The Logic Of Death

I'm writing this the day after I had to have one of my pet rats put to sleep. Her name was Pebbles. She was old and she was the runt of her litter meaning that she was the more poorly one out of her, her sister and their mum who were all cage mates. She had a mammary tumour just next to her left fore leg and because of her age and her fragile health we decided it was best not to operate, but instead let her ride it out until her quality of life declined. That happened much sooner than I expected.

I like to think that I deal quite well with death, and I put that down to 2 things;
a) The fact that I've had countless different pets over the years and a number of them were put to sleep with me being there to see it, so I've experienced it enough to learn to cope. And,
b) I think autism helps me cope with it too. We autistics are often fiercely logical, so whenever I've experienced the death of a pet - or even a family member - I've always looked at the logical side of things. That's not to say that the emotions I feel are any less, but logic helps me cope with them. Admittedly I think I struggle to let my emotions out as much as I probably should do, but that's a separate issue. What I want to do in this post is look specifically at Pebbles' euthanasia and the logical way I processed (and still am processing) it.

The first and most obvious thing is looking logically at her age and her health to decide whether the risk of operating is worth it. We got Pebbles, her sister Ari and their mum Lennon from my wife's cousin because she wasn't able to look after them any more due to personal circumstances. We already had 2 rats called Sprout and Parsnip that we got from the RSPCA a couple of weeks earlier, and 4 out of the 5 rats had respiratory issues brought on by the stress of a new home. Pebbles was what the vet called "Patient Zero" as she was the one who was most affected by it and she showed the biggest improvement with the treatment they were given. Although she massively improved it soon became clear that she would probably never fully recover but she was well enough to have a good quality of life. Ari had a small lump that the vet noticed when we first got them and when it kept getting bigger and bigger we had it removed. A matter of weeks after that we noticed that Pebbles had a lump in the same place. It was just a small lump to begin with so we kept an eye on it to see if it would get any bigger. It did and the dilemma we had was whether to operate on Pebbles like we did with Ari, but we had to take into account that even though they're sisters they're 2 different rats with different levels of health. We also realised shortly after this that the trio were all older than we first thought, so with her age in mind as well as her respiratory issues we decided that operating was too risky and that it was better to just let her go when the time was right. Knowing that we considered these factors to make the right decision at the right time helped me to not feel guilt alongside the heartache of losing a beloved pet.

Another way of looking at it is that although we took them on, looked after them and cared for them as our own, the main reason we took on Pebbles, Ari and Lennon was as a favour to my wife's cousin who is going through a rough time at the moment. So we took the 3 rats on partly to help take the weight off her shoulders, and also to give the rats the best twilight years that we can as they definitely wouldn't have had that if we didn't re-home them. It gives me peace to know that we definitely did that. It's a shame that Pebbles didn't make it for as long as we expected, but again they're all older than we first realised so we now know that we probably won't have them for more than a year in total.

When we first got the mum/daughters trio we always planned to introduce them to Sprout and Parsnip (who I like to think of as the OG's as we had them first) and keep them all as cage mates, but because of their respiratory issues that wasn't a good idea to do right away. Following the course of treatment the vet said it would be best not to introduce the 2 groups at all because Pebbles wasn't likely to ever be fully healed. Now that Pebbles isn't with us any more we've decided to introduce Ari and Lennon to Sprout and Parsnip for a couple of reasons. The first reason is because rats are sociable animals who need to be kept in groups, or at the very least in pairs. Sprout and Parsnip are both only about 9 months old so we haven't had the same worry with them, but with Ari and Lennon being older we didn't see that we had a choice other than to introduce them otherwise when the next one dies it's going to leave 1 on her own which isn't good, and at least if we introduce them as 2 pairs instead of a 1 and a 2 it means that they've all got somebody that they're familiar with. The other reason we'll be introducing them is because the risk of their respiratory issues coming back is a lot lower now that the most prone one is gone. So the logic is that it's a blessing in disguise in this sense. As much as we love Pebbles, her not being here allows us to do what we were planning to do all along and keep all of the rats together in 1 cage. It protects the rats against ending up on their own when we lose any more of them, and it also works better for us in terms of only having to clean 1 cage out and so on.

The final bit of logic is the simplest one in that it's just the acceptance that death is inevitable to all of us and we all have our time. It was clear to me and my wife that it was just Pebbles' time. Rats only tend to live for about 3 years unless they're either really lucky or really well looked after, so the fact that Pebbles made it to 3 helps reassure us that she had a good long life despite the fact that we only took care of her for her final few months. Knowing my wife's cousin I've got no doubt that they were all looked after properly before they came to us so I'm sure she had a happy life as well as a long one.

While it's never nice to lose a pet I find that it certainly helps me to look logically at the situation and see what you can do with it. I think this applies to almost all aspects of life, and logical thinking is definitely something that is very common in autistics. It doesn't make the pain of losing a pet any better, but it does help me cope with it by analysing the reasons it happened and and the things that can be done with the situation I find myself in. I'll leave you with my favourite picture of Pebbles below, which I loved so much that I turned it into a meme. Rest in peace Pebs. Have loads of fun chewing everything in Rat Heaven.

This wasn't the post that I originally had planned for this week, but I hope you found it interesting or relatable. If you did, why not follow the blog with the Subscribe button at the top of the page, and follow me on Twitter @DepictDave.

[Image description: A picture of Pebbles sat on my shoulder and looking into my ear as if she's whispering to me. Pebbles is a white rat with a little bit of grey on the top of her head. The top caption says "Ssshhhh..." and the bottom caption says "Let me tell you a secret".]


  1. I had a ride called cranberry that I had to put down and it was really sad. People give me a lot of crap because it was just a rat but for me she wasn't all end kind of looked at her like a child. Some people just don't get how death affects us when it comes to a pet as opposed to a human being. I'm sorry for your loss.

  2. It's hard to put a partner(animal) down but true, it helps to get over the grief. I'm sorry about the loss of your pet.


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