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RIP Pheeps

My husband isn’t an animal person. Although I complain about this sometimes, deep down I know it’s a good thing because if he were an animal person I’d probably have a couple of goats in my living room right now. (Here’s your morning kale, Bleaty. Aww, thanks for the head butt. I love you, too!) Yes, I am most definitely an animal person and always have been. When I was less than two I followed a kitten into a sketchy part of Sacramento and got lost for a while. My mom freaked out of course, but what could I do? That kitty was pretty. My boyfriend before my husband liked birds. We got parakeets at some point, but then he decided parakeets were just “the poor man’s parrot”. So we got parrots too. In case you didn’t know, all parrots are pretty much deranged lunatics. They consider you part of the flock and get very, very anxious and angry if you leave to say, go to the grocery store or work. Here’s (the somewhat quieter version of) what it sounds like.

And they do it more or less the whole time you ever have the nerve to walk away or leave the room. To this day, I still don’t know if our neighbors were deaf or just extremely tolerant, because they never complained. Our male parrot, Coco, fell in love with my boyfriend which meant I was “competition”. I still have scars from when he dived bombed me a few times. In my face. Yikes. If you want a super intense pet that loves you to an almost murderous degree, then get a parrot. Otherwise, hands off.

Aww. Melena and Coco. Actually, I totally loved them, the crazy characters they were. I’d still have them today if I hadn’t had children and started worrying, not without reason, that they might peck out my daughter’s eyes in a fit of jealous rage. Hope the little guys are happy in their new homes.

Yes, it is good that my husband isn’t an animal person.

Exotic pets aside, part of me would love to have a dog. Berlin is very lax about pets in rentals, so I definitely could have one if my husband didn’t put on the breaks or I pushed him hard enough. But the other part of me doesn’t want the responsibility, the hassle when we go out of town. Although my daughters swear they’d take the pooch for walks, who do you think would really be out with Fido at 6 am in February with black ice on the sidewalk and a plastic poop bag in my hand? Me, of course. No thanks. Except for the bird killing, I like cats in houses, but all the apartment cats I’ve ever known are neurotic wrecks and litter boxes are one of the most disgusting things in the world. Still, an animal junkie like me needs a pet, and fish don’t really cut the mustard, at least not for long. That’s why we have rats.

Rats?!? Yes indeed. In case you don’t know, and there’s a good chance that you don’t, rats actually make fantastic pets, particularly for children. They are basically dogs in cages: super smart, tame and playful, really happy to see you, weird and gross at times. If you’re going rodent, they’re the best choice by far. We usually have between three to five.

The only downside: they don’t live very long, usually only between 18 months to 2 years. Many end up getting cancer and they’re also prone to respiratory illnesses. Then again, this is probably nature’s way to keep them in check. Rats are crafty survivors and multiple fast. If they didn’t die easily and quickly, they’d probably rule the world.

One of my all time favorite rats Pheeps died a couple of days ago and I’m super sad. She was such an eccentric, playful, loving little soul. She was also somewhat of a badass. Rats are territorial pack animals wary of intruders, which means you have to introduce them to each other slowly. I learned this the hard way when I got my first rats as an adult with my ex-husband.

Me and my ex-husband: Hey, Rosa. Look! We got you a new little friend. Her name is Rita.

Rosa: Reeeepppp!!!! (now proceeds to do a Mike Tyson and bite off poor Rita’s ear. They never did learn to get along that well…)

If you introduce rats more slowly, it doesn’t (usually) get bloody like that. But they still have to establish dominance to see who’s the top rat in the pack. That top rat was always Pheeps even though she was a dwarf rat, much smaller than the others. She lived until she was almost three, which is old for a rat, but still not long enough.

RIP, sweet Pheeps. You will be missed. Here’s a playlist I made in your honor with songs I think you would have liked. Happy listening up there in the great big sewer in the sky…

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