But on this day ... nothing. I could see her head oddly positioned in the tank, and I had a bad feeling about it.
Close inspection revealed the end had finally come for Omelet, a rat who was actually born in that cage in that room. She was the daughter of a previous rat whose litter of 12 surprised the heck out of us but gave us a chance to watch the beauty of nature in action. (If this happens to you, fear not. There’s very little you have to do. Mom can take care of the process just fine.)
There’s a lot that’s intriguing and cool and surprising and educational about having rodent pets. They’re far more social than anyone gives them credit for. And they’re just plain fun to watch. But when they die, there’s nothing fun about the cleanup.
I pulled Omelet’s carcass out of the tank, wrapped it up in a towel and removed it from her room. I cleaned the tank with the garden hose and left the tank on the front steps, thinking I had plenty of time to get everything cleaned up before Emma came home.
I was wrong. Instead of going straight to work after school, she came home to change clothes. Seeing the tank on the steps, she knew.
“Is Omelet dead?” she asked.
I paused, then nodded.
I knew what would happen next. Every time Emma’s ever had a rodent pet “transition” from this life to the next, she takes it pretty hard. This time was no different.
There’s another dirty job: consoling a crying kid. That job used to be an easy one. A kid falls down and skins a knee and cries, and you pick them up and hold them and tell them it’s going to be OK. It sounds odd, but I always kind of liked those moments. It’s a tough scene, sure. But it’s a scene where the tragedy of moment creates bond, where you experience something unique with your child, you get to learn a little bit more about who they are, even if it’s a moment they’d rather forget.