Max has his own language, and through the sheer force of stubborn repetition, people around him are learning it – or WILL. I think I’ve mentioned it before, leaves are azurillies, dogs are dolfies (by the way, Max objects to that spelling, but that’s how I hear it, and until he publishes a dictionary, I’ve told him he can’t tell me I’m wrong), I am a mem, a mriem is a sleeping mem. And so on.
One of his words is chuffy-chuffer, which means, “an animal who is taking on an alter ego as a super hero.” For example, when the boys are playing Star Wars, leaping about and spraying spit as they make impressive light saber noises, they sometimes get Carmi in on the game. They tie something around her neck to make her look like a Jedi, and call her Jedog. Or more accurately, Jedog, the chuffy-chuffer. She follows them around, looking miserable, pinned firmly between a desire to always go wherever the boys go, and to not have things tied around her neck.
They also like to play with Max’s rat, Snowflake. They take her out of her cage and set her to climb on a toy castle. She escapes from dungeons and knocks over plastic soldiers, and is cheered on with roars of approval.
When she is doing battle in the plastic castle she is Towflake, the chuffy-chuffer, and she is mighty indeed.
The truth is that Snowflake is a lover, not a fighter, and prefers to be held by a child. She will lick and lick and lick a kid’s finger, but is uninterested in the finger of an adult. My theory on that is that kids’ fingers are grubbier, but Max maintains that it’s a sign of love.
He may be right.
Friday night as I sat here at the computer, I glanced up at Snowflake’s cage. There she was, a tuft of white fur poking up from the midst of her bedding. I looked at her for a minute, waiting for her to move.
She was almost three years old – a good, long life for a rat. That doesn’t make it any better.
Saturday morning we called the boys into our room to tell them. Max was curled up next to me already, and Tre and Raphi bounced in to hear what was up. Clay came in to sit behind them and together we encircled them as best we could and broke the news.
Tre and Raphi looked surprised, then bummed, then unsure of what to say. Max looked back and forth between us, puzzling it out for a moment, then crumpled into my lap and wept.
We buried her in the back yard, while a cold rain turned into stinging hail.
It’s not the worst thing in the world, and the boys are already talking about what the next pet should be, but still…
…it’s always sad to lose a chuffy-chuffer.
(Sorry about the picture quality - this picture was taken with Max's camera, which firmly supports the principal that you get what you pay for.)