By Julia Moser, 10
I’ve loved rats since I was three years old. I don’t know why, but I always have. When I asked to get some as pets, my parents
told me to wait until I was eight. They
figured by then I would have grown out of it.
By the time I was eight, though, I still wanted them, and so we went out
to the pet store. Our rats, Mickey and
Melchisedek, lived good lives and died after two years. I was upset, but I knew they’d been
happy. We put a rat statue in the front
yard in memorial, and emptied out the cage.
We lived in this state of ratlessness for about six months, until one
February afternoon at the pet store.
We were just stopping by to look around, not looking for anything in
particular. My younger sisters and brothers
ran over to the frogs and snakes, yelling.
My sister Mary loves frogs. I
wandered off towards the hamsters. Most
of them were snoozing in their cages. I
kept going to the ferrets… mice… rats.
In a small glass cage, sleeping in a pile under a translucent purple
igloo, were three small rats. When I
peered in, a tiny white nose poked out at me.
I called my dad over.
“Just look at them! They’re so
“They are.” He looked
closer. “Do you think we might want to
bring them home?”
“Yes, definitely!” I was so
happy. I’d missed Mickey and
Melchisedek, and was eager to take home some new rats. My dad went over to get an employee. She came over, and we asked how old they
“Oh, we just got them last week.
I’d say they’re about two or three months old.” My dad nodded.
“We’ll take-- two.” She nodded
and went off to get something. The rats
were starting to come out of the igloo.
First one, then two rats were snuffling at the glass. I squeezed my dad’s hand. I couldn’t wait. The employee returned with two cardboard
carrying cases. She scooped up the two
white rats and put them into them. They
wriggled quite a bit, but they went. We
were just ready to pay when I looked back at the igloo. A tiny brown head was poking out from the
opening, looking forlornly after the other two.
I showed my dad, and we asked the worker about him.
“Oh, yes. They’re brothers. That one’s pretty skittish; he gets nervous
around new people. My dad and I looked
at each other. We couldn’t just leave him
“Make that three,” my dad said, turning back to the employee. She nodded, and went back for another
Back at the house, we put the
rats into their new home: a large cage in the basement. They seemed to like it and explored every
nook and cranny. I decided to name them
Sugar, Salt, and Cinnamon, based on their coloring. We gave them a day to get used to the new
place, and then started taking them out to play with them. They were all nervous at first, but they
started to get used to it. They even
began to ask to come out. Cinnamon in
particular would stare at you with his bright little eyes and keep staring
until you picked him up. This went on
for two months, and we were all very happy.
On Monday, March 31, I noticed
it. I had just come home from a day of state
testing, and thankfully had no homework.
I went down to visit the rats.
There was an odd wheezing sound coming from inside their tunnel. I opened the cage door and peered in. Cinnamon’s head poked out from the inside of
the tunnel, and he was straining to breathe.
Feeling a wave of concern wash over me, I bent over and scooped him
up. He felt very limp and unenergetic,
and he’d lost weight. I stroked him
quickly, and put him back in the cage.
“Mom!” I called. “I think
Cinnamon’s sick!” She came down quickly
and looked. She agreed with me that he
didn’t look too good, and decided that we should call the vet.
“Hello? Yes, we have a rat…
Cinnamon… He’s having trouble breathing.
Mmm? Oh, really? Alright, bye.” She hung up the phone. “They said we should bring him now.” I quickly rushed downstairs and opened the
carrying case. Once again I scooped
Cinnamon up and placed him into the carrier.
It worried he how little he protested.
Usually the rats hate small spaces.
Two of my younger siblings, Mary and Paul, came with us. We got into the car and drove. And drove.
The trip that should only have taken a few minutes was stretched out by
a traffic jam. With every passing minute
I grew more and more anxious. Finally,
we pulled up in front of the Central Animal Hospital. There was a small waiting room filled with
dogs and cats; no other rats. I saw a
tiny dog with a cast on its leg, and a tired-looking cat. Finally, the lady at the desk called
out:“Cinnamon?” Hands shaking, I carried
the case holding Cinnamon into an examination room.
