Tommy is a roan dumbo.
Tommy came to be in early December, along with his companion, Rorschach.
They were purchased as children's pets, but the kids had gotten bored and barely bothered with the rats anymore. Their dad felt it best that they go somewhere they could get more attention.
When Tommy and Rorschach arrived, I was warned that the white one could be a bit squeaky when handled. I wasn't concerned, and assumed he simply hadn't been handled enough and was just nervous. This isn't uncommon in rats from this situation, and they usually settle down quickly with the correct handling.
I left these two to settle in for a while before taking them out for their first run on the bed.
After watching them for a while, it became apparent that Tommy wasn't quite normal.
He tended to walk tentatively, as if he wasn't sure where the ground was. He had his head in the air constantly, sniffing a lot, and on a few occasions he blundered into things he should have known were there. At first I wondered if he'd had head-tilt in the past which had given him problems with his balance.
But then Jon suggested he might be blind, and after trying a few little tests on him, it did seem that he didn't see normally. His pupils also seemed 'fixed' to the bottom of his eye, and did not move.
Tommy being blind didn't concern me too much as rats have poor eyesight generally, and tend to cope with blindness pretty well.
But then we realised Tommy didn't respond to sound either. Whereas Rorschach would flinch or freeze up at a sharp sound, Tommy would not respond. I clapped right beside his ear, and while Rorschach ran off in surprise, Tommy continued wandering around, unphased.
We began to suspect Tommy was deaf, too.
We performed more tests on him based on seeing if we could get him to respond to any sounds, and he never did. If we moved a toy around the bars of his cage for him to chase, he only seemed to realise it was there when it hit the bars and caused vibrations.
The vet checked Tommy over and confirmed his eyes were abnormal, but couldn't tell me how much sight he may or may not have.
He then also told me that, based on what I'd witnessed with Tommy and on some tests he did himself, it was very likely that he was totally deaf.
This was a bit more of a blow than him just being blind. Rats don't rely on their eye-sight all that much, but they do on their hearing, so lacking both senses would leave Tommy significantly impaired.
This explained why Tommy didn't like to be held, and why he squealed when picked up: he had no way of knowing that a hand was coming, as he couldn't hear or see it. He also had no idea of where he was when picked up, so it was no surprise he didn't enjoy handling.
We noticed, however, that Tommy loved to be stroked and scritched, but only if we kept our hands on him at all times. If we removed them for even a second, and then put them back, he would squeal as he hadn't been expecting it.
We also realised how special the relationship between Tommy and Rorschach was. Rorschach was very obviously Tommy's carer and guide. He would never leave Tommy's side, and was regularly grooming and reassuring him.
On one occasion, he tried to nip Jon for touching Tommy. He was surprisingly protective. Not aggressive, but he would 'warn' us occasionally when we were stroking Tommy.
It became clear that Tommy could not go into any existing group we had; he just wouldn't be able to compete. We made the decision to keep Tommy and Rorschach as a pair and let them live together.
This worked well, but it then occured to me that if one of the pair were to die, it would leave a lone boy, and probably a very depressed one. I had to try and introduce at least one other rat to them so that should the worst happen to either of them, the remaining rat would still have a companion.
It was around this time that Spectre's babies were getting ready to leave mum, and with babies being so much easier to introduce, I decided they were the perfect rats to become Tommy and Rorschach's new friends.
And it worked wonderfully. The babies did, indeed, become bonded to both of them, and we had a happy little group of four.
Then we acquired Doodlebug, who clearly needed to go into a group of gentle, nice, accepting boys. He would never cope in a 'rough and ready' group of bucks. So it seemed Tommy's group was the ideal one for him.
Over time, Tommy's group has become the group for rats that have trouble coping in traditional rat groups. The disabled, the fearful, the very young etc. Tommy now lives with 7 other rats, and seems happier than ever.
Unfortunately, Rorschach passed away from sudden and acute respiratory problems. Tommy was clearly aware that something was wrong for a few days afterwards, but Im convinced that having so many other loving rats around him helped him deal with the loss quicker.
Tommy is rather overweight, and only seems to be getting fatter. However, I do not have any plans to change this. Tommy is a special case; he is deaf and blind, he is lacking two of his main senses, I don't think any of us can imagine what that is really like. Therefore, eating is one thing that he can enjoy and one sense that he can use, and he clearly loves his food.
He also is not as mobile as the other rats, as he cannot see or hear to make his way around, or climb bars.
I see no benefit in restricting him from one of the few things he is capable of enjoying like a normal rat, food, nor in forcing him into exercise that would stress him out. As far as Im concerned, he is a very special boy, and should be allowed to do whatever he wants and whatever makes him happy.
Why Tommy? After The Who's rock opera of the same name, about a deaf and blind kid......obviously.