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Thomas Jack Handy is a rat daddy–a huge aficionado of wonderful pet pats. A health care worker, he brings his friends to work and play with seriously ill patients who experience the amazing friendship and love of these tender animals.

Chapter 1

Chapter 1

“Da ratties, Da ratties, Da ratties, Da ratties!”
It’s musical, it’s fun.
It’s my early morning wake up song.
To me, the ratties—so happy to see me and be engaged—are the happiest creatures in the world anywhere.
My name is Thomas Jack Handy and I am a rat-daddy.
These little beings are just like little people, but better.
Their tails are the thing that weird people out at first—and their bad reputation, entirely unwarranted. Oh yeah, rats are dirty, a menace, dangerous, and responsible for the bubonic plaque—well, city or sewer rats, can be a menace no doubt. But domesticated rats—kept by a caretaker like me who takes care of them, loves them and handles them, are the best pets in the world. They are smart and resourceful creatures and can breed like crazy, so you have to keep the genders separated. (And the plaque, well, it wasn’t the rats who carried the disease, it was the fleas from the city dogs that spread that all over. Ratties were victims of that too, like humans).
My first ratty was a beige middle-aged male, whom my step-daughter, Olivia, saved from her boyfriend’s Boa Constrictor—his once-a-week meal. She had just moved in with him, and he had a big snake-pet, whose meal was a live rat. She hated that. So when she came home with snakey-boy’s dinner ready in his little box-prison from the local pet shop on the dinning room table, she said a prayer over him—just blessing his transition from here to there…
So when Olivia’s boyfriend came home, he took the rat and put him in the large aquarium with his snake who over the course of two days did not eat him!
He’d never seen anything like that in his life, he said.
So Olivia saved him, and took him out and gave him a cage. Days later, they were going away on vacation, so my wife—Olivia’s mom—and I took the rat home to our place to take care of him. (I guess the Boa got fed again by another rat, unfortunately, that none of us saw).
I have kept hamsters before, when I was a kid.
And no offense to them, but they are not like rats at all.
Rats are in the top five most intelligent animals in the world.
Up there with Chimpanzees, Dolphins and whales, dogs, cats, and, one hopes, humans.
They have opposable thumbs, have higher brain function and memory, but also exhibit empathic responses, similar to ourselves even, and LAUGHTER—which makes
them in a very special class.
You can’t actually hear rats laugh, they do it at a very super-sonic pitch not noticeable to most of us. But scientists have recorded it, and it’s pretty awesome.
They laugh when you tickle them. On their bellies—just like us, we humans.
You see ratties are just the best.
It’s how playful and smart and interactive they are; how sympathetic, how sensitive, how funny they are!
I learned this first from Jiffy—the first I inherited from Olivia.
When they got back from their trip, her boyfriend bought her a new puppy.
So, I told her I would take Jiffy off her hands—as they were full of pets already.
So my wife and I raised him—and got him a companion, as ratties need their friends, just like us.
And let’s face it, we can’t be there all the time in their small world.
But we gave them both now—Jiffy and Blue—
the run of the bathroom.
They kept a little place under the shelves in the corner on the floor—
merely some newspaper set up underneath a shoe-box they liked to sleep in.
Whenever you would go to the bathroom at my house, the critters would come out to play a bit.
Never too intrusive, but a new experience for most folks!
We didn’t need reading materials for guest to entertain!
After successfully integrating many more ratties into the fold over time,
I realized how much joy they gave to everyone who met them.
Even all the prejudice folks had over them, and their long tails, vanished when they actually interacted with them, forgotten in the otherwise cute and curious and easy nature of their beings.
As I was a health-care worker at a nursing home, it was an easy decision to bring a few over to interact with the elderly there—and they loved it!

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Beverly Miles

Boston, US

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