A Rat’s Tale

Interrupting a busy week to share the story of a rat – and if you hate rats, read on. Perhaps you might change your mind.

I don’t normally share a lot of personal or domestic information here, because this is the place where I stitch. But apart from stitching, rat-keeping has been a huge part of our lives for the last 12 years. We have had over twenty of them during that time – though not all at once, obviously! – all complete individuals, each one a unique character. Rats are fantastic little pets, as intelligent as a small dog. You can house train them, they can learn their names and simple commands, and they will do pretty much anything for food. They are clever, affectionate and clean; they are loyal, trusting, loving and loveable.

Last month we lost our last remaining little rat, a beautiful lilac boy named Bilbo.

Most of our pictures of Bilbo are a streaky grey blur. He loved exploring, and didn’t sit still for long. Like all rats, he was most enthusiastic about food and he loved treats of all kinds. We taught him to pull up a banana chip tied to the end of a piece of string, and he would sit on the stairs hoisting up this string with his little hands, like a sailor with a rope. Our attempts to photograph this particular activity were always unsuccessful. Occasionally he would just lie still and be pampered.

So when we lost him at the grand old age of three, our house became a very sad and empty place.

Soon afterwards, I happened across this blog, written by the hugely talented Jenny. At the time she had set herself the enormous challenge of ‘a walk on the wild side’, creating a stitched animal every day. You can probably guess what’s going to happen next. When I saw this, I contacted her to see if she could create a little something just for me and my hubs to remind us of our sweet boy.

To my excitement, she agreed. And she did it perfectly.

Just 3.5″ square, mounted on a wood block, my beautiful lilac boy immortalised in stitch. Jenny’s work is really stunning and skilfully executed. Her drawings are so sensitively realised, with just the right amount of detail and texture, perfectly balanced in colour, form and composition. I am totally delighted by her interpretation.

And here he is, already perfectly at home, sitting on the shelf in my work room:

You can see more of Jenny’s work here. And if you’re a facebook person, pop along here and give her an extra ‘like’ for me.

Thank you, Jenny.

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22 Responses to A Rat’s Tale

  1. Oh lordy, he’s beautiful and I’m getting a little soggy round the edges reading your entry today :’)
    I know how much you loved every single one of your boys and girls xxx

    • Karen Turner says:

      We did love each and every one, all very special in their own way. Bilbo in stitch is a reminder of all of them – not that we’ll ever forget ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. We also keep rats – they are incredibly gorgeous, you’re right. I’m so sorry that Bilbo has gone, but I’m sure he had an excellent life with you. Your post made me smile though, we too have umpteen pictures with grey blurs… With love.

  3. Jenny says:

    Oh wow! Such a delight to see him sitting in his new home..thankyou so much for such kind words..it was an honour to get to “meet” the little love :)x

  4. Loralei says:

    What a beautiful sentiment, and such gorgeous work by Jenny! Your pictures brought back memories of days long ago, when I had my own special rat friend… xo

  5. connie rose says:

    What a sweet remembrance of Bilbo. So sorry you lost him, I hope you’ll get another although I know you can’t replace him. Another Brit blog friend has rats as well. I think they’re lovely creatures.

    • Karen Turner says:

      We’ll have more rats at some point, I’m sure. We’re just taking a break for a while as we both developed a mild pet allergy – plus we’re still planning a major house move, which would be easier to manage without pets. The house is a strange place without them though.

  6. bluecloth says:

    thank you for this insight – it is nice to know more about you. loved the story and thank you so much for introducing us to jenny – she is a fun artist. i had no idea rats could be trained and that they can be pets. great info and your story touched my heart. sally jo

    • Karen Turner says:

      Absolutely, you can train them to do all kinds of things (as long as there’s something to eat at the end of it!) Best small pet you can get, especially for children, as rats enjoy being handled.

  7. Nanette says:

    Your rat remembrance is lovely, and I’m sorry your Bilbo has gone to ratty heaven. I haven’t had them myself, but my daughter, in her teens, did, so I did live in the same house as one, and found her delightful and smart, and although doubtful at frst, did grow to love her. I have many ‘fond’ memories of the dreaded cry…”Rose has escaped”……the house was also shared by 3 cats and 2 dogs! Rose went everywhere with my daughter, either on her shoulder under her long hair, or in her backpack. Quite startling for fellow bus passengers to suddenly see a pointy nose and bright eyes peering at them. Once over their initial shock, they really warmed to her, and Rose loved all the attention. A few years after Rose went to ratty heaven, my daughter met a man who straightaway lifted her hair and asked where was the rat….this girl wearing a rat had remained in his memory.

    • Karen Turner says:

      What a fabulous story, Nanette – they really are wonderful little furry companions and live on in our hearts and memories long after they’ve gone. We could never get any of ours to stay up on our shoulders for long, though we did have one who liked to ride around in pockets and sleeves. Fond memories indeed; thank you for sharing your experience. Made me smile ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. helen salo says:

    Thought I’d see if I could even read this post, but, my blood pressure rose, I started to quiver and then when I just “glanced” at a photo I almost threw up. Ever since the Movies “Ben” and “Willard” of the 1979’s I get anxiety attacks just thinking about them,. The thought of all you “keeping them” amazes me. Differences is what makes us each unique.

    • Karen Turner says:

      oh, poor you… seems we either love ’em or hate ’em… but well done for having a go ๐Ÿ™‚ I don’t know the films you mention. Personally I like Ratatouille, a much more accurate portrayal of ratness.

  9. deb says:

    Love your stitched rat! Thank you for the link to Jenny’s delightful blog. She really captures the character of those animals. Not so sure about your real life rat, although my reaction is not like Helen’s!

    • Karen Turner says:

      oh, shame ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
      Jenny’s other animals are really delightful. I love the scale of them in particular – small and perfectly formed!

  10. Jenny’s piece is delightful and will be a charming reminder of a faithful and entertaining companion!

  11. Janice says:

    It’s a lovely little piece, Karen. And I can tell by your reaction to it that Jenny has captured perfectly Bilbo’s personality.

  12. contemporaryembroidery says:

    I’m afraid I am in a minority on here but no thanks. I am happy you loved your little friend but me….I’m running for the hills!

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