My Friend, Fernando

Can you hear the drums, Fernando?

I remember long ago another starry night like this.

He was a beautiful soul and I miss him already. Just as I miss his cousin of sorts, Rip, who died just two days before him.

Fernando was one of my favorites. He had a quiet personality and preferred to play the background to his brother. I loved his rex fur, especially as it had been several years since I’d had a “little lamby”. Fernando was not food-motivated like Santi. He would nearly always choose a head rub or the chance to get out and cautiously explore near his cage over a tasty morsel.

He had no fear of my cats, and both boys had their paws bitten by him, when they got too nosy. He also made me laugh, when he pulled Harvard’s tail through the wires of his cage. Whether he was going to make it into a nest or try to take it up to his hammock, I don’t know, as Harvard got it out of there as soon as he realized it was being gently yanked! He had a great propensity for chewing and successfully demolished every nice hammock he got. He was never a ground rat, and even on his last day, managed to get on top of his nearly shredded condo.

Fernando and Santi were very close—they did everything together. So, it was a terrible loss for Fernando when Santi died. Fernando had to “show” me where his brother was and didn’t want me taking him out of the cage.

After the loss of Santi, Fernando went into a deep depression. He refused to eat and I was certain he was going to die too. It was like he’d made up his mind that he didn’t want to live. He was sad and reserved and wanted out of his cage in the worst way. I ended up giving him a different cage, to hopefully give him a fresh start to help him forget Santi.

It seemed to help some, and extra attention from me helped too. He also seemed to appreciate moving closer to the other cage of rats, so he felt like he was with them. After his several days of not eating and getting steadily weaker, something changed. It was like he decided he wanted to live after all. In all the years I’ve had rats, nothing like that has ever happened. Once a rat makes up his mind that he is dying, there is next to nothing that can be done to change it. This time, I think God changed his mind for him—maybe to let me have my buddy for just a bit longer in this season of death.

He began to eat yogurt drops and a few pieces of puppy food. Yogurt drops were his staple food until he died, as nothing else appealed to him, for longer than a couple days. He loved the spoon the canned food was on more than the food itself. Just two days ago, he got that greedy look in his eye and refused to let me take the spoon back. I like to think he was enjoying seeing his handsome face in the metal but maybe he just wanted something to hide in his hammock.

Yesterday morning, I knew it was the end. I gave him a small green fleece blanket and tucked him into bed. I petted his coarse yet soft head and told him I loved him deeply.

When I came home last night, he was nearly gone. I gave him the hot water bag, and made him a plush bed on it. He looked so content as gentle heat began to warm his cool body. I rubbed his dear face, and he closed his eyes in pure contentment. He laid his head down and I petted him one last time, before turning off his lamp and telling him to go be with Jesus.

Early morning found him gone.

Fernando, you were a precious friend and I’ll always love you. Forever, you’ll be in my heart.

If I had to do the same again

I would, my friend, Fernando.

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