The dog peed.
The cat ate.
Vincent came right out when I turned on the lights in the Rat Room. I called for Boris a few times. Boris is a little older than Vincent (although they're both over 2 1/2, which is rather elderly for a rat) and has a bit of hind end paralysis, and has always slept quite hard.
Boris was very still. His breathing was shallow. His eyes weren't totally shut. His hind legs were a bit twitchy.
I have been the human caretaker of 11 rats in my lifetime. 9 of them have already followed the Death of Rats to the other world. I know what's coming.
As much as it killed me to go to work, I had no choice. It was too big of an event to miss, and already understaffed. I petted Boris before I left, and cried, and told him that he could go whenever he needed to, and not to wait for me if the Death of Rats came.
I spent the next 8 hours pretending I was okay.
As soon as I got the last guest out of the butterfly house, I bailed. I didn't stay to clean up. I hope my coworkers understand that I am very serious about being there for the dying.
He's still alive. Barely. I have been sitting with him off and on for the last six hours, arm in the cage, pinky finger barely touching him, whispering
i love you it's okay you can go i'm so sorry it's okay you can go i love you i'm sorry i'm sorry i'm sorry i love you i'm sorry please forgive me i tried i don't know how to make this easier i love you i'm sorry it's okay you can go i love you i love you i love you i love you i love you i love you i love you
I leave the room to walk the dog, to eat something, to shower, to cry, to vomit out words onto a screen. Sometimes Death likes to work in private, and won't come if someone is watching. I try to leave all the options open.
Vincent has been sitting with his friend for the last 3 hours. Occasionally he grooms him, or puts his paws on Boris's face. I lure him away with a cheerio so I can see if Boris is still breathing.
He's still breathing. Barely.
I will continue my vigil until I cannot stay awake a second longer. I will take a catnap, and then I will wake again to repeat this process. I have to be at work again in 11 hours, and I don't think my heart can handle leaving him tomorrow if he is still alive. I do not know how he is still alive right now.
Please, Death of Rats, please, come for Boris. Come for my friend. Lead him to that other world. Let his poor tired body rest. Please.
Oh Boris. I'm so sorry.
I hate the waiting.
I'm so sorry.
EDIT: Boris died sometime between 10 and 11:30 this morning, while I was teaching. He had seizures all the way till the end. Vincent was with him, in a travel carrier on my desk. I wish it was not so hard for the Death of Rats to lead my friend away. 28+ hours is a long time. Still, I am grateful. Death is not all that bad. It's the dying part that's hard.
Tomorrow, Vincent begins his new life as a Briefcase Rat. He's coming to work with me every day so he doesn't get lonely. We will have each other to lean on as we grieve.
My heart hurts.