Fry was an agouti hooded.
Fry was rescued after being abandoned in the garden of a vacant house, but it took several days and a lot of heartache on my part to get him here.
I received a call from a member of the public, as usual referred to me via the RSPCA. The man claimed he was clearing out a vacant house following the previous inhabitant leaving rather suddenly. He told me that during his time in the house, he'd spotted a white and brown domestic rat in the shed at the bottom of the garden. He told me the the person who lived there before had released it when he realised he had to move house. He told me the rat was quite friendly, and would appear if you went into the shed, though he was worried about it getting caught by a cat.
The caller claimed to not be much of a rat lover, but would rather not see it come to any harm. I said I would happily take the rat if he could go and grab hold of it and put it in a box for me. The caller was calling from Norwich, and I live in Yarmouth, some 40 miles away. The only way for me to get to Norwich is via train, and even then I can only get to the center of the town, not any of the outskirts.
The caller told me the name of the road the house was on, and I asked him if it would be possible for me to come up the next day to get the rat. He then told me that due to the fact that the house was vacant, it was not accessible unless he was there to open it, and he would only be there for that one afternoon. Failing that, there was apparently a man who lived nearby who could have let me in at another time, but he had no telephone and contacting him was difficult.
As it seemed that my only chance to get the rat was that day, I called the RSPCA to ask them if they could go and collect it for me, since they are based in Norwich. The lady I spoke to told me that the road was actually right near the RSPCA, so she couldn't see any reason why they couldn't send someone out to collect it. I gave her the man's telephone number and told her to call him and arrange to go get it, and she said she would ring me back to let me know what happened.
By the end of the working day, I'd not received a telephone call.
The next morning, I called the RSPCA as soon as they opened, and requested to speak to someone about the rat. I think I was hoping they'd got it last night and all I'd have to do would be arrange to pick it up. However, I was told no-one was available to talk on the phone and they'd pass a message on for someone to call me.
That afternoon, still no call. I phoned back, and again was told there was no-one free to speak to me, but did get a garbled message about how an inspector had been sent out.
The next day, I'd still not heard anything and was becoming extremely worried about this rat. Every minute he was out there, he faced the risk of being caught by a cat or an owl, or starving to death, and I felt utterly helpless. And no-one at the RSPCA seemed to appreciate the urgency of the situation.
I decided to phone back every 15 minutes until I got to speak to someone who could actually tell me what was going on. Finally I got a call back from the first woman I'd spoken to, who told me that an inspector had been assigned to go out there, but they were very busy so she didn't know quite when it would be.
Rather naively, I assumed the inspector would be going out there on that day, but I asked when she thought the inspector would be able to get there, and was told probably not until next week, and that was at the earliest.
That was the end for me. We had a domestic animal running about loose, extremely vulnerable and in a lot of danger, and the RSPCA were prepared to wait a week before they went to help it. I assume if it had been a cat or a dog, they would have gone out much quicker.
I then decided to phone back the original man, and ask him to get in contact with the neighbour, the one he said could let me into the property if only we could contact him. I'd initially been scared of going to a vacant house on my own to meet with a strange man, I think most women would not welcome that. But it seemed that nothing would get done unless I did it myself.
By an amazing stroke of luck, the man said his wife would actually be at the property that afternoon for a few hours so if I went there straight away, she could let me in.
I got dressed quicker than I ever have before, and called my dad. He works in Norwich so I asked him where the road in question actually was. Turned out that the road itself began near the RSPCA, but the problem was that it was extremely long, and ran for several miles, so the actual house may not end up being anywhere near the RSPCA at all, and may well be somewhere out in the middle of no-where.
Fortunately, though, he agreed to drive me up there to have a look if I managed to make my way to Norwich. I got a bus, then a train up there, all the time being almost certain that I wouldn't be able to find the rat, or that he would already be dead.
The man on the phone had told me that very morning that he'd not seen it around for a while, and that he assumed it might have been caught by a cat.
When I got to Norwich, my dad drove to the house, which happened to be little more than a 20 minute walk from the RSPCA after all, and I knocked on the door.
The man's wife answered and led me out to the garden, telling me she had seen the rat drinking from the pond before, but hadn't seen it recently. This worried me, as the garden was very long, and over-grown, and if the rat had been to the pond then it was clearly using the entire garden, not just the shed.
But I decided to start in the shed, assuming that with it being day-time, the rat would be asleep and the shed would likely be its home so it was less likely to be out and about in the garden somewhere.
The shed itself had the usual junk in it, and I began in one corner where some old newspapers and bags had been piled. Calling the rat hadn't worked, and I was truly beginning to feel it was a lost cause. But then I pulled back some newspapers and saw a little white ball of fur. The rat had been sleeping in the corner of the shed under the junk. I picked it up, expecting to be bitten but just relieved to have found it.
On my way out of the house, the woman told me she was happy I'd found him as she didn't want him to end up being hurt, but that she was amazed I'd been able to find him.
Fry was a very special rat, because I agonised over him and his situation from the day I got the phone call, I stupidly believed the RSPCA would help him, and I only managed to save him at all by going out there and doing it myself. If I'd not done this, he could well have died out there.
Considering Fry's experience, he was amazingly well adjusted. He was the cheekiest, bravest, and most loveable rat I've owned. The day I got him, he began nibbling and grooming my hand, and he would play very rough with people's hands; never aggressive, just very boisterous. It seemed he hadn't lived with other rats who could show him what was and wasn't acceptable.
After a quarantine period, I introduced him to Josh's group in the big cage, and he went in that same hour. I've never had an easier introduction. Everyone seemed to love him, and he knew exactly how to behave to remain in everyone's good books. Since he acted like a baby himself, the younger rats in the cage absolutely adored him.
Fry was extremely intelligent, and he got bored easily. He tended to escape and go exploring whenever possible, and would disappear up onto the shelves in the shed and hide among the junk quite often. However, he knew his name and usually came back when called.
Im not entirely sure hold old Fry was when I found him. He wasn't a large rat, and his coat and behaviour was still very much that of a youngster/teen. If I had to guess, I'd put him at about 5 months of age. He lived to a good age before respiratory problems caused him to have to be euthanised. It was sad watching a rat who was previously so outgoing and active start to deteriorate. But despite his failing health, he would still attempt to climb out of the cage and go exploring. Even though his body wasn't up for it anymore, his mind still was. Fry is almost the poster child for my rescue work, as his was a situation in which no-one else would help him apart from me, even the RSPCA. I will always be proud of saving his life.
Why Fry? Fry is named after Stephen Fry, because the day I went and got him was august the 24th, which is Stephen Fry's birthday.