Fall, 2002. The homemade cage had been empty and
silent for eight months. I spent hours in pet
stores, staring at the rats through the glass. They
popcorned and play fought and sneezed, but day
after day I left with empty hands.
I saw an ad in September. It was for a rat
rescue adoption fair in a nearby city, held in a
pet shop. I went. I walked to the back, and saw two
cages filled with swirling black and white wisps.
They leapt, they climbed, they tumbled on top of
each other. The lady opened the cage door just as
one little black rat launched himself at that very
spot. He flew through the open door and fell,
surprised, to the floor. I scooped him up.
The little rat was tame, unbelievably tame. He
climbed nervously around the shoulders of this
strange human giant. When he couldn't hold it any
more, he peed. I played with him for an hour. He
trusted me not to harm him, stunning faith in an
animal so tiny he fit in my palm.
I looked in the cage again. I asked to have two
more taken out. That one, a black one with a
half-white nose, and the little one over there
behind the wheel, a white one with a black head. I
had three little rats crawling on me now, trusting
and nervous and tangled in my hair. I'm taking
these three, I said, and I signed the paperwork and
put them in a little carrier.