Fancy Rat & Mouse Day

Today is a celebration of fancy rats and mice everywhere! The American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association, which is what the American Kennel Club is to dogs, was founded in 1983 as a non-profit international club. They invite anyone who has an interest in rats or mice to be a member.

Though I don’t think I have a club-worthy interest, I have always thought mice and smaller rats were cute. Large rats that were always racing around the sewers in cartoons still freak me out, but the hamster-sized and smaller ones I find to be really adorable.

I chose to mark the occasion with a doodlewash of a dumbo rat, so named, I would assume, for having rather large ears for a rat. I just thought he was really cute, but do wonder if he’s aware of what people are calling him. Though it’s not a horrible nickname, as I was equally in love with the Disney elephant.

Weirdly, I do have a rat story, but have hesitated to ever tell it at the risk of making people think I was insane. Since these stories have been out for awhile, I figured it was okay by now. Most who read this know I’m a bit crazy, so nothing should come as too much of a shock at this point. The story is about that time in grade school when I literally mummified a rat.

By this, I mean I had an independent study and had selected Egyptian mummification. I was either fascinated with something I had read about pharaohs seeking eternal life or had just heard Steve Martin’s King Tut song and couldn’t get it out of my head, but either way, I wanted to learn more. As with all of these studies, it wasn’t a bookish endeavor but had to be something you actually did.

Looking back, it was strange that my teacher had even allowed it. Since there were no available classrooms, the classes for the so-called “gifted” students took place in one of the mobile home trailers parked in the back of the school. The other trailer housed the mentally challenged kids, so neither group could disrupt the “normal” kids during the day.

I had to go through a few different books to get the specific steps in this ancient process. Today, you can just Google “steps in mummification” and the entire process immediately comes up in the exact same fashion as if you had just typed “how to cut a chicken.” This is somehow even more disconcerting than my story.

The real challenge of this particular study, however, was the question of what would be mummified. Obviously, I wasn’t going to do this with a human, that’s just weird. A fellow classmate said her dad had a good friend who worked at a pet store, and suggested that we use a rat. “He was complaining that they have a lot rats who die before anyone will buy them,” she said. This was infinitely sad to me, and so the decision was made. One of these little guys was going to life forever.

For those unfamiliar, ancient Egyptians believed that when someone died, their soul left their body. The soul would then return and be reunited with the body after it was buried. The key difference to an ancient Egyptian afterlife is that you get to keep the same body and also get to keep all of your favorite stuff. The trick was, the body had to be well preserved since you intended to use it again.

A few weeks later, the girl’s dad got the call. One of their rats at the pet shop hadn’t made it through the night. He arrived that day and we all just felt sad. We were only kids, after all, and he should have been adopted, because he was so cute. But we were also scientists with a project due end of term and so we soon shrugged it off, and very carefully went through the entire process.

Though he hadn’t been our pet, or had the chance to be anyone’s for that matter, we were determined to give him a proper burial. I won’t go into graphic detail, but let’s just say it all started with a crochet hook and ended with a perfectly mummified rat in a mini sarcophagus, that suspiciously resembled a shoebox.

Within a week, the local paper covered the event with a bizarre headline that read, “LOCAL STUDENTS MUMMIFY RAT” accompanied by a photo of three little kids. They were sitting around “King Rat” who was wrapped in painted gold tape covered in little hieroglyphic symbols in front of a styrofoam pyramid. The fat one wearing glasses in the middle was named Charlie.

Years later when I was about to graduate high school, one of the girls from my class came up to me, handed me a shoebox, and said, “I thought you should have this.” I knew what it was immediately, and realized that her father must have told her to get her crap out of his house before leaving for college.

It was still rather touching, but mostly, I was just mortified. I had spent the last 6 years distancing myself from that weird little kid and was just achieving some level of popularity. But I couldn’t resist peeking inside to see the gold tape which I only then realized was actually just canary yellow. And though I did take him, and kept him through college, I can’t remember exactly what happened to him after that.

Perhaps he ended up with a friend or maybe he finally came back to properly collect himself as he was meant to do. I’d like to think the latter happened and he’s living a better afterlife somewhere now. But just like the ancient Egyptians, I guess we’ll never really know for sure.

Posted by:Charlie O'Shields (doodlewash)

Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world!

