My son, Charlie, refers to it as “Fido’s origin story,” and there was certainly something mythical about it, because of all the ways to get a new pet. . .
We were low on animals at the time. We’d lost two goldfish, our hamster had recently died, and the two box turtles–Bugs Bunny and Explorer–were not exactly sociable.
I was shopping at our local family-owned grocery store–can’t remember what it was that I needed to get, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a rat.
I was near the front of the store, where paper sacks were lined up waiting for delivery, when I became aware of a surge of excitement–the sort of EEEKing and squawking that tends to go along with rodents. A grocer went barreling by, yelling, “Get it out of here!” Another was shouting, “Kill it!”
And there, sticking his head out of one of the paper sacks, was a rat. Not one of our local roof-rats, which do look a bit sinister–so sinister that we prefer to call them ‘rabbits’ to take the edge of a visit to the garage at night. No, it was one of the prettiest rats I’d ever met, softly patterned in brown and white.
This was before I became part rodent myself–before I thought myself into the heart of mouse society for my series of books set in the Mouse Nation. But like my fictional mice, I did manage to react with lightning speed.
“Stop!” I shouted to the rampaging grocers. “Triple bag that rat. I’ll take him!”
Poor Fido! Who knows what had happened to him before he found himself in that paper sack, then triple-bagged? He seemed traumatized. We made him comfortable in the old hamster cage, then bought him his own palace, a three-story condo that sat in the corner of the kitchen where he could feel he was part of the family.
We invited him out. After closing all the kitchen doors, we would leave his cage door open. But for a while Fido wasn’t interested in freedom. Didn’t want to stick a paw outside his home. And if my son took him out of the cage he would sprint back to it at the first opportunity.
Fido’s emergence happened gradually, a few steps at a time, still punctuated by sprints back to safety. But at last he seemed to trust us, and to take pleasure in exploring his surroundings. At last he was happy to hang out with his humans, and climb on Charlie from time to time, which he remembers as kind of scratchy.
|Charlie and Fido|