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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sociable Sammy


"Little Sammy," is what I call him, never by his name, "Sammy." Sammy never grew, like the other rats did. He stopped growing at about 4 months old. He is even smaller than some of the girls. I was concerned about him. He never learned to climb on my shoulder and seemed a little slow on the uptake. He even looked like he didn't get it...wasn't sure what being a rat was all about, wasn't even sure what he was doing here on earth, in this house.

When Sammy looks out over the room, he tilts his head, curious. Head tilt usually would be a sign of something wrong, but he doesn't do it all the time...just when he looks out over the room from his table.

Sammy never seemed particularly attached to me, or interested, but I recently had to start medicating him...so I had a chance to bond with him, but he took awhile.

My method of giving meds is to bring them to my chair, put a towel in my lap for them to rest on, then let them lick the meds from a dish in my lap. Most rats take a couple of feedings, with me letting them lick meds off of my finger, before they can relax and eat on their own. But Sammy took a couple of weeks, where he would huddle in one spot on my chest and shiver, licking medicine occasionally. The whole process took 15 to 20 minutes to get him through 1ml of medication (amoxicillin in cream, which every rat loves).

At first, I felt impatient. I wanted to put it in a syringe and force it in, but I felt like that might just break his spirit, though I've successfully done it with others. As I held him, wading through the tediously long feeding, I tried to recall my original affection for him. I am very attracted to intelligence and thinking of him as "slow" was a turn off.

Finally, this morning, he eagerly clambered down onto the towel and started licking the meds on his own! I was shocked. He didn't shiver or shake or take long at all. It was as if a "sociable" switch had been turned on!

I think Sammy is thoughtful, not slow. I have not spent much time with him, one-on-one and where that might be okay with other rats, he apparently needs more of my time. I had a volunteer like that...she was slow to respond, but clearly intelligent. I felt impatient with her, too, at first. But the more time I spent with her, the more I connected. As I have come to know rats better, I realize how much like us they are. Sociable Sammy might be considered to be a "nerd" were he a human...and, as we all know, nerds are pretty smart.

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