry about it, he’s a total emo,” I replied, as Hermann glowered from his hammock.
By the time Hermann and I had arrived at the late night clinic, his misery and discomfort had grown so acute he had started lashing out and biting. I warned the vet and she spoke to him directly, the way a true rat-lover knows how. She told him she knew he was a good rat, really, and she complimented his fantastic coat, wonderful tail and marvelous little fingers.
“I really don’t understand why some people don’t like rats at all,” she said. Her assistant nodded.
So there we were, three rat lovers surrounding this little, somewhat petulant but really very wonderful, really intelligent, and I mean -- I know all rat moms feel this way -- super special creature, telling him how great he was, and that he would soon be playing with his best bud again, as he lay motionless on the table, his heartbeat slowing until it finally stopped.
The vet opened the window briefly, and then shut it. “We always do that when we euthanise an animal here,” she said. “So their souls can go to heaven”.
I went home with wet eyes and holding their empty handheld carrier. It took a couple of days to get out of the habit of checking up on them, and making mental notes to pick up their mascarpone and fill their water bowl. But now it does feel like they’ve properly left. It’s an eerie thing to consider their lifespans next to ours.
Here they were, these once rambunctious middle aged rat men who had Iived through a spring, a summer, an autumn and winter by my side, growing old while I, I don’t know, took one day after the next, grasping onto to one thing after the other only to feel it gently slip between my fingers. Picking up the crumbled pieces of whatever it was I had begun to build to see if I might make something new out of that rubble.
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A Berlin-based writer engages in the study of belonging and in-between places after years spent faraway from 'home'.