The Te of Rats

My best friend in college was a rat. That probably sounds strange to most people, but it’s true, he was a very wise old soul. And very silly. I think he kept me from killing myself more times than one would imagine. His name was Nikolas, and he was like a burst of sunlight in my life from the time he was a ratlet dangling from my glasses to his old age three years later snuggling up to me and just Being There. He also insisted in being in a video of mine once, he was honestly just supposed to be wandering around like normal but he leapt up into the frame. But mostly he would do things to make me laugh, and he would wash me when I was upset. I can’t adequately convey what his being was like, except that he was an exceptional friend.

When he died people ridiculed me for being so upset by it. I still miss him, five years later. I don’t know why people made fun of me, they thought he was “just a rat” and that small beings are essentially worthless. It was tragic, because that’s how I realized Nikolas contained more empathy than most of the people I knew. I remember crying and crying and deciding to leave Vancouver to find some place where people could understand mourning a rat. But, well, yeah, there isn’t a place where people understand that.

I’ve had some other very close animal friends, right now I have a dog who has the same personality as me, it’s really funny! People think he’s a bit of an asshole because he’s terribly suspicious of strangers and acts neurotic when they’re around. But as soon as he’s with people he likes and trusts he’s completely funny, energetic, loving, gentle, and ridiculously intelligent. It’s kind of interesting because he does come in such a small package, like Nikolas did, so people just treat him like a dumb little dog. I guess they just can’t understand him. And people assume that things they don’t understand are ugly or stupid. As bad as it sounds, how people treat my dog gives me a good idea of how they will treat me, so if someone’s a jerk to him I know to keep them away from both of us.

Once when I was in high school I came out of a store to get my dog Wesley and take us home, and I started talking to him like I always do when some snotty little girl said “Stupid! Talking to a dog! So so stupid!” And I was taken aback, not because I felt stupid but because someone so obviously idiotic was admonishing me. And if she had been a grown up I would have felt the same way.

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