Once upon a time you two were little rats, and like all young animals you were ripe with the potential of the animals you could become. You were born blind and hairless, but day by day you could see the world a little clearer and could explore a little further from your litter mates and mom. Your white fur grew in, flecked with just a hint of light brown. Your eyes were a vibrant red.
There were three possible fates for rats like you. Some are fortunate and are born to be pets. Some are raised to feed other pets. But you, Stanley and Gunther, were born into life at a laboratory. Many times I wished I knew what happened to you during your year there, but all that I know is that you most likely were not held or touched very often.
After a year at the lab you went home with a nice man that liked you very much. Gunther, you especially had a fondness for this man. I don't know exactly why you ended up in a humane society two years later, at three years of age, but there you were. When I approached your cage you cowered under a cardboard box. You both shook with fright when I opened the cage door.
Two months later, I grieve you both. You learned to stop fearing the opening of your cage door and the entrance of my hands. You learned that crumpets covered in peanut butter are delicious. You both learned to enjoy the liberating feeling of sleeping out in the open, outside of your wooden hideouts, stretched out or curled up in your soft bedding. You lost a lot of weight, and could turn your exercise wheel three rotations. But at three years old you couldn't learn to behave the way pet rats do. You didn't have enough time to learn to stop biting hands. You didn't have enough time to learn what it takes to be adopted.
I grieve the loss of my two rat friends, Stanley and Gunther, but mostly I grieve the circumstances that necessitate the retelling of this story, over and over, countless times for countless rats.