Champagne Hooded buck
My first rat, acquired from a pet shop in Langport, Somerset in 1978.

I had wanted a rat for some time, after reading an article in 'Fur & Feather' about them. My mother famously said: "If you ever get a [shudder] RAT, I'm leaving home!" She learned - eventually - to regret that statement.

One day, on a lunchtime jaunt into town from school, I saw some tiny baby hooded rats in the pet shop. I could not resist him. He cost me 75p, and that meant I went without lunch that day, but it was money well spent!

I brought the tiny baby back to school, where my friend Cathy looked at him dubiously and asked: "Is he any special kind of rat?"
"He's a Champagne Hooded!" I replied.
"A what? Champagne Pudding?" asked Cathy, mishearing me...and that is how he got his name.

So I hid Pudding in a borrowed cage from school, in the shed where I kept my pure bred Orange Rex, Harlequin, Magpie and Belgian Hare rabbits.

These were the first pet rats I'd ever seen. I knew nothing about their care, there were no books on rats available back then, so everything was trial and error. He was fed on hamster food, given lots of warm bedding in his cage, and was a healthy and affectionate character. He may have been lonely, but at the time there was no way I would have realised this, and he certainly didn't seem to suffer from being on his own.

When Pud was about a year old we moved to a nearby town. Fearing for his discovery during the move, I gave him to my best friend Helen, who loved him. Her mother had no anti-rat prejudices and he enjoyed a long and happy life with her and her family. The photograph above was taken by Helen in her back garden.