my little man

by Jim

Last week I lost my Little man, a grey and white chap we called Mr Dog, on account of his posing like a pointer. I’ve lost hamsters, a dog and two rats previously but I’ve never grieved so much. He was my partner in crime, who’d ride my shoulder round the block ( I would never take my other rats outside but Mr Dog was special. He wouldn’t mess about, just enjoy the ride and the fresh air.) He was my go-between for my four other males, who we separated into two twos due to fights, but Mr Dog got on with everyone. If ever any rat of mine hid in the bedroom and f refused to go to bed I would call on him to sniff them out, a job he fulfilled admirably. He was never a pet to me, none of them are; they are friends, silly foolish little friends who I kept with me because as domestic rats freedom would eat them whole (literally). Mr Dog was my best friend. I’d ditch human company any day of the week to spend the evening with my fluffy little army, and he was my right hand man. Three months ago we noticed the lump on his throat, and I couldn’t sleep for worry. We are in dire times financially, my partner and me, with working hours dropping and debts mounting, but I could never have put a price on his life. If I was willing to let him die to save £200, then I may as well price my own mother out at £2000. The only difference would be haggling over the price. So we elected for surgery, and I spent the day distracting myself, I was so worried. Then the vet called; the surgery was a success, my Little man returned. I was so happy. He was a poor looking chap at this point, half shaved with wounds all around his neck, but chipper as ever and eager to get back to his buddies. All was going well, he was a pain whenever we tried to give him his meds but that’s boys AND rats for you eh? The wound on the back of his neck healed well, but the other wound at the front was not so fortunate. It began to fill with pus, green and thick, and necrosis began to creep around it’s edge. Worried, I took my chap back to the vet to do what we could. They took him in to operate straight away, and another anxious day followed. The Vet called again, and my Little man had pulled through once again, and I thanked my lucky stars. I took him home and got him comfy, gave him my favourite woolly hat to snuggle up in, and a bowl of porridge with his medicine in to soothe his sore little throat. Over the next two days he barely ate or drank, no matter how hard we tried. I took him to the vets a third time, and he was terrified, poor chap, knowing now that this place was a place of stress and pain for him. He nuzzled into my arm so hard. The Vet said not to worry, he seemed hydrated and his wait was good, so they gave him a shot for the pain and said to try the food and medicine the next day. We put him in his cage while the other boys played, so he could have the bed to himself for a little while before we had to pop him back in isolation. I went to check on him just before going for a cigarette, and he was snoozing, breathing, he seemed comfy so I left him to it. Ten minutes later I stood outside and heard a wailing within, deep gutteral and laden with sorrow. My heart was lead, heavy and hot, my insides burned and fear took my throat. I knew what was on the other side of my kitchen door, and I didn’t want to open it. I forced myself to go in, and my partner was kneeling on the corridor floor, this little bundle in her hands, my Little man. His eyes were glassy and clear, like he’d been emptied out. I took him in my hands and cradled him, sang to him, sang the last lullaby that I’ve sung at every death. He was so still, in all the time I’d known him he’d been the explorer, never in one place for ten seconds straight. Now here he was, in my arms, curled up like a baby.I had always wanted to hold him, sit with him, and sing to him. But not like this. He was with us but one year, then he was taken from us by a smiling thief, a greedy reaper. We buried him in my mother’s garden. I intend to plant a rose Bush. I Miss him so much, my Google search is full of pointless entries, unanswerable questions. Where is my Little man?

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