This hurts so much to say. Bandit is gone. We had her put to sleep on Tuesday morning, April 10th. It’s been a week now since we lost her and while the pain is slowly easing, replaced by happy memories of her life, I still miss her like crazy.
After she fought so hard for so long, Bandit’s body finally failed her. I knew we were nearing the end, but I was worried that I wouldn’t know when it was time to help her pass. But on monday night, she let me know–she lost interest in food and water, and was becoming lethargic. BT and I brought her to the vet first thing tuesday morning to have her euthanized. We held her, all wrapped up in blankets, and kissed her and petted her and said our goodbyes while she gently fell asleep. It was very peaceful.
She was at least two and a half years old, possibly closer to three.
I am completely heartbroken. I’ve cried every day since she went. Everything reminds me of her, reminds me that she’s gone. She was my first rat, my heart rat, my best friend. It’s so hard to go into the rat room, knowing that I’m not going to see her sweet little raccoon face looking out at me from some comfy spot.
Bandit had a rough beginning. She was born a feeder rat in a dingy basement–part of a nasty BYB set up that was going on in the house BT was renting a room in at the time (these people were not friends of ours!) She was part of a big group of baby rats that were brought up from the basement to live in a huge glass tank in the living room of the house–because the housemates thought the rats would be fun to look at. They were no one’s pets though–every rat in that house was meant to be snake food.
We had originally had no intention of falling in love with any rats, but Bandit, with her little mask, caught our attention right away. These rats had no socialization at all, and it took us weeks to get little Bandit to trust us enough that she wouldn’t run and hide when we reached into the tank. She became “our” rat long before we were actually able to get her out of that situation–I would take her out of the tank whenever I was at the house and carry her around on my shoulder or in a hood. The whole house knew that her name was Bandit, and that there was no way she was going to be snake food. BT and I began the process of making room for a rat in our lives, so we could get her out of that awful tank. We adopted her, her daughter Janus–for Bandit had sadly become a momma much too young before we could get her out of there–and Appa, another girl from a different litter born in the house.
Despite her poor socialization and traumatic beginnings, Bandit was always sweet, patient, and gentle, if shy. She never liked to start trouble. She really grew with us as we stumbled our way through learning how to properly care for rats. She took it all in stride.
Bandit lost one friend, her daughter, much too soon, and lost Appa a year after–one generation removed from her, they were even more prone to poor health from the terrible way they had been bred. She made new friends when Erebus and Quiz joined the group. The middle of her life was filled with romps around our (rat-proofed) living room, building fantastic nests under our furniture, box castles, pea fishing, dig boxes, new foods to try, a new homemade cage which ultimately failed, a shiny new Martin’s R695 and her very first hammocks, which she determined to be some of the greatest things ever invented.
Bandit developed her first mammary tumor in April of 2011 and she just never stopped. She went through four or five tumor removal surgeries in her life, and most were to remove multiple tumors at a time. Each time she grew a new lump I would cry and despair, thinking I was going to lose her, but she just kept fighting. She also developed HED that summer and had a recurring mild URI that we could never quite beat. She just couldn’t catch a break. But she adapted so well to everything that happened to her. It seemed there was nothing that could dampen her spirit–she was just happy to be here.
In fact, Bandit just seemed to grow happier as she aged, even though her body was failing her. I’m sure she missed running and climbing, and was sometimes a little overwhelmed by the antics of her younger cagemates, but there was always this look in her eyes of contentment. It was so gratifying to see how happy she was with where life had brought her. It always felt like she was thanking me, the way she looked at me with those bright eyes and bruxed.
It may sound odd, but I grew so much closer to Bandit during her last year, and especially in her final five months when her really serious health issues began. As she grew older and less able-bodied, she shed whatever uncertainty and shyness that still remained from her unpleasant beginnings. She was just the loveliest creature to be a around. As she came to rely on BT and I more for care, she sought us out. She would brux whenever we held her, she would cuddle beside us and fall asleep while we read or watched a movie. She was extremely empathetic, helping us through sad moments and sick days, cuddling up in our shirts and bruxing away until we felt better. Even when climbing in or out of a hammock was a huge chore, she would always come to the door of the cage to greet us, wanting to come out. Up until the very end, she was still so vibrant and excited about things. I hope that some day, if I grow old and my body fails me, I’ll still remember the way Bandit accepted aging with such grace, and the way she still found so much joy in life.
She was threadbare by the end of her life, her fur thin and patchy and her body all skin and bones. Her back legs didn’t work at all anymore. But she was still beautiful.
We buried her in our yard, above one of our gardens, and planted a forsythia bush over her, so that her body can become part of the plant… so we can still feel like some part of her is with us.
Rest well, Bandit. I’m so happy you shared your life with me. Thank you for all you taught me about how beautiful the world is. I miss you so much. ❤