Wednesday: I become obsessed with rats
On Tuesday, one of my colleagues arrived at work. “God,” she said. “As if the subway isn’t gross enough, this morning there was a HUGE rat running around on the tracks. Ugh.” And I was like, “A rat?! You saw a rat? Wow—I’ve never actually seen a real rat before.” And then I got strangely jealous of my friend and her rat experience, and started feeling sad about it, like it was completely unfair that I never get to see rats. Now, if you’ve ever actually seen a rat yourself, you’re probably thinking, “What the hell is wrong with you, mydangblog? You’ve seen squirrels, haven’t you? They’re essentially rats with bushy tails, so get over it.” But no—squirrels aren’t the same thing as rats. For one, nobody ever looks out their window and says, “Aww—look at all the cute rats scampering about the front yard. Ooh, that one’s got some garbage!” I know that there are a lot of people who have pet rats, and from what I’ve seen from TV and the internet, they ARE pretty cute, but I’m talking hardcore, scavenging wild sewer rat here, the kind that people are referring to when they say “rat-infested”. Don’t get me wrong—I have absolutely no desire to have a colony of rats take up residence in my house or under my shed or whatnot. I know that actually happens to people and apparently, it’s not very pleasant. I just want to see one with my own eyes, so when people say “Ugh—so gross!”, I won’t immediately think “Ratatouille” and be like “But they’re so cute and charming….”
And it’s weird that I’ve never seen a rat, because I’ve lived in the country for over 20 years, and I’ve yet to encounter one. Ken admitted to me a few years ago that one morning he was going down to the basement and saw a rat basking on one of the steps in the sunlight coming through the window. But before he could do anything (like call me down so I could SEE IT), our dog grabbed it and—well, things didn’t bode well for “Sneaky Pete”, which is exactly what I would have called him once he became my pet. I sometimes wish Ken hadn’t told me about it, because it suddenly raised my hopes (“There was a rat on the basement steps this morning—“) and then dashed them almost immediately (“—and Byron killed it.”). As far as I know, there were never any more rats in the house, so now I will never be able to understand the saying, “I smell a rat” because I don’t know what RATS SMELL LIKE. Thanks, Ken—you should have just kept it to yourself.
And having lived in the country for so long, I’ve certainly had my share of animals in the house. Here’s a list from a much earlier week, which many of you might not have read, since it was posted over two years ago:
Bats: The best kind of animal to have in your house is a BAT. That sounds really crazy, but honestly, they aren’t so bad. Bats have sonar, which is a fancy way of saying that they can tell where you are and won’t fly into your face or hair, which is always a plus. The other day, we were eating dinner, and Ken suddenly said, “A bat just flew by the doorway.” I had my back to the kitchen at the time, so I said, “What?!” and turned around in time to see it fly past the doorway again. I ran into the corner with my dinnerplate, while Ken went to investigate, but he couldn’t tell where it had gone. He also found it pretty amusing that I was freaked out, but not enough to make me stop eating my dinner from the corner of our breakfast room. Well, I was hungry. At any rate, we searched the house, but it seemed to have disappeared, which was bad news, because I was NOT going to bed with a bat in the house. We had also just taken apart a piano, and I became irrationally convinced that the bat had been living in the piano, and I wouldn’t go near it for the rest of the night. Finally, around 11 o’clock, I went downstairs for one last glass of wine (wild animals always make me want to drink), when I saw it hanging quietly on a curtain. Ken came down, and cool dude that he is, he just wrapped it in a towel and let it out the door, while I drank wine and made squeamish sounds. (Speaking of things that should be kept to oneself, Ken then told me that the bat was back the next day. Apparently, Ken came out of the shower, and Titus was running around the kitchen trying to catch it. So he opened the door to our courtyard, and flapped his arms at it until it flew outside. Ken did a great job of imitating both himself flapping and Titus snapping his jaws and going Rar, rar, rar, but I still REALLY didn’t need to know.)
Mice: Mice are OK, and if you read My Week 16: Jimmy the Mouse, you’ll know that they can become elevated to almost pet-status in our house. But I can’t say too much more, because if my sister-in-law even thinks that I’m writing about mice, she will NEVER read this post, and a) I like her feedback and b) I don’t want to traumatize her even more than Jimmy the Mouse did. Enough said.
