rats! ................. 0 8 / 0 9 / 2 0 0 0

So it got REALLY bad this weekend. You know how, in 50's cartoons, when the Female Head of Household saw a small, fast-moving rodent (which was probably smarter than she was) on the kitchen floor, she invariably would lift her skirt a wee bit and scream at the top of her lungs? Well, save for the skirt-lifting bit, that was me, Sunday. I was perched over my PC keyboard, typing happily (or not), when I heard a scratch-scratch-scratch coming from the kitchen. "Hannah," I said, "get out of the trash, you bad dog!"

Right there, I should have realized my mistake. Hannah NEVER goes into the trash while we're home.

Five minutes later: scratch-scratch-scratch. I got up and went into the kitchen.


"HANNAH! YOU GET OU--" No Hannah.

I opened the door on the washing machine. Second mistake. A gray rat peered up at me, about eight inches long from wiggling little nose to the tip of its verminous tail. I SLAMMED down the lid and turned the washer to "full load, regular wash".

I don't know what the rat was doing down there, but it did seem to be doing whatever it was faster.

Enter Helen. "What are you washing?"

"A rat. There's a rat in the washing machine."

"Can I see it?" she asked.

"Do you really want a possibly angry rat to jump out at you as you open the lid?" I replied.

"What are you trying to do?" she asked gamely.

"Drown it."

"What makes you think the rat will stay in there long enough to drown? Maybe it will leave the same way it came in," she said. And seconds later, the rat proved her right. These nasty little things have an amazing survival sense, and this one was no exception. It scurried between the bottom of the washer (*how*?) and the bottom of the cupboard, where it vanished -- literally -- into the woodwork.

I let loose a primal yell, not unlike the first caveman caught unawares by a bear.

Further research uncovered an enormous space beneath our kitchen cabinets where rats or anything else smaller than a housecat could come and go with ease. Well... seeing this, we opened the drawer just above, where we keep our Trader Joe's bags and some of the lesser used tablecloths.

Let me tell you: "dirty" and "rat" go together for a reason. The whole pile was covered in what scientists call "rat shit", not to mention a wafer-thin veneer of just plain filth. Stripping the upper layers and throwing them in the washer with a strong shot of Clorox, we baited two rat traps on the remaining stuff.

After two days, nada in the traps, but every morning we found little "reminders" of our revolting friend(s) in the same place on the kitchen floor. (I try not to think about his poker buddies.) So yesterday, Helen left another trap outside, just under one of the places she thought they might be using for egress, a crawlspace vent where the cold water line goes into the house.


Those of you who know our dogs know they're ahead on rats, score 6 (them) to 4 (us with traps). Generally, we find rat corpses randomly in the back yard, sometimes as much as a month after the fact. (Our neighbor's palm tree -- with convenient access to power and telephone lines! -- makes an ideal rat hotel, or so says the county vector control guy. Given the number of rodents we've seen in the last year or so, it may by now be a subdivision.) Helen makes a show of praising the dogs when she stumbles into the tiny desiccated corpses. I maintain she may as well praise them for having chew toys. Regardless: Helen left the trap where the dogs were SUPPOSED to not step on it, and hopefully miss it completely if it ever triggered.

At least they didn't step on it while it was cocked.

The sprung trap, rat attached, was in the middle of the back yard this morning. "This rat is ours," they seemed to be saying, "and you can't take it from us." To me, this was like tackling the wide receiver after he's made the touchdown -- not exactly sporting. We -- Helen and I -- nailed this one, fair and square. Really, I believe the dogs do not keep score, at least, not in the usual human way. But they maybe sense that we're catching up.

This is the first time I've seen one in the house. Now, I'm really gonna have to fix the mesh over that vent.

more gruntles rlm@scareduck.com
Last modified: Sun Sep 10 10:39:54 PDT 2000