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A fitting end to the Year of the Rat

Note, the following may not be suitable for all audiences. It contains scenes of violence and coarse language. Reader discretion is advised. Also, the really squeamish or rodent averse might not want to read this over breakfast.

When the city of Victoria was hit with uncharacteristic cold and heavy snow this past week, our six-year old dog, Teddy, a small, cat-like Japanese breed called a Shiba Inu, went nuts one night. He ran into our bedroom barking and whining: “Guys! Guys! You gotta get up and deal with this! Now!” He ran to the top of the basement stairs, barking and whining, back up to our bedroom, panting and agitated.

What was his problem? We looked around but couldn’t tell. Was it frozen branches rubbing against the basement window? We cut them back in the driving snow but it didn’t help. He barked and paced all night, our teenage girls moaning from their bedrooms. “Make Teddy shut up.” I finally slept on the downstairs couch because he settled if I stayed on the main floor.

The next day he took up vigil by the washing machine, staring at the wall. Teddy’s posture said it all: “Make one false move buddy and I will have you!” Oh no, we now knew: It was some animal. We hoped it was just a mouse, but feared it was a rat. As a waterfront city, Victoria is full of them.

Teddy kept up the watch for 48 hours, taking only pee and food breaks. During one of those breaks, our 15 year-old saw it and let out a blood curdling scream. “OMG! It’s a huge rat!” Its backside and tail had scuttled into a gap by the washing machine. Teddy roared back downstairs.

The exterminator told me they had too many calls to deal with it until after Christmas. Cold snaps drive lots of rats into Victoria’s old houses, where they can squeeze through any gap the size of quarter. Teddy was probably scaring the daylights out of it and as soon as it was warm enough, he said, the rat will head back outdoors -- as long as no food source is more enticing than the dog is menacing.

By the fourth day, Teddy seemed to have adopted a live-and-let-live attitude. He spent most of the day sleeping on the couch, occasionally running downstairs to sniff at the wall, coming back upstairs for a bit of a lie down, then running back downstairs for another 20 minutes. We hoped maybe the rat had left us.

But on Friday when my husband came home from work, he opened the front door to hear strange high pitch squeaks mixed with intermittent thuds. Teddy was in the kitchen where he had cornered the rat – a very large brown one with a huge tail– between the basement door and the water cooler. The thud was Teddy banging his paw on the door, trying to get at the rat. The squeaks were the terrified rat baring his teeth. As the rat’s tail swept under the door Teddy would snap at it trying to catch it. We have no idea how long the two had been at their standoff. Keith’s reaction was: “ Holy $#@%^^$! What do I do?"

He opened the door to the mud room and the back door to give the rat an exit route and moved the cooler away from the wall. But instead of running outside to safety, the rat made a beeline for the dining room with Teddy chasing after it. They ran around the dining room table then into the living room among the Christmas tree and presents where the rat sought refuge under the couch. Keith, his heart pounding, shook the couch from side to side. The rat came tearing out, heading back to the kitchen with Teddy hot on him. He was almost safely by the mudroom door when Teddy did a flying pounce and caught him by the back of the neck.

What happened next, says Keith, was like an episode of Marlin Perkins’ Wild Kingdom. I will spare you the gory details, but imagine a lion taking down a hyena. When Keith re-enacts the life-and-death struggle, the neck-breaking, thrashing stuff, people invariably cover their eyes and squeal, laughing in horror at unbridled nature and the absurdity of it occurring in our white kitchen. Needless to say, in the end it was Teddy 1, rat zero. But the rat put up a fight.

When I came home a short while later our kitchen was like a CSI crime scene – blood splatter covered a good five feet in all directions – on the walls, on the floor, on cupboard doors, on the door to the mud room. (Keith said he hadn’t cleaned it up so that the girls and I could see it, otherwise we wouldn’t have believed it. I told him I would have believed it....)

In his final act of victory, Teddy flung the rat like a shot putter, letting it fly high in an arc that had it land somewhere in our chaotic mud room. Keith had not seen the full trajectory and had not been able to find it amidst the mounds of recycling, boots, floor mop and cleaning products. ( I don’t think he looked that hard. ) I found the rat wedged up behind a big bleach bottle on a shelf. It was one huge very dead rat – I think close to 2 pounds. We were late for a Christmas party that night because I had not expected to spend 30 minutes cleaning up the mess with a bleach solution before heading out.

Teddy walked around for at least two days with his chest puffed out, the hero. He has lived six years without ever knowing he was bred to weed out rodents and suddenly, when needed, his instinct kicked in: “I was born for this!!” He even seemed to relive his exploits by repeatedly following the scent trail and running periodically into the basement to check up on the washing machine, hoping, we think, that another one might be around.

Ironically, 2008 was the Chinese Year of the Rat – which for us came to a memorable and fitting end. Fortunately, 2009 is the year of the Ox and it is unlikely that we may experience a similar literal manifestation in our kitchen. And we sure are glad that 2009 is not the year of the very big snake, but if it were, we think Teddy would be game to take it on.





Posted on Monday, December 22, 2008 at 08:37PM by Registered CommenterAnne | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

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