Day 2: Tolkien

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His name is Tolkien.

While I call Lewis my “problem child”, Tolkien was one of those instantly perfect creatures that just makes you want to protect him from the harshness of reality. Every once in a while, he makes me wonder at how different his life could have been. He could have been born a lab rat, or a sewer rat. He could have been experimented on and trotted over. Instead, he was born to a breeder and adopted by me.

The first night in my house, he was so frightened that he ran to Lewis for protection. The second night at my house, I opened the cage and he walked right up to me, crawling into my hands and licking my lips, my nose, and my cheeks. From that night forward, Tolkien would do anything it took to cuddle with me, including struggling against the bars of his cage until I open it for him.

There is a quote by the writer for whom Tolkien is named, which begins with him saying: “I am in fact a Hobbit in all but size”. For this, I believe Tolkien is very appropriately named. He is a simple rat. He loves food and playtime and just about everyone he has ever met. He never complains, not even when I wake him up in the middle of the day. He has never bitten me or shown aggression. Although he will steal treats, he will also make sure that his brother gets some as well, even if that means giving Lewis a peanut when he is without. Tolkien is pure, and I adore that purity in him. Through his purity, he offers me a glimpse of the good in this world every day.

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Day 1: Lewis

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His name is Lewis.

I adopted him from a breeder, and the very first time I held him, he struggled so much that I had to pin him between against my mouth to keep him from falling. For the longest time, he didn’t want anything to do with me, and truth be told, I felt a little betrayed by that. I called him my “problem child”, and joked about how much he hated me.

Nonetheless, I kept coming around because… well, what else could I do? I had adopted him. I was all he had – the one who fed him, protected him, kept him clean. I would hold him for the short periods of time that he would let me, and I would whisper to him, “it’s okay. I’m your mother. I won’t let anything happen to you.”

Every day, he would stay with me for longer periods of time. He would stare at me from across the room, inside his cage, hiding in back corners and beneath dark shadows, big, black eyes glittering like diamonds. I began to see bits of myself in his personality – in how anxious he was, just like me. In how much he really rejected change, just like me. He liked things to be familiar and safe and warm – but he learned fast. He never bit me, no matter how scared he was. He never challenged me, even when he did run away. He was a gentle soul, who learned his name fast and watched my every move meticulously. He was a mad genius and a nervous wreck, just like me. We stressed each other out all the time, but we understood each other too.

Eventually, he came to accept me as a safe space. In unfamiliar rooms, he would cling to me like a small child. When he was afraid, I would hold him and whisper to him, and he would relax. And when he was calm and safe in his cage, he would get excited to see me. He ran to me and crawled across my shoulders and licked my hands with his tiny, pink tongue in anticipation of treats.

His name is Lewis, my sweet, anxious problem child.