Making a Difference For Dimitri

Diane Newburg
From the RMCA web site, September 2003

Dimitri and pals Dimitri is the second rat to come and live with me from Rattie Ratz Rescue in northern California. He was among the rats rescued by Diane Weikal from the Menlo Park animal hoarder in 2000 so his age is estimated at about two years. He arrived at my house, along with Homer, in July 2003 and was described as "cage bound and temperamental."

He certainly lived up to the description. I put him up in my first-ever rat cage from 1991 which has 3 levels. I left the top off so I could have easy access to him and he would have a sense of freedom. He had lived alone his entire life since he did not play well with other rats and wasn't overly fond of people. At first, I had him on a table next to Homer but, as Homer made attempts to climb out of his cage, I decided they should not be on the same table.

I then set up a small banquet table in my kitchen a couple feet from the card table with the setup for my six boys born in early May 2003. Dimitri would puff up when I talked to him; he would puff up when I tried to gently touch him. He would sidle towards me if I put my hand near him. I continued to fuss over him and pick him up daily although he hated the interaction and would stiffen whenever I held him. I felt he would definitely take advantage of any fingers offered.Dimitri and pals

One Sunday morning in early August, I came downstairs to see Dimitri in with the six boys. As I stood there in shock, I figured he'd fallen (or jumped) off his table, climbed onto the cart below the boys' table and climbed up into their cage. I watched them. All the boys were fine - no blood or screaming or fighting with this "monster" twice their size in the cage with them.

I prepared breakfast for them - soymilk blueberry drink with cut-up bananas. Each rat, including Dimitri, grabbed a banana chunk and headed off to eat it. Then they all returned to the big bowl and started to work on their breakfast drink. Together. ALL TOGETHER!

I pushed Dimitri's table with his cage next to the boys' table and held my breath as the boys headed over to explore. I had no idea how Dimitri would react to these upstarts climbing all over HIS cage but he just joined them. In and out, up and down, back and forth they went. Dimitri seemed overjoyed with his new friends and the boys loved having another area to explore.Dimitri and pals

This seemed to be the turning point for Dimitri. Maybe it was seeing how the boys react to me - rushing to me, loving to be picked up and petted - that made him see the light, so to speak. Now Dimitri is one of the first, if not THE first, rattie out to greet me. Gone is the puffy, huffy, foofy guy and he has turned into a gentle giant. You would think he was the boys' sweet old grandpa! Dimitri will now spend his golden years with six young boys who adore him.

It doesn't get better than that.