I lost my warrior princess yesterday. It was a real punch to the gut - Xena had seemed her usual ebullient self the night before. But when I awoke on Sunday morning she was gasping for air. I rushed her to an emergency vet where she had an exam and some imaging; the vet narrowed down possible causes to acute heart failure or possibly an internal tumour that had grown to the point of impeding heart function. (There were absolutely no signs of respiratory disease.) She was kept on oxygen and received potent doses of both steroids and furosemide (lasix) and we observed her closely for hours. But her respiratory distress worsened and she began to have spells of thrashing about in panic. My vet and I both came to conclude that euthanasia was the only kind thing to do. Xena was just over 2 years old. I rescued her along with her cage mate from a feeder situation back in November 2017 - the two were housed in a glass terrarium right next to snakes. While her mate seemed quite traumatized, Xena was incredibly strong and resilient. She raised a large litter with evident love, but also with the efficiency of a military general. She was a "people rat" - she chose to interact with her human more than with fellow rats, though she tolerated the company of her kind well enough. I had immense respect for Xena, for her intelligence, her strength of character and her fundamentally good nature. And my bond with her was about as deep as I have ever had with a rat. While her dire condition seemed to come out of nowhere, I now see there may be have been some possible warning signs in advance. In the last week of her life, Xena reverted to an annoying habit - nipping my foot when she wanted my immediate attention. She had done this a lot when I first rescued her, but this behaviour largely disappeared as she settled in and our relationship deepened. Her recent return to this behaviour had me wondering if she might be in pain, so I examined her teeth and skin for possible problems and felt for lumps...all seemed fine. I now wonder if I should have paid more attention to my gut-level concerns - if I had taken her to the vet for an immediate check-up, might her life have been extended? I'll pay more attention to such sudden behavioural changes in the future. RIP my warrior princess.