A Trip to the Vet

Heide Walsh
From the RMCA web site, July 2003

Part the First-- A Trip to the Vet.

Boomer and Scottie happily bounced and scratched their way into the pet carrier yesterday. They curled up with some chewies, and a biscuit, and awaited the trip with excitement-- they love to travel. We arrived at the vet, and Cathy immediately took skin scrapings, two from Scabby Scottie, and one from Boomer... I waited for news of mites with heavy heart.

"Well, it's not mites."

What joy! Not mites! Along with my description, and a thorough examination, the conclusion was dermatitis! No mites! Hooray! As a precaution though, both boys received and injection of Ivermectin, just in case-- scrapings are not foolproof. Scottie, who was really scabby, got put on Doxy for infection, and also to help clear up his most recent bout of chronic bronchitis.

The injections and the Doxy took place amidst much screaming, jumping, clawing and biting attempts.

The ratties fought hard too.

Once all this was over and the boys were back in their carrier enjoying an overdose of yoghurt drops, I was still smiling. NO MITES! YAY!!!! Innocently, I said, "So that's it?"

With a cloud of rat fur settling gently around them, Cathy and Jenn looked at each other, then at me. There was great pity in their eyes. "Can you get David to help you with these guys?" Blood was welling up slowly from gouges on all three of us. We looked like we had all just arm-wrestled a cheese grater.

"No, he's at work until Friday. Scottie will take the Doxy from me, don't worry."

"Uh... you have to do something about the itching... you have to shampoo them...."

My stomach dropped. We all eyed the innocently quiet crate of ratties, interrupted only by Scottie's wheezing.

Part the Second-- The Bath

Armed with a bottle of shampoo that cost more than mine and David's put together and a pint of Guinness, I prepped myself for the ordeal ahead. I slurped the foam off the top of the beer, savouring the texture, and wondered if I would survive to enjoy such simple pleasures again. This afternoon's bloodbath came to mind. I pretty much chugged the rest of the beer.

Laying an old towel on the bottom of the tub for traction, I ran a couple of inches of relatively tepid water. (Me personally, if I don't come out looking like a boiled lobster, then it just wasn't hot enough, but I figured hot water would only make the itch worse.) I placed one of their sleeping baskets upside down in the water to give them an "island" so they could stand on that if they preferred. Boomer-- smart, laid back, sweet, bruxin' Boomer, was first. I placed him at the back to the tub, where the water was shallowest. He stood frozen in complete confusion, shot me an evil look, and slogged towards the "island." I dribbled water on his back by hand and kept up what I hoped was a soothing, constant babble. Boomer sat tolerating the dribbling water. I began to relax. *SPROING* Angry wet rat launches at my face. I caught him and decided firmer action was needed.

This time I put him in the deep end. As he made his was back to the island, I quickly squished a blob of medicated shampoo onto my fingertips. He climbed on the island-- I immediately set to lathering him up.

Boomer, however, was lathered up in his own way, and began to crawl up my arm, making good use of the marvelous things that ratty claws are. Old scratches open up, new scratches made their presence felt. I peeled him off. He began again. I peeled him off and ran him under a gentle spray from the ShowerMassage thingy. Oops.

Suddenly, I was griping a tornado of claws and teeth and a few sharp objects he must have smuggled in. (There can't be that many sharp and pointy things on a rat.) Blood flowed freely. I gripped the squirming, now screaming mass that was once my sedate Boomer-Man in one hand, and as I reached for the towel, the vet's instructions rang in my head.

"You have to lather them twice, or you won't get all the oil off."

I released Boomer, who immediately launched himself and hung dripping, one claw in my T-shirt, the other clinging to my collarbone (leaving four tiny little pinpoint pierces that itch like crazy today.) More shampoo. Grab rat and peel him off, wincing. Again the writhing and screaming begins which actually helped somewhat in the lathering process. He squirms free and drops a few inches into the water and launches himself landing on my T-shirt. Giving up all hope of staying dry, I step into the tub and turn the hose on myself. Boomer begins an amazingly quick vertical ascent, and I ended up spraying myself in the face try to keep up with him.

Satisfied he was squeaky (!) clean, I wrapped him in his towel (they all have their own) and fed him yoghurt drops and rubbed him dry. He seemed to enjoy that part. By the time he went into his newly cleaned cage, he was bruxing.

That was the easy rat.

And now, Scottie.

Scottie, the somewhat challenged (or whatever the language nazis are having us call it these days.) Scottie the biter, Scottie the excitable puff-up-into-toilet-brush-boing-sideways-*CHOMP*! rat.

He gets so excited, so easily-- he just doesn't know what to do with himself-- he once bit my wrist in gratitude as I was hanging up his hammock.

I was now about to bathe Scottie.

Fleeting thoughts of those three other Guinnesses in the fridge crossed my mind. No. We must have what is left of our wits about us, mustn't we? Yes.

Scottie eyes me warily, I pick him up. I place him in the shallow end. He cowers. I sprinkle him. He remains motionless and begins wheezing. "Fooo-o-o, fooo, foo." It occurs to me I won't be able to tell if he puffs up with wet fur.

"Foo." He looks at me, his buggy, slightly crossed eyes look hurt. I begin to talk soothingly and place him on the "island."

"Fooo... foo."

I lather, rinse, repeat. He sits motionless, wheezing on his upside-down basket.

I pick him up and wrap him in his towel, rubbing him dry. No struggle. He stares at me wondering what the h*ll I did that for. He continues to wheeze. Takes a yoghurt drop to be polite and promptly drops it.

I felt like the world's most evil, cruel rat mom.


This morning, Boomer greets me happily, bruxing his fool head off. But not scratching. Scottie, dozing in the hammock opens his eyes. He sees me-- looks for a second and then shuffles around so his butt is facing me. His tail falls out of the hammock.

My little agouti cutie doesn't trust me anymore.

I can't wait until next Monday.