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   My next rats would be two girls, Blossom and Cleo, and two boys, Corey and Robin. Corey and Robin were quite the party animals - rambunctious and fun-loving. Blossom was also quite sweet, and very easy to handle. Cleo had the quirky trait of moving her head back and forth as she looked at you. I read on the internet that it was due to her eyesight being not so good and weaving her head back and forth gave her better 3-D depth perception. Anyhow, she was very cute when she did that and it made her look like she was doing a little Egyptian dance, so that's how she got her name, Cleo.

   Eventually I got Corey and Robin neutered, and all four of them, plus Belle, lived in a big three-story ferret cage (rats are generally very social and love living with other rats). On the top level was a wicker basket with old towels and cloths. In the cooler weather the rats would use this as their bed, and in the mornings I would wake up to find all the rats piled in the basket, on top of each other. You would always see a little pink nose poking up through the rat bodies, and that was usually Belle, who slept on the bottom of the rat pile, completely comfortable and warm.

   This past fall Cleo and Robin passed on, so I have only Blossom and Corey left from their original group. They are both nearing two years old and are coming to the end of their lives. Corey appears to be slowing losing the use of his back legs, which is common in geriatric rats. But he is still as sweet and good-natured as ever, as you can see from this photo, and will spend a lot of time licking my hands.

The following update added August 11, 2002.....
   Several months ago Corey started to go downhill, as he lost the use of his back legs and then slowly lost the use of all his limbs. He ate less and less and began losing weight, becoming alarmingly slight. But still, he hung on to life and fought valiently, harder than any other animal I have ever known. In light of his fierce determination to continue, I could not make the decision to assist him to the Rainbow Bridge, but instead did everything I could to keep him clean, fed and comfortable. Finally one warm morning in May 2002 he made the jump to the Bridge, where I'm sure he greets every sunrise with all the joy and enthusiasm he showed to me.

   In the last months of her life, Blossom was beset with a number of tumors growing all over her body. The veterinarian did not want to operate on her because of her age, and for most of the time she was not particularly bothered by them. But eventually the tumors became too large for her and she could barely move around or clean herself.

   One Friday evening I took her out of her cage to clean her and hold her. In spite of the tumors being as large as the rest of her body and undoubtedly uncomfortable and painful, she was still as happy and bright-eyed as she always had been (and how I'll always remember her). Instead of putting her back in her cage for the night, I decided to let her stay on the living room couch. There is an area behind the pillows and between the seat cushions that was her very favorite area, a place warm, secure, sheltered, dark and comfortable where she loved to take long naps. It was there that I found her the next morning, with her front paws folded in front of her face as if she were praying. I was very glad she was able to die quietly and peacefully in the most comfortable and secure place she had known.

   I will never forget her bright, loving, trusting eyes, and I am glad to have had a sweet little rat like her in my life.

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