48 replies on “Fancy Rat & Mouse Day

  1. Man oh man oh man!! You seriously have the best cache of stories! 💜 I feel like I have not yet begun to live when I read your stories! Your mouse is also super cute! I worked with lab rats and I adore them…and I’ve also had gerbils and hamsters but never a mouse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hehe…I was a weird kid. Not sure much has changed in adulthood actually. Philippe worked with lab rats as well briefly but it was a little too biological for my tastes and more about getting their cells than getting them to find cheese. But I guess I can’t talk after what I’ve done. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Charlie O – how I love you! “The fat one wearing glasses in the middle was named Charlie.” I can relate. But oh how this has made us become who we are…. and we are pretty awesome – eh? 🙂 You doodlewashed the most loveable mouse. That in itself tells the whole story… xo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I swear your stories should be made into a sitcom! I would watch! We have had an occasional mouse in our lower level (read “basement”) classroom but none of them were as cute as your little fellow!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, a sitcom, eh? I wonder who they would get to play me? 😎 So glad you thought he was cute, Nancy! I struggled with him quite a bit at first! And yeah…basement mice just aren’t the same. Reminds me of all the traps my grandmother had when I was a kid. I’d only see them after they had been…well…caught and it was terrifying! 😳

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Such a cute little character, Charlie – look at him, all helpless and very glum. Perhaps he is aware of the nickname people are bandying about. (I can relate, as I too was given the name Dumbo by my siblings).

    This day gets my endorsement – I love mice and rats. At least I do when they’re pets… not so sure how I’d react if one turned up uninvited. I had a black one called Ernie when I was about eight. He was so friendly, but once bit our dog’s tail when it struck his cage… quite something it was to wake up to a dog wagging his tail and blood flying everywhere.😮 and even more of a surprise when it had to be amputated. But apart from that, he was cool. I used to be endlessly amused watching him eat with those little hands. Adorable.

    We did a lot of stuff on Egypt in first school, but I can’t say we ever mummified a rat. Go you! Does your mother still have the paper? I bet she does.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jacob! Glad you liked this little guy! 😃 And whoa… your little black rat didn’t f*** around! 😳 Poor dog! I’m not sure I could side with the rat after that. I like dogs too much more! Hehe… not that I would have mummified him or anything though. 😊 And yes, my mom still have the news clipping, but I forgot what they said in the article. Wondering now just how perfectly crazy it made us sound! Lol


  5. First, the doodlewash is so adorable! Love the soft gray and pink! I’m not a huge rodent fan but we did have a small mouse in the basement in Michigan. We did have to call the exterminator because it appeared that there were more than one..

    I just loved reading your story. I have a feeling that if we knew each other when we were little, we would create so much havoc.. We would call it satisfying our curiosity but others may not.. Lol. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww thanks so much Carmel! 💕😃I’ve only written one book, but it was for kids. But I wasn’t illustrating at the time. Still out there being bought by nobody. Lol I might compile some of these little essays into something someday though. I’d love to write and illustrate a book for adults! Hehe


  6. Charlie, you leave me speechless, its kind of cool and a bit bizarre to think of actually mummifying something, but an experiment is an experiment and I would never question what you will do next. As for Dumbo, adorable rat doodlewash!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh that is the cutest rat ever and the best story to date 😊 My cat has the unfortunate habit of bringing live mice into the house which is OK and preferable to the body parts that my old puss used to leave me.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. …..I always look forward to ‘other-than-guest’ doodle-washes, i.e. YOURS. This is cute, no question–the inquisitive stance, twitching nose….and an equally cute story to go with it. Growing up, we had more hamsters just disappear, along with comrade little dime-store turtles– for all I know still running about the inner walls. We’d leave food about, anxious over their welfare, hoping they’d find it. Then after a few months, we’d just shrug and go buy another doomed pet.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I can just see you, white coat and mask on, sterilized gloves, working on that poor rat, making sure everything went well, as it should. ‘Tho I guess it must have been a quiet week for the local newspaper to feature such a tail…

    In Chinese astrology, the Rat is a good person to know:

    There is a special car park at one of our beachside suburbs. I used to park there frequently as it provides a fantastic view back to the city, people sailing and kite surfing, watching the waves and clouds and birds and the colourful beach huts and people running around. Often I was there around dusk. Out from underneath the native bush would come these mice (don’t think they were rats, not quite large enough) — all a gorgeous warm brown colour, shiny and sleek fur, so doing very well in that environment. Chewing on grass roots and scampering around, then quickly getting under cover again. I loved watching them! Life was good for them there, in that place.

    Liked by 1 person

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