How did it go so fast
you'll say as we are looking back
And then we'll understand
We held gold dust in our hands
Attila was a mink blazed berkshire, or badger rat, and Jack's brother. Attila was always the most photogenic of my rats and the one that most non-rat people were drawn to. He won a second place in the AOV marked class at his first ever rat show then just a few months later went on to win first place in that class at his second show, as well as a nice ribbon. Not only that but he won second best stud rat.
Attila was always laid back and seemed pretty unfussed by most things, unlike his brother Jack. In summer of 2003, he began to make strange noises as he slept or ate. They sounded nasal rather than chesty, but I took him along to the vet anyway since you can never be too careful with rats and respiratory problems. He was put on baytril, the standard treatment for any rat respiratory problems.
It had no effect.
I took him back and he was put on steroids which actually cleared it up completely, leading the vet to think it was something as simple as hayfever. I didn't hear another sound from him until a year later. One day he started up the sound again, but only if he ate or slept. It would come and go. I left it, thinking it was just an allergy returning that would go in time. It didn't. It began to get worse, to the point where he was making noise constantly, and it was loud. I took him back to the vet who tried steroids again. This time they didn't work. Soon after that, the vet began to suspect it wasn't an allergy, as if it were, it would have responded to the steroids. He began to think it was an obstruction in his nasal cavity, since his lungs sounded clear. I was sent away with a different type of antibiotic to try. In the meantime, Attila was getting steadily worse, and losing weight. He seemed to have to fight very hard to force air into his lungs. Although he still ate and played, he was in obvious discomfort. The new antibiotoics were not making a shred of difference, and on top of that all, he had developed a nasty ear infection. One day I woke to find him almost gasping for air. I made the decision the next day to have Attila put to sleep.
Having Attila put down was one of the most difficult desicions I've ever had to make. If a rat is very old, or very miserable with no quality of life, it's easier to accept that it's the best thing to do for them. But Attila was still eating, still coming out to see me, and not anything like old. What made it harder was not knowing for sure what the problem was. There was always the question of 'do I give him another day and see if he recovers? Is there some medication I haven't tried?' but I don't think I made the wrong desicion. I had Attila put to sleep before he had to get to the point where he was suffering. If I had left him, he would have gotten worse and worse and eventually been unable to breathe at all, whereupon he would have died in pain. If anything, I spared him that. Attila was always the king of the windowsill and he's missed.
Why Attila? I had great difficulty naming Attila and he was nameless for about 4 days. I'd trawled thorugh books on ancient civilisations, religions and myths and found nothing that leapt out at me. My boyfriend of the time was a fan of the band Mayhem who had once had a singer named Attila. I think he suggested it as a joke, but I liked it so Attila got his name. The only drawback is that it tended to get shortened to 'Tilly' which I'm sure did nothing for his machismo!