The Baked Potato Tornado: Remembering Little Mattberry

September 22, 2008

When Hurricane Ike came to Houston it took three things from me: my power, one window, and Little Mattberry. The first two things… well, I could give a shit really; my power came back after about five days, and my residence is so old and falling apart anyways that a broken window is pretty much unnoticeable, so much so that I still have not fixed it. The third, however, was my friend and family member. For the first time in twenty years, I don’t have a single pet.  In those twenty years, Little Mattberry certainly displayed more personality than any of my other animal friends, and I’d like to say a few things about him.

Matthew James Berry II, known to the world as Little Mattberry, came to me in 2002– the year that I got my first apartment. My friend, Douglas, was working at an exotic pet store, and he was really excited about having received a handful of prairie dog pups from the wild. When I went to investigate the pups I was consumed by their cuteness, and had no choice but to get one, and what better choice than the one that sat like a little Buddha and stared at me. So, I brought a new friend into my new home and my new life as an independent young man. He was a little shy and uneasy at first, but Little Mattberry warmed up to me quickly.

Little Mattberry touched a lot of lives, and is a hard character to forget, especially since he touched many people’s lives with a sharp set of rodentile incisors. He was not the best pet socially speaking. His extreme cuteness made people want to play with him, and he was okay to meet people here and there, but in the same way that cats will let you pet them and then suddenly attack, he would bite. Only worse, I think. He bit his namesake and left a permanent scar on him. He bit my friend, Sara, on her birthday and put a scar on her arm. He bit one of my roommates’ sister, and latched onto her arm. My friend, Nick, wanted so badly to socialize with LMB despite my numerous warnings of his biting tendencies; Little Mattberry ripped off a half-dollar sized scab that Nick had gotten skateboarding, and ate it. A german guy who stayed in my house for two days while he was on a bicycle tour (from Argentina to Canada) was standing next to LMB’s cage; I could hear Little Mattberry chattering angrily, so I was trying to warn my guest that he would surely be bitten if he put his hands near the cage when I heard a calm German voice say, “The rat is biting me… the rat…he’s biting me.” I peered around the corner to see Little Mattberry futilly attempting to shred the traveler’s finger. The German took his finger out of the cage when Little Mattberry was done, he laughed, and walked away. I guess his hands were made of vulcanized rubber, or steel, or something, because everybody else who’d ever been bitten bled.

I don’t want you guys to get the wrong idea here, though. Little Mattberry was very sweet, but pretty much only to me. He loved me a whole lot. He loved to be held, and have his little cheeks and shoulders rubbed. He loved carrots, beets, and cheerios. He liked to jump up onto the couch with me. He liked to burrow underneath my covers and ball up next to me and go to sleep. It was really funny when he would jump onto the bed… if you were laying down, you’d see him come into the bedroom, and as he got close to the bed he wouldn’t be visible until he popped up right in your face, and once upon the bed, he’d declare a loud “weeee-aehhh.” That noise was great.  It was the same noise that he issued after I sneezed, as if he was saying “bless you.”  If he’d been at home by himself all day he’d use it to say “I’m sooooo glad you’re home.”  If he was really itching to get out of his cage, he’d put a few extra syllables on the front of his greeting whenever he came out.

In one of my apartments, Little Mattberry made a home for himself under my stove.  The entrance to his lair was between the wall and the appliance. There was a small opening in the front of the stove that he couldn’t quite fit through, but he was able to get a hold of my kitchen mat, which I eventually surrendered to him after multiple retrievals.  He can be seen attempting to fortify his lair with a box in this video:

In 2005 after having a kidney removed, I was released from the hospital the day that the evacuation was issued for Hurricane Rita. Little Mattberry came to La Grange with me, and it was obviously very stressful for him. He wouldn’t come out of his carrier for over a full day at my parents’ house, and when he finally did, he was skittish and uneasy.  I didn’t leave Houston for Hurricane Ike; I stayed with my grandmother, who celebrated her ninetieth birthday only a week before the storm.  She has a lot of trouble breathing, and needed someone to stay with her to set up an oxygen tank if her power went out as the machine she uses to breathe runs on electricity.  Since my parents now live in Dallas, and my uncle couldn’t be bothered to take care of his mother (thanks Rick,) I got the job.  The storm force winds had calmed down by ten or so in the morning, I was at my grandmother’s house until about six that evening, and when I got home and finally had a chance to check over my situation, I discovered that Little Mattberry hadn’t made it.  It was just too much for him, and his little heart gave out.  The average lifespan of a prairie dog in the wild is about four years; Little Mattberry was over six years old, and he was really starting to show his age. I had always planned on having him cremated, but with no power throughout the city and no way to store his body, I had to bury him.  I was able to find a place that night, that wasn’t under water or police supervision, that is special to me, that I will see often, where Matthew James Berry II came to his final resting place.
There are a few people who were exceptionally important in the life and death of Little Mattberry, who helped create a lot of very important memories,  and you know who you are, and thank you.


2 Responses to “The Baked Potato Tornado: Remembering Little Mattberry”

  1. leemerson Says:

    he’ll always have a little place in my heart. oh the LMB stories i have told people through out his life. I really am sorry, JR. I know you loved him so much. When you described his little noises, it brought back a lot of W. 21st memories of the little guy. There’s no happier sound… well, maybe except for when you do the sound too. love lots, leeb

  2. Kathleen Says:

    catching up on the blog- this is the first i'm hearing of his passing. never had the pleasure of being bitten, but i do remember very well him coming into the family. RIP MJB

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