Our Sailing Jewelry!
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by sarah hair
Several days ago I woke as usual to the sounds of Tokyo and Sendai anxiously climbing the cage alerting me to their hunger. They greet the morning with a chipper and excited sound after a restful night's sleep, while the rest of us try to squeeze out some final moments of silence while hiding under our pillows which have been strategically placed around the entire head to smother both ears to filter out neighbor noises from both the late-night furniture movers upstairs and the pre-dawn television blazers next door.
Usually at least one of us wearily stumbles to their cage, mumbles some sort of koochie koochie kooing and flattery about how cute they are, hands them some nummies and carries them around on a shoulder, shirt, in the hand, or to the bed to cuddle up for a few minutes to begin the day. Their little whiskers greet us in the morning and put all in a better state to take on the rest of the day.
This particular morning, however, was very, very, different. Tokyo assumed his usual position hanging from the side of the cage so as to show me and point to his hungry little belly. Sendai followed suit, both banging as loudly as possible and squeaking like a set of abused dog toys. No, that part was the same, but it was the state of Tokyo's belly which was different. His exposed belly showed a massive round object, as if he had swallowed a ping-pong ball whole and it lodged in his lower intestine refusing to go any further.
I ran rather than stumbled to the cage and gently removed Tokyo alone, leaving a hungry, confused, and jealous Sendai safely behind the bars. We stared, examined, and gasped at the large growth which had developed overnight on our favorite boy. Larger than his head in fewer than 8 hours. We had played with him only a handful of hours prior, just before retiring for the evening.
Oddly, our Tokyo was actually moving much more gracefully than his usual self. We had taken him to a doctor several months prior when he began to walk with an inexplicable labored limp, only to have it disappear after a single dose of pain killer. Assuming he was perhaps a junkie insisting on an injury to force a scrip for his fix, we discontinued use and watched the limp and his slow and occasionally labored movement come and go with no apparent pattern for the next several months. We have always favored him and treated him with a more gentle touch than that afforded Sendai, perhaps sensing that he was just that much more fragile.
A phone consultation with his doctor, yes, our rat has his own doctor, something I myself, and even our human children can not claim, calmed me down significantly after waiting all morning and afternoon anxiously hovering near the phone and hoping to maintain my status in the elusive coverage zone. He can be examined on Monday, a full 5 days away, at the soonest. Until then, we are to measure it and record the size no fewer than twice daily. Considering it grew to our initial finding of 1.5 inches across - larger than his head - literally overnight, this seemed at first to be inadequate. Further pleading with the vet technician on the phone revealed that the growth was probably not possible within that time frame and as such must have been present, although hidden, for some time now.
The hypothesis from the doctor is that he had the tumor growing within him from several weeks or even months back - probably before he had the difficulty walking those several months ago. The tumor, being most likely a benign tumor and not specifically attached to other parts of his body simply migrated to the outside of his belly, showing itself to us on this specific day. I certainly prefer this hypothesis to that of our first thoughts of him having grown that entire tumor overnight, and our two day findings seem to corroborate the initial prognosis, since the size has stayed close to 1.5 inches across, as measured by our calipers, and even dipping down to a little over 1.25 on one of our readings.
Needless to say, he is enjoying a lot more prodding these past few days, though a lot fewer sweeties. We have cleaned up his diet to give him significantly high calorie, low fat foods, especially focusing on fresh foods, to make sure he has enough vitamins and energy with that tumor leeching off so much of his nutritional intake.
We will find out more on Monday, but for today, he is resting more than usual - probably due to the higher calories we are allowing him to wallow in.
What is particularly surprising is that he is just now about 7 months old. While this is a little older than the natural life expectancy of a rat in the wild facing cats, rat traps, poisons, and other dangers, it is a mere adolescent in the 2-3 year life-span of his pampered counterparts in cages. What is more is to think that it may have been there for several months - appearing as early as in his infancy! I suppose now, it is little wonder he so quickly stole our hearts with his slow and deliberate movements and clever cunning ways.