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Friday, February 24, 2012

Update on Buddy


I won Buddy’s trust with ice cream after the last time I posted.  I used about 1 tablespoon of ice cream divided into 10 dabs.  When he smelled the ice cream he came out quickly.  After serving him nine of those little dabs, one at a time over a period of about three sessions, he accepted my picking him up.  I called and, no ice cream with me, he sat in front of me and waited.  He wiggled a little bit after I picked him up but there was no squeaking.  We watched ½ hour of TV together then I gave him the last               of the ice cream after I put him back, to reinforce our new relationship!
I realized his trust was firmly established when the following days he came out when called.  Occasionally he changes his position to be picked up by turning his back to me, but he only sits right in front of me very still until I pick him up.
One night I tried to take a shortcut for introducing him to a friend.  I had Weinstein on the sofa, scattered a lot of treats around and put Buddy there too, watching them carefully.  Weinstein stayed behind the blanket eating his treats.  Buddy ran back and forth up and down the sofa looking for Weinstein.  When he found him behind the blanket he gave him a phantom bite (which is a sign of annoyance).  I immediately put Weinstein back deciding that I will have to take the long slow way of introductions by starting with their cages side by side.  His owner will be over to help me with that on Saturday.
After I removed Weinstein, Buddy crawled in and out of my lap allowing himself to be petted and eating some treats.  It was very easy to pick him up and put him back.  He seems to look forward to his timeout with me and even knows when it’s his turn.
I was eventually able to take the caliper and measure his tumor.  My measurement was not perfect but it looks like around 50 mm in height.  The width is even longer.  The next day I was able to get my fingers around the tumor and it feels to me like it is attached.  Buddy’s body is about one 6th tumor.
Once I realized it was attached I added Carcinosin to his treatment.  This is a homeopathic treatment for cancer.  I have also considered prednisone, but with his weight would be concerned about his blood sugar.  Thank God for homeopathy.  I don’t know whether the spiritual intention of Buddy’s being here is for hospice care or for healing.  Either way I am very grateful to be a part of him getting to experience plenty of touch.  Increasingly everyday he seems to enjoy his head being rubbed more and more and occasionally allows me to stroke his back.  His climbing on my lap and putting his hands on my arms let me know he is enjoying the affection.  I’m blessed to be a part of his life.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Buddy's New Setup

The table I wanted to bring in is too buried but I did run across a very large cage that would be perfect for Buddy and a new friend. The ramps are wider so that he can get up and down more comfortably and the width and depth of the cage is more suitable for such a large rat. Also important is that I can sit up to the cage and trust train him out into my lap.  I again realized the importance of this when I set up a makeshift cage for him today.

His owner will be here later in the week to help me get the cage inside. 

We use the online rat cage calculator to estimate whether a cage will hold one, two or more rats.  One thing that should be taken into account though is the size of the rat. I realize the cages are crazy expensive.  They aren't always well made either because I've had several that have rusted. That is where a homemade or makeshift cage comes in handy.  Several times I have dismantled old cages, saved the still usable sides and connected them with J clips, cage clips or even zip ties to make what I need.  Just try to avoid having anything with rust near the rat because that could be poisonous.  This is where having the cage open on a table, with ledges, is perfect because the cage does not have to be completely closed in.

Surprisingly rats seem to prefer to have some kind of cage than none at all.  Dr. Koob pointed out, when I said I went cage-less, that they need a place to hide.  So a roof (even if it's just an old sheet) and a few walls is important.

I put Buddy's old cage bottom on the sofa, with him in it, while I set up a makeshift cage.  He didn't seem to mind this because he's used to the sofa smells.  Once I finish setting up his cage I was able to scoot up a stool next to the sofa and he actually came out of the igloo. He wandered around a little bit and then went back in, but when I lifted the igloo, picked him up and put him on my lap, he did not squeak!  A clear victory!

The new setup only affords Buddy about five extra inches of depth and width but considering that he is almost 5 inches wide that's a big difference.

After I held him on my lap for a few minutes I picked him up, held him close to me and carried him to his new setup.  When I put him down he was very excited! He did not run straight into the igloo, but made the rounds of everything---his bulletproof paper roll, his wheel, his hiding/chew log, his Ka-bob and then he went and sat in his litter pan. I was so proud of him, I praised him over and over.  He seemed to wonder where the ramp was, but definitely wasn't bothered by its lack.  He had not visited the top of his cage since he's been here. I'll never know for sure but my best guess is that he could no longer get up the ramp but really wanted to move around.  He did come out of the cage last night to get his food block that I left out for him.  But there had been no signs of him coming out and staying out.  I hope now that everything is enclosed in one area he will keep moving.

His igloo is rearranged now so that I can easily hold a spoon a distance away from it and he can move toward it while still staying under cover.  I think this will make trust-training more effective.