Raccoons: Raccoons are vicious beyond belief if they have babies. Once, I had a really bad cough so I was sleeping in our guest room. At one point during the night, I woke up to what sounded like an elephant moving furniture around in our attic. It was unbelievably loud and scary and possibly human, but the attic door locks from the inside-the-house side, so I figured that if it was a serial killer, he was pretty much stuck up there until Ken dealt with him, and I went back to sleep. In the morning, I told Ken about the noises, and he said he would investigate. I was taking a course at the time, so I told him I’d call him at the break and he could tell me what he found. When I called, Ken sounded a little distracted.
Me: Where are you right now?
Ken: In the attic.
Me: What did you find? Please tell me it’s a rat.
Ken: No…I’m staring right now at a very large mother raccoon and six newborn baby raccoons. She’s kind of hissing at me.
Me: I’m going to say back away slowly. Don’t break eye contact. If she goes for you, run.
Eventually, after several misadventures, and a lot of damage, including a hole chewed right through our roof (raccoons aren’t the brightest apparently, and can’t see their own offspring in a shoebox at the bottom of a TV tower), we caught her in a live trap. Ken had to carry her in the trap out of the attic, and through the house in order to get her outside. She was going insane, snarling and trying attack the bars—I could tell Ken was a little intimidated by the way he was holding the trap as far away from his body as possible, and walking VERY quickly. We decided to take her and the babies down to the river flats where they could live happily ever after, but then we realized we had a major problem—what if, when we opened the cage, she tried to attack us in a fit of vengeful rage and ripped our faces off? Ken had the great idea of using the cardboard box the live trap came in, putting it against the trap door, and letting her out into the cardboard box, which might disorient her long enough for us to jump back in the car and make a clean getaway. So we did that, but she somehow missed the cardboard box. I don’t know what happened next because we were both already back in the car, having run for our lives. Ken went back later to get the trap, and both she and the babies were gone. I hope they had good lives down on the riverbank.
Squirrels: The absolute worst thing to have in your house, or anywhere near it, is a squirrel. Oh, but squirrels are so cute, you say. No, as I’ve stated previously, squirrels are simply rats with bushy tails, and even worse than having them cavorting on your lawn is having one in the house. A couple of years ago, I got home from work, and was puttering around while K did her homework upstairs. I walked into our back family room, and as I passed the couch, I distinctly heard something sneeze. I looked around, and couldn’t see the cat or dog anywhere, so I figured it was either my imagination or some weird old-house noise. But then when I came back the other way, I heard a sneeze again, and this time there was no doubt that it was coming from BEHIND THE COUCH. I just lost it—I ran upstairs, got K, and made her look behind the couch with a flashlight while I cowered around the corner in the kitchen.
Me: Can you see anything? Please tell me it’s not a raccoon.
K: I can’t see anything yet—HOLY SHIT, there’s something back there!!!!
Me: What?! What?!
K: I think it’s an owl!
Me: An owl?! How the hell did an OWL get in our house?!
So I called Ken on his cell phone—he was about 5 minutes from home, and I made him stay on the line with me until he arrived, based on a bizarre belief that if he kept talking to me, the owl would leave me alone. Anyway, when he came in, he took a look and very calmly announced that it wasn’t an owl, it was “only” a squirrel. This was a new experience for both of us, and while Ken pondered how best to get it out of the house, I poured a glass of wine and stayed on the other side of the room. Finally, he decided the best thing to do would be to open the door, push the couch away from the wall, and let the squirrel make a run for it. It did, but not after doing a couple of mad circuits around the room, trying to run up the wall, and falling back down (which I think stunned it a bit). Finally, it saw the open door, and took off. You’d think it would have been happy to escape and would have gone into hiding, but NO. It ran up a tree and spent the next ten minutes telling us exactly how pissed off it was that it had fallen down our chimney and ended up behind our couch, where apparently, it was very dusty.
And it’s even weirder that I’ve never seen a rat, because now I also live in the heart of downtown Toronto where there are ALL KINDS of strange wildlife, including some of the human variety. The other night, I took the subway to the Art Gallery to meet my sister-in-law. It was a good twenty minutes underground, and I spent the whole time staring fixedly through the window at the tracks and tunnels, hoping to see one of these amazing subway rats. But no such luck. Then we were driving back to my condo, and I saw movement in the street in front of us. Could it be?! But as we got closer, her headlights revealed something that looked like a medium-size dog scurrying along the sidewalk. As it squeezed underneath someone’s garage door, we realized it was a gigantic raccoon. Let down again. I don’t understand it—last month, I got to pet a stingray and almost got bitten by a shark, but I don’t ever get to see a rat?! The guy next door told Ken last week that he was pretty sure he had rats living under his shed—maybe it’s time to pour a glass of wine and investigate. I’ll let you know how that turns out.