After a few minutes, I was
shaking worse than ever. The vet had
taken Cinnamon into a separate room to check something, and Mary and Paul were
starting to complain. It was almost
7:00, the time the Central Animal Hospital was supposed to close. Finally, the door swung open. A man walked in, without Cinnamon.
“Well, we think we’ve figured out what Cinnamon has.” He paused.
I held my breath, waiting for him to continue. “It’s a common rat respiratory disease:
mycoplasma. It’s been let go for a little
too long, and his breathing is in pretty bad shape. We’ve put him in an oxygen tank for now, to
help for a little bit.” I felt my heart
pounding in my chest.
“What can we do for him?”
The vet stopped to think for a minute.
“Well, if you want, we can give him some medicine. It won’t cost too much, and it should help
with the breathing.” I looked at my mom.
“Yes, we’ll definitely want to do the medicine.”
“Alright.” He paused again. “I’m sorry to say there is still a chance we
might lose him tonight. With your
permission we could keep him here on oxygen overnight, but we can’t guarantee
anything.” My mom and I looked at each
“Can we have a minute to think about it?” my mom asked.
“Certainly.” He walked back
outside and closed the door behind him, leaving us alone.
“What did he mean, we might lose
him?” Mary was confused.
My mom took a deep breath.“He meant that… Cinnamon might die
Mary immediately burst into tears.
“I’m never going into the basement again!”
“Mary, stop.” I was fighting
back tears myself, and seeing her so upset wasn’t helping. “So, what do you think?” I turned to my mom. We discussed for several minutes, and even
called my dad at work. Finally, we
decided to take Cinnamon home. There was
no guarantee that he would make it either way. Also, whatever was going to
happen, we wanted to happen at home, not in a strange place he’d never been
before. We told the vet our choice.
“Alright.” He handed me the
carrying case, and my mom a bag containing a small bottle. “We’ve given him the first dose of
medicine. You should give him more about
every twelve hours. Keep him warm, and
separate him from the other rats. Okay?”
“Okay,” I answered, my hands and voice shaky.
My mom looked at her watch. “Wait, it’s 7:45! Your closing time was forty-five minutes
The vet shrugged.“Don’t worry about it.” I felt a rush of gratitude. These people had stayed way after their
closing time for my rat. I didn’t know
how to thank them.
When we got home, my mom went to
get a laundry basket. We put Cinnamon’s
case in the center, and surrounded it with towels to keep him warm. Then my mom had to go put Mary and Paul to
bed. Carefully, I unzipped the carrier
and reached my hand inside. A feeble
sneeze greeted it, and I felt a tiny paw brush my finger. I gently lifted Cinnamon out. He was so limp; but he was still
breathing. The awful wheezing sound he
was making made me feel so bad. Slowly,
he turned his head up to me, as if I could make everything better. A tear trickled down my cheek.
“I’m so sorry.” When I finally
had to put him back, my mom and dad gave me a huge hug.
“He still has a chance,” my mom whispered. “There’s still hope.” I nodded.
“Goodnight, Cinnamon,” I called.
“I love you.” I slowly walked
After a not-so-restful night, I
darted down the stairs to the basement.
My heart was pounding as I unzipped a tiny bit of the carrier.
“Cinnamon?” No answer. “Cinnamon?”
Achoo! A tiny pair of bright eyes blinked up at
After a little bit, my mom and
dad came down, too. We were all so
relieved, and my mom went straight upstairs for his medicine. I took him out. He seemed to have quite a bit of his energy
back. At first he struggled against the
medicine , but then he started to like it a little bit. It was tutti-frutti flavored, and he was
licking it by the end. I held him for a
while, and then put him back, my heart feeling a lot lighter.
Over the weeks, Cinnamon has
gradually improved. His breathing is
very smooth now, and all his energy is back.
Soon he’ll be able to go back to the big cage with his brothers, and I’m
very happy about that. Both Sugar and
Salt seem to be perfectly healthy, and I’m happy about that, too. I just can’t stop thinking about how much
Cinnamon has been through, and how much he’s grown from the tiny rat in the pet
store a few months ago.