The Passing of Sam


by Mary Grace Mauney

Sam the rat, the real life counterpart to the one in the Migstories, passed away last Friday. Dad had called me called on Thursday night to tell me that she was dying, and I requested that he put her on the phone for me. I told her that I really wanted to see her one more time, and that I would be home tomorrow, but that if the pain got too much, to let go, and that I loved her.

She chirped in response.

When I made it home on Friday, she was still alive, but barely, and she passed away in my arms. Maybe it was just coincidence, but I think she might just have been holding out with all the fight she had left in order to say goodbye to me before she went to say hello again to Miss Blatz.

Miss Blatz was the reason that we had gotten Sam in the first place. Immediately after we had taken Miss Blatz in and gotten her a bigger cage, we knew we had to get her a companion. Rats can die of loneliness, after all. Since Miss Blatz was herself a young energetic rat at the time (I had no idea she would become plump and placid later) so I looked for most energetic, bouncy little rat in the pet store that I could find. I picked Sam out of a bunch of similar-looking little girls, perhaps her sisters; all were spritely, but she was the live-wire of the bunch. While I drove the car home, Dad held her box, which she kept jumping out of like the proverbial Jack. He had to continuously put her back in so she wouldn’t get loose in the car, so we knew right away she was just fine with people handling her. Now our only other concern was how well she’d get along with Miss Blatz; female rats are less likely to have interpersonal problems than males, but still, I couldn’t help worrying that Miss Blatz might bully this newcomer due to her small size.

Instead, Miss Blatz adopted her. She treated Sam not as a target or even a roomie, but as her very own baby. And a baby she stayed; for whatever reason, Sam never grew past juvenile rat size, and remained youthful-looking her entire life. Well, except for her hind feet; those grew to full size even though the rest of her stayed small, resulting in a very comical (and very adorable) off-balance appearance. In addition to staying tiny for life, she also, unlike Miss Blatz, stayed energetic for life too. She was a sweet friendly rat, but she wasn’t much for sitting still and getting cuddled. She preferred to go on adventures, like running under the couch or jumping off chairs into the window blinds where she’d get stuck. To quench her wanderlust in a safe way, we got her a big ball to run around in. She liked to use it to bump into people until they paid attention to her, and would even follow me in it as I walked around the house!

One day, when she was about a year old, I noticed that she had started losing the hair on her head. And then I noticed she was growing lumps under her arms. The surgery it would take to remove them was too expensive and too risky, and the vet told us that even if she did survive the surgery, the lumps would likely grow back anyway. So my dad and I resigned ourselves to just enjoying what time we had left with her, which we thought wasn’t going to be much at all…

It was a whole ‘nother year and then some. Sam ended up living her complete lifespan regardless of her tumors. Her growths, though hideous to look at, never slowed her down, she still ran and played and climbed and did all the things she always did. As awful as she looked on the outside, it seemed her inside—that is, both her health and her personality---was not affected, that this was a purely cosmetic malady, My dad thinks that maybe whatever caused this was what stunted her growth, though we’ll never know for sure.

It was only after her beloved foster mother Miss Blatz passed away of old age that Sam began to decline in health. I’ve found that it’s pretty similar for rats who are cagemates to die within a few weeks of each other, which is what ended up happening. Given how old Sam herself was by then, tiny or not, I don’t even think it was the tumors that killed her; I think it was just old age and not having her best friend/mother figure around anymore.

But they’ll be together forever in MigStories.