2018 was a rough year for the greater rat community. Debbie (founder of the Rat Fan Club) passed away, very suddenly, earlier this year and we just lost Bella (co-founder of The Rat Guide and amazing artist), to liver cancer, right before Christmas. These were two of a handful of mentors/friends/colleagues to me and their passing has really made me stop and think about Rattie Ratz and its place in the rat world. “It takes a village to raise a child” and the same goes for running any sort of endeavor. I could never have built Rattie Ratz on my own and I could never fathom to sustain it on my own either. Rattie Ratz is a labor of love, not only from myself but also from those that volunteer and give it life and purpose. As we transition from 2018 to 2019, I really want to recognize everyone who has worked laboriously to make Rattie Ratz successful.
Rattie Ratz is my baby and the people who have worked so hard to bring it this far are no less than my family. I can hardly believe that I have been doing this for 20+ years now and, with the deaths of two major influences this year, I am forced to contemplate the future of this organization that means so much to me. Unfortunately for me, I don’t know much about what Bella and Debbie had planned or what they wanted to accomplish. Fortunately for me, and others, I have an opportunity to learn from them and spend a bit of quality time speaking to the future of Rattie Ratz and where I would like to see things go, in general, for the rat community.
Every animal needs their champion and, for whatever reason, rats resonated with me and I chose to launch an organization to help them and their human families. I choose to lead by example and I strive to inspire and motivate others to leave this world just a bit better than they found it. To that end, I believe that everyone can make a difference. You may not be able or ready to start a full-blown rescue of your own but consider the animals that you choose to bring into your family and opt to adopt. I know that there are plenty of situations that warrant breeding but please consider adoption as well. Over 20+ years, I have met so many deserving animals that have been dumped into kill shelters through no fault of their own. I believe in the butterfly effect and that your small and positive ripple will spread, grow, and be bigger and better than you think possible.
I believe that there are many paths to the same destination. One person does not know it all and one method is not the only method. Each situation is different. I want to encourage anyone to consider starting their own rescue and making their own impact, but don’t compare yourself to others. You don’t need to be the biggest rescue around or the one that rescues the most number of animals. You need to be the best rescue or rescuer you can be. Even if you are just *one* person rescuing just a few rats at a time, it does make a HUGE difference in the lives of the animals that you are helping. *I* may not be able to make a huge difference in the world but I know I can make a significant impact in the world of a select few. In a world getting larger by the hour, through the internet and social media, stop and take a moment to think on a much smaller scale. Change happens from within and starts with you. Make a choice to help others and contribute to a more positive society.
Join forces because many hands make light work. If you don’t feel comfortable launching your own rescue, join forces with an existing organization. Start a community group first and find like-minded folks to launch an organization with. There is no shame in starting small and growing slowly and responsibly. As a matter of fact, I think that is the best form of growth – controlled. Be responsible and provide your best to the animals in your care. If you bite off more than you can chew or maintain, then you are just contributing to the problem. Abilities are also dynamic and change with time and what else is going on in your life. Be honest with yourself. Set boundaries and stick to them. Know that you are providing quality care to the animals that you are responsible for. If your situation changes and you find yourself unable to maintain quality care, stop taking in new animals and ask for help. To them, you are the world! Give them a world that is worth living in.
Rattie Ratz is a network of foster homes which helps make this organization unique and infinitely scalable. Right now, we are primarily limited by available foster homes. We can only rescue animals that we have room for and, right now, space is limited. I’ve been a primary intake/foster home for 20 years but, sooner or later, my time will end. We have other smaller homes and they are the homes that really make Rattie Ratz possible. In the future, I hope that Rattie Ratz will find other homes to serve as intake/quarantine homes or be able to rent a space exclusively for intake and quarantine. I still feel it is important to maintain the rescued rats in home-like environments and, to that end, I hope more people, even from other areas, will step up to volunteer to keep a cage of foster rats in their home.
My goal has always been to help as many deserving rats as possible and I would love to be able to help their families too. With that in mind, I would love to see funds in place to help families afford to spay/neuter their rats and remove benign but excessively large tumors. I would love to see funds in place to help struggling families get basic medical assistance for their rats. I would love to see funds in place to benefit medical research aimed at helping to find cures for the common ailments that affect pet rats. I would like to see the community unite and really try to help each other to the best that any one of us is able. To help meet this goal, Molly and I kicked off PetRatAdvocates.org in the fall of 2018. The plan is to start small and local and try to grow from there. Ideally, others could start their own local chapters of dedicated and knowledgeable rat folks who are willing to help other rats folks in their local communities and beyond. The internet is great for meeting folks from all over the place but, in urgent situations, it is always nice to have access to a more local group of people who are willing/able to step up and help. Whether it’s rat-sitting while someone is dealing with a personal emergency or helping out with treating an illness or even just listening while someone has a rat-related crisis, these are little things that can contribute a lot.