Cowboy is a mink patched.
Cowboy was one of those rescues that remind me why I do this.
I recieved a phone call one tuesday morning from a worker at a branch of the YMCA. Apparently, that morning, when sitting at her desk, the receptionist had seen a rat sitting outside the front door, peering in through the glass. He just sat there, and pressed his face to the glass, and watched.
They managed to catch him and box him up, but not without several workers recieving bites from the rat.
They asked me if I could take him on as they really didn't know what to do with him. They'd asked all the residents if he were their rat, but no-one claimed to know anything about him. I, of course, said I'd take him, and we were there within the hour.
When I opened the cardboard box they'd contained him in, and reached to pick him up, he gave me some very unhappy body language, and I was in no doubt that he would bite if I pushed my luck. In the end, we had to sort of tip him out of the box into the travel cage I'd brought.
What was so interesting about him was that the second his paws touched the ground in my cage, he grabbed food and began eating. This was a nervous, stressed rat, a situation in which most rats would not wish to eat.
But he was so hungry, he grabbed the food I'd put in there for him, and ate obsessively.
He ate the whole way home in the car, which was almost an hour's journey, and then proceeded to eat for a further hour after that. He was eating so quickly that he gagged and choked on his food several times in his desperation to get it into him.
What was more shocking that that, however, was his reaction to water. He drank solidly for minutes on end, never stopping.
I have seen some thin and hungry rats before, but never a rat that ate and drank like this. Who knows how long he had been without food and water?
He was very thin, you could feel his spine and his hip bones. His coat, which was meant to be white, was a dirty grey. He had mud on his paws, and a wound on his tail. This poor little boy had obviously been roughing it for a while.
After he had finally stopped eating and drinking, he slept for many hours solidly and I didn't hear much from him until the next morning.
I gave him a few days to settle in before I tried to attempt giving him a free range and handling him.
His body language at the YMCA had suggested he was not opposed to biting, if he felt he had to, so I needed to take it slowly and carefully with him.
I put him on the bed in his igloo, so he had somewhere safe to retreat to, and some blankets to cuddle in, and just lay with him so he'd get used to me being around.
After some time, I managed to stroke him. It became clear that his biting was more a defensive act, through fear and uncertainty, which was totally understandable, given where he came from.
He was also so thin, hungry, dehydrated and scared, all of which would make him want to be left alone.
But after a few days of good food, warmth and love, he settled right down and not only allowed me to stroke him, but to pick him up and kiss his belly. He was not, and never had been, a mean rat. He was just scared. Who knows what he had been through and how long he had been living wild.
He was dirty, thin and dehydrated enough to suggest it was a reasonable amount of time. The building he was found outside is right on a street, next to a busy road, with a fair amount of human activity. He is so incredibly lucky he did not come to harm.
However he knew it, he knew he had to go to where people were to get some help. There is no other reason he would have stood and just waited at the door for someone to come and get him. I'm just so grateful that the people working at the YMCA chose to help this boy rather than try to hurt or kill him, as many would have done.
In fact, the guy who called me told me that, had this rat been brown, he would have 'disposed of it', and he only saved him because he was white, so clearly a pet. Cowboy is extremely lucky he was not born an agouti!
I quarantined Cowboy for a while, as I just had no idea what he might have been carrying, whether he'd been in contact with wild rats, and also how he would even respond to rat company.
He was a total unknown to me. I had no idea where he'd come from, what he'd experienced, how he'd ended up on the streets, whether he'd ever even lived with another rat, and so on.
But judging by his personality with me, I had a suspicion he would actually take very well to rat company. He just didn't seem to be a boy with any hostility or nastiness in him.
And my suspicions turned out to be true. I tried him with Larry first, as it was this group I wanted him to go into in the end.
Cowboy's first reaction was to leap on Larry in over excitement and 'tug' on his skin, as baby rats do when trying to play. Larry, being the mellow boy he is, totally ignored this. Cowboy soon realised he wasn't going to get any attention this way, so began licking and grooming Larry instead.
And from that point on, they became good friends. Cowboy was soon introduced to the rest of Larry's group, and he lives there happily now.
Why Cowboy? Because he was found at the YMCA.