If anyone is interested in making a cage, there are several sites online that have instructions: the rat fan club and the dapper rat are two. I would be happy to email photos of our set-ups if you request them at theratretreat@msn.com. I got the idea for ledges on the tables from a rat rescue in Pennsylvania.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fresh Start With Buddy

I felt a little lost with Buddy tonight.  I didn't get home until afternoon, so started trust-training late.  He just wouldn't come out of the igloo any further than his shoulders.  I think last night scared him or maybe the applesauce wasn't incentive enough.  He wouldn't come all the way out for dinner, though, either.

I took a break from holding the rats tonight; watched tv alone. Then before bed sat in one of the many chairs in front of the rats' tables because a girl drew my attention. As I sat there letting her and her roommate crawl on me, I asked the room of rats, "What should we do about Buddy? I feel sad about him being alone all day."  Suddenly I had a mind picture of a low table for him, like the rest of the rats. (We only had a tall cabinet left to put him on.)

I decided to pull in a banquet table from the shop and put his cage on that tomorrow. Ideally trust-training should end with the rat crawling into your lap, anyway, which he can't do from that height. I may even remove him from his cage and set up a makeshift cage. He is not using the top floor at all.

I am excited about a new set-up for him tomorrow and, hopefully, a fresh start on trust-training. Meanwhile, I asked all the other rats to chat with him tonight and explained the situation to him. Pray for Buddy! Pray for me to make a good decision about introductions, too. I would really like for him to have a friend sooner rather than later.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Buddy Comes Out

Buddy went outside of his cage last night on his own because his food block was gone. I gave him four little dabs of the applesauce this morning and he came all the way out of his igloo for the last two!

Early this afternoon I installed a Ka-bob in his cage.  I carried all the little pieces over to the door of his cage to put it together and he came out to watch with great interest.  He could hardly wait for me to hang it before he started chowing on the birch.

Later this afternoon I took him some homemade vegetable stew and he came all the way out of his igloo for each little dab. When I brought him a second serving later, he came all the way out of the cage to get it.  He was waiting for me by the time I got into the room. A third time I put some of the stew on my fingers and let him lick it off.  Each time I felt teeth, I squealed.  He quickly understood to lick instead of grab, though he was a obviously very hungry.

When his TV time came tonight, all that trust-training paid off because he came out all the way out of his igloo as soon as I called his name.  I picked him up and he wiggled a little bit but stopped when I put him against my chest. He ran back and forth on the sofa, clearly a little anxious (he did a lot of pooping), but he did eat the first treat I gave him. When the show ended 22 minutes later though, he was pretty stressed.  He squeaked when my husband patted him and he squeaked a lot when I picked him up to put him back.

I rewarded him for his bravery by praising him and giving him a treat in his igloo.  He eagerly took that as well as taking his dinner when it was served.  Good signs because if he was seriously stressed, he would've gone to the back of his igloo and not come out for anything.  I've seen really shy rats do that.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Good Friday for Buddy

Buddy make good progress today despite my not having as much time as yesterday. I used applesauce for trust-training again.  For the first session he came out with his head and shoulders.  For the second session he completely climbed out of the igloo. He was awake more of the day today and seemed to look forward to visits.

I was talking to him about the wheel today and one of those things happened that makes me so sure that rats understand me. I told him that I wanted him to use the wheel but that he would not yet fit into the opening.  He then backed into the igloo, bringing my attention to the doorway.  I told him, "I think you're right.  The wheel opening is the same size." I got a clean igloo and took it up to the wheel to compare the shapes and realized that the wheel opening is actually a little bit wider. Go figure. I know what I know.


Before I started taking rats out tonight I sat down on the sofa to peel an orange.  For the first time that I observed, Buddy came out of his igloo and stuck his head out the door of the cage which is right across from where I was sitting. A little while later I noticed that he was struggling to get food from the new feeder I installed in his cage.  I wanted him to work for it but after several attempts he was unsuccessful. When I went to help him he came out of his igloo and stood very eagerly knowing that I was going to help.  He seemed very grateful when he took the food block from me.

I pulled two extra food blocks out and put one on the top floor of his cage and another outside of his cage on the table.  I hope this gets him moving around more tonight. That will also help me track whether he is coming out or not.

I did not force Buddy out of the cage and onto the sofa again tonight, but he was very bold twice more about coming out of his igloo. Once was when I was eating a piece of Chocolate Levain bread on the sofa.  Buddy loved that smell and again stuck his head out of the cage. I tried giving him one of the regular treats, a little piece of rice cake, but he snatched that out of my fingers, tossed it to the floor of the cage and took my fingers in his teeth (without breaking the skin). I had to laugh and went to break him off a small piece of the bread that he obviously wanted.  He sure worked for it!

