Leila was a black berkshire.
Leila came to me with Chino. Both these rats were owned by a girl who lived up the street from us. I'd seen her around a few times, and she always said hi to me when I was walking my dog. One day she told me she also had rats, so if I needed to home any, to tell her.
Even at this early stage, I didn't have a good feeling about this person.
Over time, she would seek me out more and more, and actually became a bit of an annoyance, but I tolerated it for the sake of peace, and because I couldn't really avoid her as she lived just roud the corner.
One day she saw Jon out walking our dog, and asked him if I had room for any rats as she needed to find a new home for hers.
I agreed to take them, but I wasn't expecting what I saw when I want to collect them. The girl lived in squalour, much like the houses you see on programmes about animal hoarders. There were dirty dishes with mould on stacked up in the kitchen, litter and grime everywhere, and several cats wandering about.
As we went into the living room, we saw two tiny kittens huddled on a scrap of fabric on the only clear area of the floor, their litter tray overflowing with crusted poo in the corner. When I handled them, both were riddled with fleas and seemed sickly, probably anemia.
At the side of the room were the rats, one boy and one girl (but at least they were in seperate cages!) Both were housed in hamster cages which were bare of any toys, hide-outs or anything other than a layer of woodshavings. Both water bottles were empty.
I can't imagine how awful it would be for an intelligent, social animal like a rat to be isolated in a tiny, bare cage for its entire life. Its truly heart-breaking.
The girl told me the female was 3 years old. While she looked old, I wouldn't have put her at 3, and I still don't believe she was anything like 3. People, in my experience, have a tendancy to over-estimate their rat's ages. The amount of supposed 4,5 or even 6 year old rats I've had in is quite surprising. Of course, they're nothing like that age, but people for some reason often claim their rats are far older than they are.
I took both these rats, and got out as quickly as I could. As a note of interest, we also ended up taking our cat, Betelguese, from her too as he was also not being cared for correctly.
Leila, as I named the girl rat, was supposedly not all that affectionate, though she did not seem to match this description with me.
She had a lump when she arrived, which I decided instantly not to operate on given her advanced age. While she wasn't 3, she was probably edging toward, if not over, her second year, and was looking a little rough around the edges.
Leila was fiercely cage aggressive when she arrived. If another rat even looked at her cage, she'd throw herself at the bars, huffing and stomping, like a creature posessed.
She never really got on with the other girls I tried her with. It wasn't her that was the problem, it was them; they never seemed to like her or want to be friends with her.
In all honesty, a life time of solitary confinement had probably rendered her a little lacking in rat social skills or language, which made her unnerving to the others. If rats send out body languages and communications, and the newcomer doesn't understand them, it can cause frustration all round, and rats that can't 'speak rat', are often a bit of a challenge to get into a group. Its do-able, but you need to find the right kinds of rats to live with them, rats who are chilled out enough to not be offended or get defensive when their communications are not acknowledged.
I did think for a while that Leila might have to remain alone for the rest of her life, as I didn't want to push too hard at her age in case the stress of it all was too much.
But around the time she came, I was waiting for my recently castrated boy, Riker to settle down enough to introduce to someone. I decided to try him with Leila, though didn't really expect much from it.
However, they both hit it off quickly, and Riker didn't seem to mind her lack of social skills; he was just happy to have a girlfriend!
Leila lived with just Riker for some time, then Riker's brother, Geordi was added to the cage following his castrate, as he didn't seem to care for bucks still. He also accepted Leila instantly.
Leila died after a fairly lengthy period of poor health, though there was never anything specifically wrong with her and she ate, drank and got around up to her last day. But she probably had a pituitary tumour, as she became less mobile, and showed some of the signs of this, though she survived much longer than most rats who have pituitary tumours.