Bianca has now been all the way down to Jamaica Plain and survived. She was awake the whole time, not for lack of trying -- she spent the first twenty minutes of the trip trying to beat the box open with her head. Binky does not like buses, or trains, although she seems okay with walking, even when it's 19°F outside, as long as she's in a box full of fabric stuffed into a tote bag.

She only freaked out a little while we were at the MSPCA, mainly because she didn't know where she was. The vet confirmed what I rather suspected, which is that she's functionally if not completely blind, which is not unusual for albino rats. They have no pigment in their irises at all, and some badly-defective visual receptors; bright light causes irreversible retinal degeneration, and it's generally figured that their eyes deteriorate into uselessness a few weeks after they open for the first time. Yuki and Edelweiß seem to be able to see things that they're about to smack into, but that's about it. Bianca can't tell when I have the cage door open until I ping on it with my fingernails, so she can hear the noise goes farther out than normal. None of them can track my fingers waving around outside the cage, so I've just taken to clicking my nails together and talking a lot when I let them out for playtime.

(I got the poor critters out of a glass terrarium under a 30W shelf light, on a retail shop floor. There is a reason I do not have a high opinion of the PetCo people.)

All of that is completely beside the point, because I actually took her in for an ear infection. Rats list to the deaf-ish side when their ears plug up, and she's been scuttling around her cage in a left-handed spiral, because she's having a hard time telling which way is up. Binky's freak-out took the form of her scrambling around the box and spinning, spinning, spinning in place, like a terrified little furry torpedo. She eventually either gave up or exhausted herself somewhere around the point where the vet took her for weighing. Normally, Binky isn't much for sustained scritches or cuddles, but she decided to lay under her pile of fabric in the box and chitter quietly while I pet her face, as I got her prescription and the dosing instructions. When I finally got her home, she wadded herself up in my sweater until her feet and tail were warm again.

I just paid the MSPCA $250 to fix a $4 rat. They want me to come back in a couple of weeks for another $100 checkup, but I can figure that out. Everyone who chipped in will eventually be receiving a photograph of the rat whose medical care you just financed, as soon as I can figure out how to make the little bastard stand still long enough to get one. Not knowing which way is up does not actually stop Bianca from stealing stashed food and beating the hell out of her sisters. Her eyes don't work and one ear is wonky, but her whiskers are fine, she's familiar with the layout of her cage, and she sure as hell still knows how to use her nose.

I also ran out to the grocery store once Binky let me put her down again. You can apologize to a lot of rats with 70¢ worth of cheez doodles, which of course is what I have been doing for the past few hours. Bianca was upset at the field trip, and the other two were vehement that I needed to give the other rat back, although I'm not entirely sure whether they were being protective of their tiny little rat horde, or just worried that Binky was getting some sort of special treat that they weren't. They're asleep in a pile now, all of them having stashed whatever cheez doodles they haven't eaten someplace they're sure the other rats won't find them.