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"SUSIE"

My daughter Michelle and I were living in an apartment in southern California with one other occupant, a white rat named "Susie". We acquired this critter from my brother and family. Due to many known and unknown allergies they could not have long-haired pets, but they could tolerate rats. Michelle had grown accustomed to playing with the rats when she spent time with her cousins, and was quite fond of them. I recall a shiver running up my spine when I remembered going to the city dump as a young man and shooting the rodents and living in constant fear that one would run up my pants leg.

When Michelle received her pet white rat and was so excited about this wonderful little animal, I chose not to look a gift rat in the mouth and took my five year old and her newly found friend home. We went to K-Mart where I marveled at the variety of cages and accessories that were available. Of course, Michelle wanted nothing but the best for Susie. We ended up with a three-story rat condo that had large tubes for running through and wheels for running around on and compartments for eating and sleeping. This rodent had better living conditions than many other-side-of-the-track residents.

Michele played with Susie before and after school, so I grew to like the baby-sitting talents of this fascinating little overgrown mouse. It wasn't long before Susie figured out how to open her cage door and had the run of the apartment. No matter what kind of a locking devise I dreamed up, she found a way to get out. Then the inevitable happened -- Susie was missing, and I had a broken hearted five-year-old on my hands. We turned the apartment upside down and even turned the couch over, but no Susie, and old dad was beginning to think that I would have to come up with a replacement. Two days dragged into three and the food and water we left out remained untouched.

Michelle had gone to school and I was in the bathroom, contemplating life as a single parent, when out of nowhere a white ball of fur ran across my bare feet, resulting in the most explosive bowel movement I've had before or since. I shouted, "Susie!" Where in the hell have you been?" I coaxed Susie into her cage with rewards of food and put a telephone book on top of the cage so she would stay put. When Michelle returned home she said, "Dad, you found Susie!" I said, "No, Michelle, Susie found me."