Poppa (& Momma) here. . .
It deeply saddens me that we lost our Thelma unexpectedly on Thursday, less than two weeks after PennyLane passed away.
It had been a rough couple of weeks for poor Thelma; the craziness of visiting family over the holidays, losing her sister and cage-mate Penny, moving into a new cage and suddenly sharing her life with 3 energetic children.
She was so lethargic and uninterested in anything after Penny died that we introduced her new cage-mates in hopes that it would give her someone to play and cuddle with. The introduction of her new sisters went very well. There was no fighting (albeit a little wrestling and dry humping amongst the 3 youngsters) and the four of them took to cuddling together from the very start.
Unfortunately, Thelma's labored breathing that had started right around the time we lost Penny kept getting worse, so we took her into the vet at Camden. The vet noticed that she was pale (you can see this in the nose, lips and feet of rats) and that she was wheezing, but didn't find any physical problems and said that her lungs didn't sound terribly congested. Thelma was given two medications to be taken twice a day and moved into her own private cage to recuperate. During the visit, she also got put in a mini oxygen tent while the vet prepared the medications, just to help her get her oxygen levels up.
Thelma came home, took her medications and rested up in a separate cage for what we hoped would be a speedy recovery. She wanted to come out, but when we brought her out, her bottom lip was very blue and she was stumbling all over, almost as if she was drunk. We didn't want her to get hurt, so we put her back in her private cage and gave her attention as she rested in her hammock.
Throughout the night, we heard her moving around and the last time I checked on her at 3am, she was moving around getting a drink of water. Unfortunately, when mama checked on her at 6am, Thelma had gone to be with Penny.
Don't tell Penny this, but Thelma was the favorite child and this loss was absolutely heartbreaking for everyone in the family. Putting Penny down was one of the hardest things we've had to do and we were hoping Thelma would be with us for just a little while longer. Losing Thelma while we were still fragile after Penny's death was an unexpected and draining blow that we weren't ready to deal with for at least a few more months (but to be honest, I don't think we could ever be in a strong enough place to say goodbye to Thelma.)
Looking back, it's pretty easy to say that Thelma died of a broken heart after losing her sister. We'd done some research and learned that like swans, rats partner for life and sometimes after losing this special friend, the other isn't long for this world. After Penny died, Thelma just stopped thriving and although it was wonderful having a lethargic, elder rat to have resting in your lap, there was a deep sadness in her that could never be filled (despite attempts by her new sisters Eleanor, Prudence and Lucy). We gave her all the love and attention we could and I'm sure she enjoyed the time with her momma and poppa during this sad time, I think she had just gotten worn out.
Queen Thelma had a wonderful send off on Thursday. Wrapped in her favorite cut-up portion of one of my old robes, Thelma was placed in a beautifully festive Christmas gift box that was covered in Sharpie-written messages of love from her family. She even had a note from Momma and a few of her favorite flavor of Yogi's placed inside, but we like to believe that there was a mountain of those waiting for her in rat heaven anyway. Her grand-papa was nice enough to dig through the frozen ground on a cold, January night so she could have a final resting place close to the ones she loved.
A cinder block currently marks the grave of a wonderful little critter that dug her way deep into our hearts. We will miss her terribly, but I've already begun to see traces of her personality in Lucy, as she sits on the food-dish, carefully selecting her next morsel of food. I'll keep readers posted if I notice a ghost-rat stealing any food.
Rest in Peas, our beloved little girl
Life goes on, even for rats, and although I miss having my Thelma-bear nestled in my lap or hood as I sit on the computer, her sisters are quickly learning the joy of nesting their way into my sweatshirt. At this moment, Prudence has found a warm place to nap on my tummy, in between my t-shirt and sweatshirt, and Lucy has become a huge fan of digging deep into my hood, then watching over my shoulder as I type. Eleanor gets upset if she's not brought out as much as her two younger sisters and seems to prefer relaxing in the crook of my arm.
It's funny how such small, little souls can crawl their way into yours. I grew up with a variety of hamsters as a child, but have never seen such personality and life in such a tiny package. It's hard to say goodbye to Thelma and Penny, who shared as much of themselves with us as we gave to them, but it warms my heart when I see their three young sisters cuddling up, the same way as their two older sisters did, on the top level of the cage, nestled in one of my old t-shirts.