Don’t buy, Adopt! Takes on a new meaning for me

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So far I never had a breed dog or a cat (or any animal). My first dog was bought by my parents (I didn’t have any say in it, they gave me her as a present) from my dad’s mechanic. It was not responsible breeding but it also wan not a puppy mill. Two neighbours had giant schnautzer type of dogs and decided to breed them. My other dogs are/were adopted or found on a street. Most of my cats were found by me or my friends, and two were adopted. I am not against buying dogs or cats from good breeders, it is a personal decision and I might have a breed dog one day too, I don’t know.

I would never buy a dog in a pet store or from a mass production breeder. I have reported pet stores selling dogs and I think it should be illegal….

I needed to say all of that first before I get to my rats.

Knowing all of the above I went and bought two rats at a pet store. Why was I so stupid to think that it would be any different? Maybe because it is a small store, close to my house, they don’t (didn’t) have rats often and they told me they are getting them from a guy who breeds his rats from time to time. I think all of the above was me rationalising my stupid decision. I just wanted those two particular rats. Why, I don’t know. I went there every day to look at them and couldn’t stop thinking about them. So even though I knew I should not buy animals in a store I got them.

First week went pretty good, we had a nice cage with cool toys and hammocks for them. One rat (Eddie) was outgoing and playful, the other one (Freddie) was fearful but improving every day. At the end of the week on Sunday they were both running on our bed while we enjoyed coffee.

However, somewhere half way through the first week we started to have doubts. They told us that Eddie was a male but his testicles didn’t drop and that a vet said he might have to have operation but we have to wait and see (a vet never saw him but I found out that later).

On Friday I went to a store and ask the manager whether it is possible that someone made a mistake and Eddie is indeed a female (too me and Jochem he looked very female). I was told that no it’s not possible (the manger actually haven’t check herself but trusted her employees). I still made an appointment to the vet to check.

On Monday I took both of the rats to the vet (in hindsight I should have not taken Freddie, but I thought he might need a health check) and yes Eddie was officially a female now. This changed everything. Rats had to be separated just in case she wasn’t pregnant yet and we had to start planning for possible litter (they are brother and sister which complicates things even more).

Freddie was so stressed by the separation and trip to the vet he stayed in his house all the time. He would take food from my hand from time to time but woud not go outside.

One of the options we were considering was a sterilisation of Eddie (possibly with an abortion). We made an appointment with a vet specialist. She was a bit too young (18 weeks from what they have told us) but the vet said she can be operated on. Half way through the day I was called by the clinic and told that Eddie is too small to be operated on. So again we were in the starting point.

As soon as I found out about her gender I started contacting non profit organisations for rats to ask for advice. No one replied, till finally on Wednesday I got hold of someone who gave me a number to a women who was taking care of rats for adoption. She was a great help from the first moment. She told me that Eddie might have problems with giving birth because she is so young and we might not be able to provide proper care as we don’t have experience with pregnant rats. We made an appointment to bring her our rats on Thursday so she can take them to another vet specialist on Friday.

We had to rent a car and Jochem had to take another day off work. Eddie, even though she went through as much as Freddie was still confident and outgoing. Freddie on the other hand was still really scared. I had to pick him up to transfer him into a traveling box and he was terrified, trying ot het our and squeaking. It broke my heart ­čśŽ

The place where we brought our rats was fantastic. Half of a wall downstairs was lined up with huge professional cages all furnished with toys, tunnels and hammocks. Upstairs there was a whole room filled with rats, also in awesome cages and a play room for rats. Alle the rats were well taken care of and very friendly. We discussed our possibilities. First of all our rats are not 18 weeks old but max 10! So no wonder Eddie was too small for an operation. We decided that for now both rats will stay there. Eddie till we either know if she is pregnant or till she gives birth and rises her babies. Freddie because the lady was hoping she can find a male friend for him. Because he is so small he cannot be paired with an adult rat.

Three days have passed and Eddie was checked by a doctor, and they couldn’t feel anything so she is either not pregnant or just very recently pregnant. We will have to wait for three weeks to know for sure. Freddie is still alone and very afraid. None of the other rat “shelters” or even reputable breeders have young males. He CANNOT be alone in his state and this time of his life. So we will have to make some difficult decisions.

We will pick him (and maybe Eddie) today. I have to start an intense process of socialising him with us. I never did that with a rat but I will use my knowledge about dogs and animals in general. If there is one thing I know is how to be patient with a fearful animal.

So yes, please never ever make my mistake and buy pets in a pet store!

Freddie (top) and Eddie (bottom)




A puppy and joggers

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I was walking Salma in the park when we met cute little ball of fur that turned out to be a mix of White Swiss Shepherd and a German Shepherd. Just before the puppy run towards us he grabbed a leg of passing by jogger. Puppy was around 8 weeks old still pure cuteness but in no time he will turn into few months old teenager, pretty large and strong and joggers won’t be so understanding when they get chased and bitten. I’m always careful to suggest things to other owners but I did mention in a casual way that when I had my last puppy I asked her to sit in front of me every time a jogger or a bike passed by and I rewarded her for paying attention to me. Just after we went our separate ways puppy chased another jogger who stopped to pet him.

If it was my puppy or a puppy I worked with I would make sure he doesn’t have a chance to fail, to “misbehave”. Living in a city that is filled with joggers and cyclists throughout the year you teaching your dog to behave calmly around them is very important. 8 weeks old puppy is not that fast or agile yet and we have a good chance to gets it attention BEFORE it sees distraction, in this way we don’t have to compete with the environment. ┬áRegardless whether the puppy would show interest in fast moving objects or not I would put it on a leash whenever there would be jogger or cyclist approaching (before the puppy saw them) and reward the dog for paying attention to me while moving object is near. I would probably also incorporate sit if the puppy was able to sit. Also I would change the distance depending on how difficult it would be for the puppy to remain calm. I think it is a lot better to try to manage environment in a way that we don’t have to say “No” to a puppy. Let’s set him up to succeed not to fail.┬á

Bikes and goats

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Chili is being a little annoying lately, killing my beloved tomatoes and bugging Salma. I hope it’s just temporary, yet another disadvantage of puberty. She is approaching 8 months, and can get a lot more difficult from now on. Taking her size in consideration it might take her two years to mature.

Chili became fascinated by goats recently, and everything we pass by children’s farm she runs to the gate and waits for me to take her in. First time she was watching goats while they were eating in a barn. We were standing outside. And today she first observed them from a safety of my lap. Goats where on a pasture, behind a fence and they were showing a lot of interest in us. They even send one of them to come close to us and check out what are we. I didn’t let Chili get to close to them. She could start barking if she feels scared.

We also tired biking for the first time….well it wasn’t too bad. She wasn’t afraid to walk next to the bike. Off the leash in the beginning she kept stopping in front of me and eventually I didn’t break on time and she got hit. t wasn’t hard because I was going very slow but she did get scared and stayed a little bit behind the front wheel. I want her to be able to run next to a bike, but I won’t make it a regular thing. Firstly her joints are to young and secondly I want to spend out time on the walks interacting with her, and making her believe that walking with me is fun.