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Thursday, April 20th, 2017 07:16 pm
My surprise at Tramper rat still being alive at our return to NZ proved to be short-lived. The following morning his body was still so prior to work I buried him in the backyard and planted forget-me-nots. At 33 months (82.5 rat years) Tramper was the last of his trio, the largest and oldest of the group. In his younger days he was certainly the leader and most forward of the pack, gregarious and gentle. As he aged, he slowly accumulated various health problems; a foot infection, a mammary tumour, and glaucoma. He lived through these with a high degree of adaptability. Whilst wary of anthropmorphising, I cannot help but think that he kept himself alive for a few extra days to ensure his farewells.

Thus ends some fifteen years of having rats as animal companions. The entry point was a few years prior whilst living with Glenn K., in Richmond where his rat Spit befriended me. Following my return from Timor-Leste I've lived with Harlequin and Montebanc, then Vagabond and Rogue, Ragamaffin and Scoundrel, Calamity, Mischief, and Trouble, Rascal, Nomad, and Riff-Raff, Tricky and Naughty (the mothers of P, P, & P), Lucky, Picador, Pierrot, and Prankster, and finally, Scamper, Rover, and Tramper - this is along with looking after Bambi and Suki for a neighbour.

For the uninitiated the rat may seem a strange choice of companion. They have bad press, as bearers of diseases (true), dirty (false), cunning (true), and selfish (false). For those in the know, they are intelligent, they are social, they have memory and reasoning and - from a combination of these factors - are surprisingly moral creatures, exhibiting empathy, guilt, and altruism. I have learned a great deal from them, and perhaps a little about myself as I have done my best to care for them. I hope I have contributed in some small amount to their comfort. I have not lost interest in the creatures but my own life-plans do not allow at this stage for their limited lifespans. So, in parting, I raise a salute to these heroic creatures.

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