I bought Annie a rat last month.
Let me go back a bit though so all of this will make sense...
When Josh deployed to Afghanistan in 2011, we decided to do something special for each of the kids based on what was most important to them. That meant Courtney got signed up for an acting camp and got to perform in Oliver Twist, Cole got to sign up for Martial Arts, and Annie got a pup named Shindand. (He was named after the place Josh was supposed to deploy to - though he never ended up in Shindand.)
Animals have always been Annie's 'thing' so getting her a pup sounded like a good idea at the time (We made several well-intentioned, but inevitably wrong, emotional decisions before he deployed.) and for awhile, it was good.
What we hadn't planned for was how strong Shindand's herding instincts would be, and while those herding instincts were tolerable/semi-tolerable for all of the humans in our household, they were considered totally intolerable by our old, cranky retreiver/lab mix, Shelby.
When Shindand was little, it wasn't a huge problem because Shelby would just pummel him to the ground to show him who the alpha dog was anytime he got on her nerves. As he got older (and bigger) though, he started to fight back and that's when things went horribly awry.
Eventually, Josh and I decided the best solution was to find a new home for Shindand because he was a handome, expensive, papered pup, who was young and microchipped and x-rayed for dysplasia - a pup anyone would want him, in comparison with Shelby who is old and un-papered and doesn't like anyone other than the people in our family.
I didn't want to give him to just anyone though because I knew that while a lot of people would want him, most people wouldn't be able to meet his needs. (In addition to needing lots of physical exercise and stimulation, Shepherds also need a ton of intellectual exercise and stimulation because they are dogs that need a 'purpose' or else they can get kind of neurotic.) I also felt that Shindand needed an experienced trainer to help him socialize better with other dogs. (I hired a trainer who came out to our house, but that had limited success in improving his relationship with Shelby.)
So I never blogged about this because quite honestly, the topic hurt and I felt ashamed of it, but after a few months of deliberating, I drove Shindand three hours away to a German Shepherd rescue that extensively trains and socializes Shepherds before placing them into homes (homes that require applications and inspections) or into more intensive Search & Rescue training.
I walked him into the front door and immediately told the gal waiting for us that I had changed my mind and proceeded back out the door and to my car with Shindand. Then we sat in the car while I cried for about 20-minutes before finally deciding to take him back in.
I felt like an irresponsible pet-owner, but even more, I really loved this slightly-neurotic dog and felt like I had failed him. It was hard on Annie too, but I think the hardest thing for her was that I refused to talk about it. Shindand had kind of become my dog though because his size and his personality was overwhelming for Annie, so she still preferred Shelby, who was smaller and calmer and didn't constantly herd and mouth her.
I called a few times during the next few weeks to see how he was adjusting and they said he was doing well, but then I quit calling because sometimes I like to stick my head in the sand because its less painful that way.
And since then, I've considered other pets for Annie because I really feel like she's a girl who needs a pet of her own, but our experience with Shindand has made me shy away from getting another dog (even a small one), my husband destest cats and I really didn't want something that smelled, but lacked intellect (like a gerbil or a hamster.)
I took Annie to lunch about four weeks back though and as we were leaving, we spotted a dead baby mouse in the lobby. I walked back into the restaurant to let the manager know about it (because I assumed that dead mice in the lobby might be bad for business) and when I came back, Annie was sitting on the floor alongside the carcass petting it and sobbing.
So I texted my husband and asked him what he thought about me pulling Annie out of school for the rest of the day and taking her to the pet store to get some sort of mouse or rat or gerbil or something.
In the moment, I didn't even care what kind of a pet it was - just something she could love on and call her own.
Josh agreed, and Annie's mouth dropped wide-open when we pulled into the parking lot of PetSmart.
And then we stood peeking into each and every cage while waiting for the PetSmart small-animal expert so we could ask some questions.
(Annie has developed a new habit of incessantly twisting her earrings, so just about every shot of her in the last month includes at least one of her hands up next to her ear.)
Within seconds of the PetSmart gal arriving to answer our questions, she looked at me and said, "If the idea of it doesn't gross you out too badly, you need to get her a rat."
She went on to say how smart and how social rats are and how other small pets like mice and guinie pigs just aren't.
She also went on to say that she thought Dumbo Rats to be particularly smart and particularly social.
They had one Dumbo Rat in stock and Yans was immediately smitten...
She named him, Deedle Dumbo Downs.
Josh just calls him Rat-Fink though.