Randall was a black hooded.
Randall came to me with his brother/friend Hopkirk.
They were the typical 'we've lost interest' rats. The owner claimed to have no time for them as she already had a dog and a baby, but when I arrived to collect them, she had just purchased a new kitten, too. Seems she had enough free time to go out and get yet another animal while simultaneously giving two more up to rescue.
She also told me that a friend of hers had been in the same situation with her rats and had actually released them into the wild. See this article as to why to never, ever do this!
I asked several times where the rats had been released, hoping I could go and save them before the inevitable happened, but she would never tell me.
Randall was a lovely boy, he was no trouble whatsoever, and got on with anyone. He was apparently used to being pulled about by the kids, so he was quite patient!
He had very good ratty manners and did everything 'by the book' when it came to interacting with others and meeting new rats.
After around 5-6 months of Randall being here, he began to develop a lump under his arm. It started out just looking like fatty tissue, and Randall had always been overweight since he arrived. I kept an eye on it, but it seemed to be just fat. Then one day, out of the blue, it began to grow, and within a week it was quite obvious and clearly something that needed checking out.
The vet said he was unsure what it could be, as it didn't behave as he would expect a mammary tumour to, and it seemed odd that it had lay dormant for so long then put on a growth spurt.
We opted to have a fine needle aspirate done on it to send the cells away and get an idea of what it might be. Unfortunately, the tests came back inconclusive. There were some fat cells, some red blood cells and a tiny amount of possibly suspicious cells, but nothing concrete.
After talking with my vet, we opted to go ahead with surgery to remove it, as it was growing quickly, and we wanted to give Randall a chance at life, even if we didn't know quite what we were dealing with.
Randall was booked in for surgery.
However, while I waited for the call to tell me he was all stitched up and ready to go home, I got a different call.
The vet told me he had died during the operation.
They had removed the lump without problems, and Randall had done fine all through the operation. But as they were stitching him up, he had gone into cardiac arrest, and they could not bring him back.
Randall was the first rat I have ever lost to surgery in almost 14 years.
While you always know the risks, you never really think it will happen to your animal. Especially when you have had so many successful surgeries in the past; I suppose you become a little too comfortable with it.
I have had rats that were very ill, or very underweight, or very old operated on, and they've all come through fine. Randall was a middle-aged, healthy, robust boy and the last rat you would expect to have any problems with a straight-forward operation.
As it was, the vet said that they had had to remove such an amount of tissue in order to get all the lump out that he may have had issues with the leg later on in life as a result.
There was no way for anyone to have known this would happen, and it will not stop me putting rats in for ops when they need them.
Randall was operated on because, if he hadn't been, the lump would have been big enough to affect his quality of life within only a couple of weeks, and he would have had to be euthanised. An operation is an attempt to buy the rat more quality life. Some rats can go on to live for a year or more following an operation, and I will continue to give them that chance.
It is probably safe to say there is one fatality in every 100 rat operations. It just happened that this time, it was my rat.
If anything, it has opened my eyes a little to taking surgeries more seriously. While it will not stop me getting ops for rats that need them, it will make me realise that the risks are real and it isn't just something that happens to other people's rats.
Why Randall? My dad named both Randall and Hopkirk.