Cholla and the Rats

September 6, 2007 at 5:06 am Leave a comment

Cholla and the Rats

            Well, okay…this is how it went. I had a rat infestation. A really bad one. I bought a Rat Zapper, which I would highly recommend, because it is humane; the rats walk in, they get electrocuted, and bam; instant death. It’s tidy. You pick up the blue box with a cute picture of a yellow rat with big whiskers on it, and slide that fat guy outta there in a plastic bag, and that’s it. But, with a rat infestation, it’s a way different scenario. The first morning I got up to the flashing red light on the Zapper box, I thought, “cool,” and slid out the refrigerator where the box was to check out the kill. Well, a king sized rat came tearing out from under the refrigerator, ran over my foot (ouch!); I naturally screamed and darted for the highest elevation I could find. Once composed, I charged over to the computer to write my email to the company titled: “A Rat Ran Over My Foot,” and demanded explanation. Apparently, one big Mama sized rat can eat a smaller one in the Zapper. Ick. So I gave it another go, and successfully killed, I can’t tell you how many rats; it’s too mortifying, but, at which point, someone in the colony must have “ratted” on me. End of Zapper. Rats are smart. One evening alone I killed 7 rats while I was on the phone to a friend. He’ll back up my story if you ask.

            All right, all right—what brought the rats on? I don’t know; I do have a problematic neighbor who is registered with the city as an issue and everyone downtown starts conversations with me in regards to her as “I’m sorry,” and we all know her as “Cat Lady.” Why doesn’t her covey of cats kill these guys? I don’t know! She feeds anything alive and furry in our little urban area, and once accused me of killing “her” possum. She periodically has problems with open sewage, and other really awful things that few people believe unless they get into her domain.  She stands on her roof, chattering in Russian, watering the plants that grow out of the tar and gravel.  If you catch her eye, she looks wild: the kind of person kids will warn generations of other kids about, which is in fact her legacy here. Folktales are based on her.  I’ve met the now adults who used to live around here, who tell stories about her only I could believe. So, I think that’s where the rats originated.

 These guys can squish their little bodies down into pencil thick diameters to get into your living area. They chewed through the phone line, chewed on wood, boxes, even cans. Nothing was safe. I would open the cabinet in the morning to see it full of rats. I shiver even now as I write about it. My neighbor on the other side spent thousands of dollars on various exterminators and contractors to solve the problem, as he put it, “before he got divorced.” He didn’t have Cholla, fresh from Mexico.

            Lita was great at identifying where the rats were. She would stand at the wall, look right where the rats would be on the other side, then look firmly at me, giving me a clear, informed bark, that basically said: “There it is, mom! Take care of it!” Lita was a dog born in the USA. She has had kibble presented to her in her ceramic bowl for her entire life. Treats come ripped off of the corners of sandwiches or in cellophane bags from Costco. Not Cholla.

            I discovered this one morning as I was getting ready for work, and one of those Mama sized rats bolted across the room. Cholla was lounging around under Russ’ caress, belly up, eyes closed, then all of a sudden she wasn’t. She was tearing around so fast; all I could see was a small brown running thing and a bigger brown running thing, and I could hear her crying, this high pitched squeal. I kept telling Russ: “She’s been bitten!” But Russ was laughing; he thought she was mega excited about the passion of her kill, and was crying in excitement. He was right; she got that rat by the refrigerator, whacked it side to side, making an instant rat death and a happy dog. How did she know how to do that? She was so little!  We congratulated her profusely, until she dropped it bloody on the white carpet, clearly with the intention of eating it, then there was this conflict: no no no no!, and yes yes yes! Both of us told everyone about her hunting abilities that day. We were proud adoptive parents. Picture us; big smiles, telling over and over again in great detail how big the rat was, how it looked in her mouth, tail hanging off to the side, her brown eyes so wide.

            After that, she would park herself in various favorite spots around the house. She had a hunting style to her. She would creep so quietly up to the spot, give a peeved sidelong glance at Lita, who wanted to bark in alarm. She would then simply wait. Like a cat. Then came the wolf like pounce, the side side hit, and it was done. She’s a pro. One morning, Cholla killed off a whole family. She lined them all up in a tidy row, one after the other. But even for her, it was a bit much. Russ and I went on a vacation, loaded up the place with poison, and went cross eyed with the smell when we got back. Dead rats under the house are not pleasant!

            So we got a rat break for a while, until some time after Russ had his diagnosis for cancer, and he was so sick from everything. The rats came back. It was unbelievable to me. Russ sick, throwing up from chemo, he was sound sensitive, Lita was sick and throwing up, relatives were coming around, everyone was crying, and then came the rats. Then, as even these things can go, it got a little funny. I opened up the dishwasher, and there was a big one with the famously long tail. I called,  “Cholla—Rat!” who by then knew her role and duty around here. Low to the ground, she was immediately there, leapt into dishwasher, snagged that baby by the neck, then looked fully at me, triumphant in pleasing me. What a pup!

            I think it was with that particular rat that Cholla and I figured out it was the two of us in for the long haul together. She wasn’t an easy win to the home life of the USA. Most domesticated dogs have that sense of the almost godly status of master, but Cholla had perceived “master” as one of convenience. With the dishwasher rat, we both became clear about our survival roles. Not only did we have health and vitality, we had to utilize it. We had to survive, especially through the unlikely and crazy surprises of living. So, no more Russ, no more Lita, even the rats are scarce, but Cholla and I are plugging along, and pretty darned well at that…



Entry filed under: Dog Stories.

Palo Colorado Canyon Writing by the Hand

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