When I served dinner tonight (produce) I put it all the way across the cage hoping to get him out of the igloo so I could change his bedding. I was so proud of him for standing by while I lifted the igloo and switched his bedding.  The food didn't distract him, but he seemed to know I was helping. After I put his igloo back, rather than running back into it he casually went over to check out his dinner.  It was a good day for Buddy.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thursday with Buddy

Turned on Pandora for the rats today.  I think Buddy really likes the music.  He stuck his head out more and appeared to be engaged. I visited his cage about every 30 minutes during the morning.  During the last visit of the morning he started chattering at me. Before I leave the house I always say goodbye to the rats.  When I came back today I went straight to Buddy's cage after saying, "I'm back." He again had his head out and appeared interested.  Definitely a social guy.

Early this evening I needed to clean out his cage.  His cage sits on the top of the table.  I started with a session of trust-training.  I used applesauce putting a dab on the end of a spoon.  With each bite he came out a little further, but once his body was about one 3rd out of the igloo he stopped advancing. I maneuvered the cage with him in it so that it was half off the table. Then I lifted his igloo and tried to encourage him to climb out of the cage.  He was too afraid.  I had arranged an area about a foot away from the cage on the table so that he would have another hiding spot.  I picked him up and put him in the new spot. He was obviously nervous about being picked up, but then I was nervous about picking him up, so that was totally expected.

Once I finish cleaning the cage he did not go back into it on his own.  I am not sure if he just was too scared to come out of his hiding space or he was unable to climb up to the door of his cage.

Everyone gets 30 minutes out of the cage areas to watch TV with me.  When Buddy's turn came, I covered him up with a blanket to pick him up.  He was still afraid, but I held him very close to me and he did not try to get away once I picked him up. I lightly ran my hands over his sides because he appeared to have a tumor.  I did discover a large tumor on his left flank.

We stayed on the sofa for about 20 minutes.  He explored the sofa, picking up on everyone else's smells, but would not eat his treat.  He finally settled in a corner and I rubbed his head.  He closed his eyes for a couple of minutes.  When I started to rub his ear he squeaked. It was such a little squeak I could hardly tell that was coming from him.  I quit rubbing his head and laid on the sofa row where I was facing him, close but not touching.  I just gazed into his eyes and talked to him. Eventually he approached me, sniffing my face and climbing under my arm.  This time when I rubbed his ear he did not squeak, but he only tolerated being touched for a few more minutes before he began to squeak again. His squeaks seem to be coming from fear not pain.

To put him back in his cage I convinced him to climb into a soft carrier for transport.  He still did not like being carried but I believe the firm surface underneath him made it less threatening.

He received a dose of tumor suppressor along with his dinner tonight.  We have a 90% cure rate with the tumor suppressor but we usually catch them earlier.  If it doesn't shrink the tumor, it should at least stop it from growing.  Because of his difficulty with being touched I could not tell if the tumor was attached or not.

To potentially save his life I'm going to practice what I see the vets do and handle him as much as possible even though he doesn't like it.  Normally I would take things a lot more slowly, but between his weight and his tumor I don't think we can afford to do that with Buddy.

Rats and children

For the second time in a few months, I received a call about the death of a rat at the hands of a child. A two-year-old got hold of a rat while mother was sleeping, and killed it.

A child under 8 rarely has the manual dexterity to understand how gently a rat must be held. Please don't buy rats for young children.

Buddy

The Creative Power Of God is individualized in every soul.

Please pray for Buddy and E, his generous owner. She has left Buddy with me until she finds a home that she can bring him to. Buddy is a huge rat, over 2 pounds. E rescued him from a Zamzow's feeder tank where his plight was a obviously going to be dinner for a snake. E has been afraid to hold him because he has bitten a few people, but she has faithfully cleaned his cage kept him fed and kept him housed in places where she is able to get him back when she's ready. Buddy has already come out of his cage for me and allowed me to pet him but runs like the wind I try to pick him up! He is too large to fit in the opening of even our largest rat wheel. So our prayer requests are as follows: that Buddy makes use of all the ramps and exercise areas we have installed for him, that he overcomes his shyness and allows himself to be held and played with and that E is comfortable reaching into his cage and picking him up.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

For the past several weeks, we've tried the new (to us) King Bio products on our rats: Aqua Flora Hi Potency 9, Pro biotic Restorer, Constitutional Enhancer and Lung and Bronchial Relief. There has been a gradual reduction in wheezing, except in our 3 year old Zoe. The only thing I hear now is a nasal sound like a stuffy nose and excessive sneezing in a few of the 1-year-old boys. I'm going to take them off of the Lung and Bronchial Relief and put them on something else from King Bio, for nasal or cold symptoms. We give them their supplements in their water when we change it each week. The Rat Retreat, Inc.