Trauma at Home

This weekend, tragedy befell us.    

“I accidentally gave Cutie a bloody nose!”  Jonah cried, tears squirting from his eyes. 

I held the little rodent, his mouth unnaturally wide open and his snout visibly bent, blood coming out of both nose and mouth.  We raced to the car to go to the veterinary emergency room, my husband encouraging me to ignore the speed limit in a residential neighborhood, my son crying, the rat snorting and squeaking.  I tried to remain calm, suggesting we sing lullabies the rat might enjoy (dying by), while focusing on the road and the labored breathing of this little pet we had all come to love.

It turned out that Cutie inconveniently got between Jonah’s knee and the floor.   I will admit here to thinking the incident seventy percent accident, thirty percent my energetic son being a spaz.  Frequently I have said things like, “rats do not go on skateboards” and “rats cannot be playfully flung across the bed.” 

A word of advice: never bring a child to the animal emergency room where you may have to engage the critical thinking part of your brain, the one that says, “is it worth it to pay more for medical care for this rat—who may die anyway—than we would for a necessary automotive repair?”

We spent $544 at the emergency room on a twenty dollar animal that most people consider a pest.  That was yesterday.   Today we spent still more money to bring Cutie to a rodent and exotic pet specialist veterinarian who provided gas and lethal injection.  How the heck did this happen? 

To use the highly clinical terminology I know and love, I think it has a lot to do with the fact that under emotional stress we are all about as intelligent as a box of hair. 

Yesterday’s vet at the emergency clinic quietly urged that the rat needed an “oxygen rich chamber” along with pain medication, x-rays, and God Knows What Else.  In a nanosecond of sanity, we drew the line at CPR, thinking that if the little furry guy went into cardiac arrest he should probably go ahead and croak.

I pride myself in being rational as well as frugal, but so help me, I think that had my son had not been there we might do the same thing all over again.  Why?  I can’t even kill garden slugs (though I do throw them over the fence into the neighbor’s junk yard).  My husband and I fed my nineteen year old, incontinent, cancer-riddled dog homemade ground beef with rice every day for over a year when he stopped chewing crunchy food.  In short, we are wimpy, wimpy people and defenseless pets activate our wimpiness like nothing else can. 

Here comes the irony:  Five years ago we had a wild rat living in our walls.  At bed time we would hear him scratching and imagine him eating the insulation.  It kept us awake.  It pissed us off.  Finally an electrician told me that rats chew electrical wires and can cause house fires.  That was all the convincing we needed.  We put out poison and a week later I called my husband to come home and remove the giant, dead rat from the center of our living room floor.   That particular dead rat only cost us four bucks and our emotional response to his demise was relief.

(In addition to the sheer relief of grousing) my point is how we feel about another, be they human or animal is based largely on how well we know them.  Exposure breeds understanding.  (This is why it’s a great idea for people who want to overcome racism to hang out with the very people they are prejudice against.)

Think of the people in your life you struggle with.  Would you feel as judgmental towards, disconnected from, misunderstood or attacked by if you got to know them better?  I’m betting the answer is probably not.

Meanwhile, I have a traumatized child to console (that’s a whole separate blog and it’ll be coming soon!), an expensive dead rat to bury and a hole in the backyard to dig.  Hopefully there won’t be any slugs in the way.

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2 comments on “Trauma at Home

  1. You are incredible — all that angst and trauma – both yours and your son’s – and still you have a clear head, a sense of humor and objectivity. How do you do it??

    Looking forward to your post about helping children deal with trauma. There’s never enough written about that. How do we shape things for children (especially in this case) so that they don’t carry guilt?

  2. Right and just think of all the lessons having this rat (and this experience) have passed on to your child that don’t have a price. I see tons of kids, sadly, who haven’t learned those lessons. They can’t grasp empathy very well and have no clue what the right or responsible action is.

    IF there is ever a next time (knock on wood) don’t forget you can always try the local Humane Society for low cost animal care.

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