I still remember the day you arrived. So white was your fur. You’d have been lost on a blank page had it not been for your ruby eyes. You squeaked along with your friends as you chased them through a forest of shredded paper. I hope you enjoyed the food, many brilliant humans worked on it so that it would provide you with everything you needed. I did my best to carry this care on. I know the daily weighing was probably annoying and I really appreciate that you sat patiently. I was doing it to make sure you were healthy.
I still remember the day I first held you in my lap. You were quite hesitant to explore, I understand. I hope the crook of my arm gave you the comfort you were seeking. By the way you’d nuzzle in and fall asleep there I’d suspect it had to be at least a little homely. I’m glad you started to like me. Instead of hiding in my elbow you started to use it as a lookout point, surveying the room with that spectacular nose of yours. I know my beard looks odd. You’d rear up and try to reach it often. I promise it doesn’t taste good; you weren’t missing out on anything.
I still remember the day I first put you in the big experimental box. You’d hide away in the corner only coming out to grab those chocolaty Coco Pops. You seemed to love them; not sure what you had against bananas though… Your shyness didn’t last long. Soon you were running around like a biological vacuum cleaner. The whole floor swept of Coco Pops in under a minute. You always were the fastest. You were fast to learn too. When those chocolate morsels only appeared in two spots you caught on quickly. I thought the figure 8 pattern you made running between spots was so peculiar.
I remember the day I did surgery on you. I did everything possible to keep you from harm. I scrubbed everything with disinfectants. Twice. I sterilized everything that would touch you. I’d feel so horrible if I gave you an infection. I did everything to shield you from pain. The best pain relievers formulated just for you were meticulously drawn and carefully administered. I laid down your sleeping body as gently as I could. I truly hope you awoke in a blissful state. Indeed you seemed to, inhaling those Coco Pops as soon as you awoke.
I remember during the night when I came back to check on you. It was a cold night with a moon almost new. You’d fallen asleep so I scurried off to get dinner. When I came in you were laying there wheezing. It was like a black hole formed in my gut and began to rip everything into it. But there was no time for that, what could I do? I gently rolled you on your side to get your nose up and some pressure off your lungs. Had you gotten dehydrated? I made you sugar water and dripped it into your mouth. You drank a little but didn’t care for much. “Come on buddy, come on…”
I remember that night as it painfully dragged on. “Come on buddy…” I took comfort knowing the medicine was still in full effect and you were not in pain. “Come on buddy…” I checked your temperature. A bit low, I turned up the heating pad. “Come on buddy…” My finger slowly running over your fur as your white furry chest expanded and fell. “Come on buddy…” I began to hear a fluidly sound crackling and coming from your lungs. And slowly, over the next few hours, the fluid cleared. Your breathing was again just a whisper and through the silent night I trudged home.
I remember the morning I came back. As I came to your cage you popped up your curious little head. The black hole was sucked through a worm hole, or something, and relief filled me. Those Coco Pops I’d left were all gone. “Hey buddy!” You made a quick recovery. So typical of you; fast in everything you do. Before long you were back running around for Coco Pops as a blur of white fur. I hope you enjoyed running around. I’m sure your home cage feels small at times. I’m sorry about that.
I remember the day I first saw your brain in action. It was a most beautiful sight. Your thoughts streaming across my computer monitor through my eyes and into my brain. Your neurons firing away sounded like a symphony of fireworks. I love turning the speakers way up so that I can hear every one of your thoughts. Waves of electricity swept through your brain as you swept up Coco Pops. As you ran massive peaks of activity fell into deep troughs which rose up again. We think these wakes are how us mammals time our movements, pretty cool huh buddy?
I remember the day I started the experiment. Sorry about making the Coco Pops so hard to get. I really wanted to know how hard you thought they were to get. I wish I could have just asked. I know I know, having to climb up a steep hill is a pain. But come on buddy this is so cool, we can figure out how our neurons process that steep hill. We can figure out what makes things feel difficult to us. We can figure out how we know somethings are worth pursuing and what things are worth letting go. We can figure out what processes fill out world with value. Buddy, we are on the frontier of knowledge and you are the reason we have made it this far.
I remember the months of looking over your brain. 01101101 01101001 01110011 01110011 00100000 01110101. A string of thoughts represented by ones and zeros. One for each time a message was relayed by a neuron. A zero for all the times the message was too weak to convey. I worked my very best to find out what it all means. I knew you were trying to get those Coco Pops despite that hill in your way. But why? Why were you trying? How did all these ones and zeros culminate in the motivation you had and all your little hops to get to the top of the hill?
I remember the magnificent moment when your brain pushed the frontier into a space never before visited. We did it buddy. We gained what is most precious: knowledge. Because of you we understand how our neurons, those same units that make up me and you and all that we have known, determine what has value in this world. We know how it is all those sparks and all those waves evaluate the costs and benefits of our environment and how they guide us through our existence. We did it buddy.
I remember the last day. The last day is always the worst day. I’d rather just hide in bed till the sun exploded. It’s why I didn’t give you a proper name you know. I am sorry for that, but it just makes it even harder buddy. I stroked your perfectly white fur for the last time. I hope you enjoyed that mound of Coco Pops I gave you an hour ago. I’ll take the fact that they are all gone that you did. I watched as you fell into the eternal sleep from which we all came and where we will all end up. I hope you felt cared for buddy, because you truly were.
I will always remember you buddy. Hundreds of people will learn about you. They will appreciate your thoughts and motivations. You and your thoughts are forever immortalized in the tome of knowledge on the once blank white pages you helped fill.
Origins: There has been another round of demonstrations and protests in town about animal experimentation. I wrote this first hand account about one of my rats to demonstrate that scientists working with animals are not heartless machines. Quite the contrary. We care immensely about each and every one of our animals. Seeing them suffer is akin to seeing your very own pet suffer. We do everything at our disposal to prevent pain and treat any discomfort that may arise. I hope this provides you with a better prospective on animal research.
This work by Blake Porter is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
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