Ear infection, stroke or brain tumor?

Mary Elizabeth and I had grown increasingly concerned as we waited for the doctor, but we were relieved as we watched the doctor carefully exam Lucy.

She listened to her heart, looked into her mouth and used a tiny instrument to check her ears. Then, she observed how Lucy seemed to lean her head to her right side and shake awkwardly when she walked.

The diagnosis? Most likely, Lucy is suffering from an ear infection—or she had a stroke—or she has a brain tumor.

“We could do an MRI,” the doctor concluded. “But, since this is a rat, I think the best approach would be to treat her for an ear infection first.”

Lucy is a rat, but she is not just any rat. She is one of two rats that my daughter Mary Elizabeth is training as part of her graduate studies in behavior analysis at the University of North Texas.

We were still concerned  after we talked to the vet, but we weren’t quite as concerned as we had been. When I reported the doctor’s diagnosis to my husband Jerry, I was a little amused at his reaction.

“Mary Elizabeth,” I told my daughter, “I can tell that your dad has bonded with Lucy. He didn’t even ask how much we had to pay the vet.”

I must have bonded with the furry little creature, too. Mary Elizabeth left the morning after the visit to the vet for a conference near Chicago, and her dad and I are now administering antibiotics and steroids twice a day to a rat.

Even though I have been just a little squeamish about getting too close to Lucy and her sister Georgie too often, I am now gently holding Lucy and talking to her calmly while Jerry inserts a syringe into her mouth. Fortunately, the vet’s office diluted the medications with pina colada mix and Lucy seems to be very fond of pina coladas.

This whole episode has reminded me of all the things you don’t know when you have children. No one warned me that I would have to brush a toddler’s teeth. No one mentioned that I would volunteer to spend the night in a sleeping bag at The Science Place in close proximity to hundreds of Cub Scouts or try to sleep in a cabin in the woods with a dozen junior high Girl Scouts.

And I never dreamed that I would bond with a rat and have the courage to help medicate it with steroids and antibiotics.

My children certainly have made my life much more interesting.

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